23 APRIL 2013
Washington — Achieving universal primary education by 2015 was the focus of a high-level international gathering hosted by the White House on April 19.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, along with domestic and international partners, discussed ways to accomplish primary education for all, which is the second United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG), USAID said in an April 22 news release.
“By working together to support and strengthen the efforts of our partner governments to prioritize education, we can accelerate progress towards the goal of access to quality education for all children in crisis- and conflict-affected countries,” Shah said. He added that the United States is redoubling its efforts to ensure that children have access to school and acquire essential basic skills.
“The biggest investment in education is made by children themselves,” said Peter Baxter, director-general of AusAID, the Australian Agency for International Development. “They work every day to invest in their futures — we must support them to ensure that investment pays off.”
Demonstrating collective commitment to international education, the policy dialogue convened high-level U.S. government representatives to mobilize global support for equitable access to quality education for millions of children.
Gayle Smith, special assistant to President Obama and senior director at the National Security Council, and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the president for economic policy, opened the meeting, followed by Shah and Gordon Brown, U.N. special envoy for global education, with a call to action.
Ministers of education and finance from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria and South Sudan briefed the attendees and led a dynamic discussion. The ministers conveyed the challenges their countries face in the pursuit of universal access to quality education and their priorities for overcoming them.
“We need to look at education like a value chain and see where the entry points are in the chain to form partnerships,” said Nigerian Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
U.S. Representative Nita Lowey, Democrat from New York, a long-standing education champion, made closing remarks.
The meeting came on the heels of the World Bank spring meetings and as the international community enters the final 1,000 days to achieve the MDGs.
The White House event also served to kick off USAID’s “Room to Learn” effort, part of its five-year education strategy, which is a targeted examination of options to increase equitable access to education in six countries: Nigeria, DRC, South Sudan, Haiti, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Of the children who still remain out of school, 31 million live in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than 40 percent live in countries affected by conflict.