- The UN's development agency UNDP and Equatorial Guinea have launched a scheme to train enough teachers so that every child in the Central African country can finish primary school by 2010. Only half of school age children of the oil-rich country now attend primary school.
Over the next four years the UNDP and Equatorial Guinea have promised to spend US$ 5.2 million training 2,000 teachers, 45 school inspectors and 36 education advisers as part of a scheme dubbed 'Education for All', the agency said yesterday.
According to UNDP, currently only half of Equatorial Guinea's primary school-age children attend one of its 884 primary schools. One in five pupils drops out each year and half the children in school are older than their grade level.
Some schools have classes of 70 students and the country's two teacher training colleges cannot keep up with demand, according to UNDP.
The scheme's target date of 2010 is five years ahead of the deadline for the Millennium Development Goal – set at a UN summit in New York in 2000 – of achieving universal primary education.
UNDP in a statement said that "the education system in Equatorial Guinea is still recovering from the legacy of 11 years of dictatorship that ended in 1990." According to the country's opposition - which is mostly exiled - the European Union and a recently released US State Department report on human rights in Equatorial Guinea, the dictatorship is however still in place.
The UN development agency carefully added that the country's vast oil and gas reserves have brought "remarkable economic growth over the past decade, averaging 19 percent a year," and the opportunity to use that money to help the majority of the population still living in poverty.
The country has more than doubled its GDP per capita level during the last few years after it stroke offshore oil. Most local and international observers however hold that the enormous oil revenues are not used in the interest of the impoverished population but ends up on the private accounts of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema and his family, ruling the country since a military coup in 1979.
The UN's agencies and the World Bank/IMF generally have avoided presence in Equatorial Guinea due to the Obiang regime's very poor human rights record. After the UN's special human rights Rapporteur was chased out of the country in 2001. The year after, however, UNDP in a controversial move broke the ice and established an office in Malabo.
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