A Flying kiss
A Flying kiss
It is 13.45 on the Roman Metropolitan. I am returning to the community of casa Canta , home of the two-year course in Salesian Spirituality, after a very lively and interesting encounter with the novices of the two International novitiates. As often happens, I can hear a female voice singing in the distance. A few minutes pass and I can hear a beautiful song being sung by a young woman accompanied by a little girl of about 7 or 8, who approaches the passengers asking for some coins. I am drawn to her smile and the beautiful plaits arranged so artistically on her head. I recall that I have some chocolate in my bag so, when she comes to me I offer it to her. She looks at it, takes it, pauses for a moment and then notices that the woman who accompanies her has moved on quickly to another carriage of the metro. So she begins to run, but at a certain point she stops and blows me a kiss. My heart is touched. I smile and acknowledge the other people who are sitting near me and who had watched the whole scene and were smiling in amusement at that flying kiss .
But little ‘pigtails', as I had affectionately called her, begs for money instead of going to school. Unfortunately there are still many children in different parts of the world who do not go to school. Education is a fundamental human right. However that right is still denied to about 72 million children, of whom almost half live in sub-Saharan Africa and another 18 million in southern Asia .
During the last twenty years, the International community is working to make universal education a priority on national and international agendas. In 1990 the delegates of 155 countries, together with the representatives of 155 NGOs and development agencies, took part in the World Conference Education for All , during which they affirmed their commitment to reach universal education and reduce illiteracy by the end of the decade. The roots of that programme lay in the awareness that being able to access education was not enough. Its quality and duration are equally important. In fact, in many developing countries less than 60 % of pupils who start elementary school are able to reach the end of the entire primary education cycle.
The commitment to make basic schooling universal was re-affirmed in 2000, at the World Forum on Education, which took place at Dakar , in Senegal , and it was inserted among the principal priorities for International development in the United Nations' Millennium Declaration. Ensuring universal primary education came second among the eight Millennium Development Objectives. So that this may be reached it is necessary that by 2015 children all over the world may be able to complete the course/cycle of primary education.
In the past two decades much progress has been made towards universal literacy, even though 10% of school aged children are still denied the right to primary education. In developing countries, the percentage of enrolments in school reached 88% in 2007, from 83% in 2000. The greatest progress has been in sub-Saharan Africa and in southern Asia . In many countries, however, improvements are more due to the growth in population that to increased national finance for education. In spite to modest improvements, the world situation is still worrying, especially when one considers the enormous negative impact that lack of access to education will have on reaching the other Millennium Objectives.
As already mentioned, in order to be able to ensure universal primary education by 2015, access to instruction is not enough. It is not only fundamental that every child is guaranteed the possibility of completing the entire cycle of primary education, but also to ensure that National school systems are adequately financed and that teachers are properly qualified.
Many NGOs, through their action and campaigns, continue to support this objective. Reaching education for all calls for global commitment. Governments, civil society, development agencies, must work together to help every child, in every country of the world, to fulfil their inalienable right to quality education. At a time in which the effects of the world economic crisis continue to be felt, there is a real danger that progress made in this last decade could be nullified and that there could be significant regression. The various countries are called to adopt more integrated programmes, linked to more general strategies, with the aim of protecting the most vulnerable sections of the population and overcoming inequalities. Marginalisation in education effects all countries of the world and is re-enforced by social inequality (cf Llegar a los marginados. Informe de Seguimiento de la EPT en el Mundo, Francia, UNESCO 2010 ) .