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UNESCO confab for Abuja

By Daniel Idonor, in France
ABUJA—NO fewer than 1,000 delegates from the Group of United Nations’ Education Scientific Organisation, UNESCO’s E-9 Countries, worldwide are to attend a UNESCO conference from June 21 to 24, in Abuja.

The group of E-9 countries comprise nine countries that have the highest population and highest level of illiteracy, across the continents, except Europe.

The countries include Nigeria and Egypt from Africa; Brazil and Mexico from Latin America and India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia from Asia and China, which are noted for their high population and illiteracy level.

Addressing newsmen covering the 25th France-Africa Summit which opened, yesterday, in Nice, France, the Nigerian Ambassador and Permanent-Delegate to UNESCO, Mrs. Maryam Katagum, said:  “the forum is meant to bring the E-9 countries together to fashion a way forward to reduce illiteracy level in their respective countries.”

According to her, the conference, which UNESCO believes will go a long way contributing to the achievements of MDGs, is to hold at the Transcorp Hotel, and would attract different  people from the affected countries.

“UNESCO formed the forum to enable the Ministers of Education of these countries to come together, meet every two years and each time they select a team geared toward achieving the MDG”.

Mrs Katagum disclosed that “the theme of the Conference taking place in Nigeria is “Literacy for Development” and will take place from 21 to 24 of June at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja. The Director General of UNESCO is expected to attend the conference”.

She stated that “the impact of this is that our illiteracy figure has been rather abysmal. We are still about 54 per cent literacy and it is acknowledged that the standard is 70 per cent and above literacy levels to achieve MDGs”.

Fielding questions from reporters, the Nigeria envoy added that “the conference would assist in garnering political support to formulate and implement policies for the attainment of the goal and for the States to buying into the policies”.

Besides, she noted, “the conference will come up with actionable document and not declaration that will make the E9 countries accountable and set up benchmark and peer review mechanism and improve literacy level in the country”.

Speaking on her role as Nigeria’s representative to UNESCO, Mrs Katagum, who resumed duty in August 2009 about when the 35th General Conference of UNESCO was to be held, disclosed that the office of the Permanent Delegate is the Nigerian permanent presence at the headquarters of UNESCO.

She said “UNESCO is one of the UN Agencies that has specific mandate to ensure peace and development through intellectual cooperation’s using education, science, culture communication as the areas of mandate”.

“Basically what the office does is to ensure that Nigeria is adequately represented to make sure that Nigeria makes inputs to the policies of UNESCO in line with what is happening at home and also to bring home international best practices”, she said.

UNESCO, according to her, has about 194 members States, saying that “as a member whatever facilities UNESCO have basically in terms of policy adviser, technical cooperation’s. That is what it has to offer unlike World Bank that gives money to carry out projects”.


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