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Africa: Learning to Survive

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Apr 27, 2004 (040427)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Universal primary education is "the single most effective preventive weapon against HIV/AIDS," says a new report by Oxfam International. But donor countries are failing to come up with even the minimal funds they have pledged to support African countries under an optimistically named "Fast Track Initiative" to expand education funding.

World Bank President James Wolfensohn, along with ministers from Niger, the Netherlands, Canada, the UK, France, and Norway, called for greater support for universal primary education at a press conference held April 25 during the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Addressing appeals to other donor countries, particularly the United States, Japan, Germany and Italy, the speakers stressed the disparity between global funding for war and for development. Countries represented at the press conference announced small additional pledges. And during the weekend, Mr. Wolfensohn urged the world to give attention to global poverty as well as Iraq. However, neither the World Bank nor donor countries announced any major new commitments.

The World Bank did release this year's edition of World Development Indicators and a new Global Monitoring Report on progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, both available on the World Bank website ( But the only major success against poverty the Bank was able to cite was that the number of people worldwide living on less than one dollar a day dropped from 1.5 billion in 1981 to 1.1 billion in 2001. This change was due almost entirely to economic growth in China and India. In Africa, by contrast, the number of people living on less than one dollar a day increased from 164 million to 314 million. The World Bank press release did not note the irony -- that the advances came in countries that were the least dependent on World Bank economic policy advice during the period.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin includes excerpts from the press release and executive summary from Oxfam International launching the "Learning to Survive" report, and a short extract from that report on funding shortfalls in Niger, one of the Fast Track countries where donors have failed to provide promised support.

The data in the report provide new reinforcement for familiar themes: the well-established strategic importance of education and the long tradition of donor failure to meet commitments. See the UNESCO website on Education for All (, which contains an annual global monitoring report. For additional background on the Global Campaign for Education and the World Education Forum held in Dakar four years ago, see:


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Oxfam International

New report reveals: Education could save seven million young people from HIV

23 April 2004

[Excerpt from press release. Full press release and report available at:

See also

Washington DC: Seven million cases of HIV could be prevented in a decade if all children in the world received a complete primary education, reveals a ground-breaking new report released today by the Global Campaign for Education .

The report, "Learning to survive: how education for all would save millions of young people from HIV/AIDS," is based on new research showing that young people (15-24 years) who have completed primary education are less than half as likely to contract HIV as those missing an education. It reveals that, by accelerating behavior change, universal primary education would prevent 700,000 cases of HIV each year, about 30 percent of all new infections in this age group.

Yet despite the huge impact that education could have in fighting the onslaught of HIV, especially among young women, shortfalls in donor aid for education mean that over 100 million children are still missing school. Without urgent action it will be 150 years until every child in Africa is able to attend school.

"Failure by donor countries to invest in achieving universal education now will mean increased poverty later, and will condemn countries hard-hit by AIDS to a grim future of underdevelopment and dependence," states the report. ...

It would take an additional $5.6 billion in aid to ensure that every child could go to school, which is the equivalent of just three days global military spending.

The report calls upon donor countries meeting this week at the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC to expand and properly coordinate funding education for all, beginning with fully funding the twelve low income countries whose education plans have been endorsed through the Education for All Fast Track Initiative.

A clear example of donor country failure is in Niger, where HIV/AIDS rates are increasing and education is crucial in halting the spread of the disease. UN figures show that whilst only 13% of uneducated men used a condom with their most recent casual partner, 30% of men with some primary education did, and 64% of men with some secondary education did.

Yet in a country where 1.3 million children remain out of school, HIV/AIDS prevention is seriously hampered. The government of Niger realizes the importance of primary education and has increased the enrolment rate from 34% to 42% in just 5 years. It developed a comprehensive education plan that was approved by donors under the Fast Track Initiative, yet donors simply have failed to come up with the money, and a $32 million dollar shortfall remains....

Among Learning to Survive's key findings:

  • Education is just one part of the comprehensive multi-sectoral strategy needed to address the HIV/AIDS crisis, and must be implemented alongside expanded treatment, care and support for those infected and prevention.
  • Universal Primary Education (UPE) would reduce the number of new HIV infections among young people by 700,000 annually through accelerating behavior change. ...
  • Education is especially empowering for girls and young women, which is key to its efficacy against HIV/AIDS, a disease which thrives on the social and economic vulnerability of young women.
  • Literate women are three times more likely than illiterate women to know that a healthy-looking person can have HIV, and four times more likely to know the main ways to avoid AIDS, according to a 32-country study.
  • In Kenya, 17-year-old-girls still in school were almost 4 times more likely to have delayed sexual activity than those who were out of school
  • Recent household surveys in 11 countries show that women with some schooling were nearly five times as likely as uneducated women to have used a condom the last time they had sex.
  • Globally, about one third of those currently living with HIV/AIDS are aged 15-24 and the majority of new infections occur among young adults.
  • In Uganda, HIV prevalence rates were cut from 15% in 1990 to 5% in 2000. Free primary education, which doubled enrolments when it was introduced mid-decade, played an essential role in this change process-the government estimates that some 10 million young people now receive AIDS education in the classroom. A massive change in sexual behavior has resulted. In one school district in 1994, more than 60 per cent of students 13 to 16 years old reported that they were already sexually active. In 2001, the figure was fewer than 5 per cent.

What is the Fast Track Initiative?

Two years ago, in April 2002, donors at the World Bank Spring meetings took a major step towards achieving universal education with the launch of the groundbreaking plan called the Fast Track Initiative. The Fast Track Initiative was a new compact between several donor and developing countries: if developing countries developed sound, credible plans to expand education access and quality, donors would not let them fail for lack of funding. The 12 initial countries included: Yemen, Gambia, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Guyana, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Ghana, Vietnam, Honduras, and Guinea

For a copy of the report or more information contact Caroline Green at Oxfam in Washington DC on +1 202 496 1174 or mobile +1 202 321 7858 or visit

Learning to survive:
How education for all would save millions of young people from HIV/AIDS

22 April 2004

Executive Summary

New analysis by the Global Campaign for Education suggests that if all children received a complete primary education, the economic impact of HIV/AIDS could be greatly reduced and around 700,000 cases of HIV in young adults could be prevented each year - 7 million in a decade.

HIV/AIDS is spreading fastest among young women (ages 15-24), not only because their physiology puts them at risk, but also because they have little access to knowledge, economic resources and decision-making power. Education changes this equation, giving women the information and the clout they need to keep themselves safe. Literate women are three times more likely than illiterate women to know that a healthy-looking person can have HIV, and four times more likely to know the main ways to avoid AIDS, according to a 32-country UN study. Evidence from 17 countries in Africa and four in Latin America shows that better-educated girls hold off longer on sexual activity, and are more likely to require their partners to use condoms. Women with some schooling are nearly five times as likely as uneducated women to have used a condom the last time they had sex. But education also accelerates behaviour change among young men, making them more receptive to prevention messages and more likely to adopt condom use.

Education is so strongly predictive of better knowledge, safer behaviour and reduced infection rates that it has been described as the "social vaccine", and UN and World Bank experts say it may be 'the single most effective preventive weapon against HIV/AIDS'. And in countries with high or fast-growing prevalence rates, getting every child into school now is essential to stop AIDS destroying the fragile stock of human capital on which poor people's livelihoods and developing countries' economic futures depend. Whereas experts postulate that economic growth in countries hard-hit by HIV/AIDS will drop by 1-4 per cent a year, UN research suggests that raising the average education of the labour force by one year raises GDP by 9 per cent. Each year of basic education, the 'people's asset', increases the productivity of African peasant farmers by 3-14 per cent.

Despite the proven efficacy of education in fighting the onslaught of HIV, over 100 million children worldwide are still missing school. Rich countries are not delivering the promised aid and debt relief that developing countries need to hire more teachers and build more classrooms. Without urgent action, including substantial increases in aid to education, Africa will not be able to get every child into school for another 150 years. As new figures published in this report show, even the developing countries that have gone furthest to reform their education systems have been stranded without effective support. Yet, for relatively small amounts of money, donors could ensure that every girl and every boy receives a quality basic education. An additional US$5.6 billion in aid to basic education, intelligently targeted via the Education for All Fast Track Initiative, would dramatically increase our chances of halting and reversing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the next decade.

Universal primary education is not a substitute for expanded HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. Both are complementary; and both are urgently necessary if we are to win the fight against the disease. To achieve UPE, halt and reverse HIV/AIDS, and fulfill the other UN development goals, overall aid budgets must rise to at least 0.7 per cent of GNI in line with the commitments made in Monterrey. At least 10 per cent of that should be devoted to basic education. In addition, about US$10bn annually will be required to mount adequate treatment and prevention programmes in all developing countries, including an estimated US$7bn to underwrite the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The combined annual cost of UPE and expanded treatment and prevention US$16bn is less than the amount Europeans and Americans spend on pet food every year.

In the words of Angeline Mugwendere, leader of an African youth network, 'Education is a lethal blow to AIDS. With access to school, many of my friends would be alive today.' The World Bank Spring Meetings in April 2004 provide an opportunity for rich countries to start making a difference now by properly funding and coordinating the Education for All effort:

1.) Increases in aid to education must reach the countries that have greatest need of additional resources, and have shown the strongest commitment to achieving Education for All. Finance and development ministers should strengthen and expand the Fast Track Initiative to serve as the coordinating mechanism through which donors will identify and collectively support the countries whose funding needs deserve the highest priority. Fast Track partners should pledge to channel 75 per cent of new aid for basic education to Fast Track-endorsed countries.

2.) As a first step, rich countries must immediately make up the remaining funding shortfalls for the 12 low-income countries whose education plans they have already endorsed through the Education for All Fast Track Initiative.

3.) Finance and development ministers meeting in Washington this week should call for a review of the 34 additional countries that have already qualified for Fast Track status, but have not yet had plans endorsed. The review should establish whether the country is in possession of a credible plan for achieving Education for All (EFA), whether existing donor commitments are adequate to support this plan, and whether outstanding finance needs can be met through existing in-country channels. Findings should be presented to the Fast Track partnership and the Development Committee in Spring 2005.

4.) Beyond this, rich countries must begin to work with developing countries in genuine partnership. Key markers of this would be the inclusion of Southern ministers on the steering committee of the Education for All Fast Track Initiative, an end to donor-only meetings, and full implementation of a transparent system to monitor the quality as well as the quantity of donor aid to education.

5.) Finance ministers of developing countries should ensure that they are increasing budgets for basic education alongside budgets for primary health care and AIDS prevention and care. Priorities for increased education spending should include abolishing primary school fees and charges; achieving gender parity in both primary and secondary education; improving teacher training; and incorporating sexual and reproductive health education and life skills training into the curriculum.

As Nelson Mandela has noted, 'Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.' It is also a weapon that the world cannot do without in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Education saves lives. And ignorance is lethal.

Niger, once protected from HIV/AIDs through its relative isolation, is now seeing the disease spread. Health workers report that increasing numbers of migrant workers are returning to Niger infected, and passing the disease on to partners though unprotected sex. HIV prevalence among women attending antenatal clinics in the capital Niamey quadrupled in just over a decade, from 0.5 per cent in 1987-88 to 2 per cent in 2000, and is now estimated at 4 per cent. A government paper concluded that it has so far been unsuccessful in holding back the spread of the disease.

Education is crucial to breaking down this wall and to enabling people to respond effectively to HIV/AIDS information. As the Peace Corps in Niger concluded, 'prevention though education can halt the spread of the virus'. UN figures show that while only 13 per cent of uneducated Nigerien men used a condom with their most recent casual partner, 30 per cent of men with some primary education did so, and 64 percent of men with some secondary education. ... But in a country where less than a quarter of children complete primary education (and only 42 per cent of children even begin it) HIV/AIDS prevention is seriously hampered.

The government of Niger understands the importance of education for all. It has already increased the primary education enrolment rate from 34 per cent to 42 per cent in just five years, and has developed a comprehensive strategy to deliver increased education that representatives of donor countries agree is of a very high standard. Donors accept that, despite significantly increasing its own spending on education, Niger (the poorest peaceful country in the world) requires additional international funding. In June 2002, Niger was invited into the Fast Track Initiative and in November 2002 the country's education plan was endorsed and the required additional international funding was promised in full.

Yet rich countries continue to ignore their own promise and to neglect Niger's children, 1.3 million of whom remain out of school. A US$32 million dollar shortfall remains in the plan for the next two years, and funding after that looks even more uncertain. One Western diplomat admitted it was 'a scandal, an absolute scandal'. Unless the shortfall is made up in full, Niger's children will continue to be without the opportunity and protection that education provides

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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