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Senior UN official lauds new initiative to get Haitian children into school

The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has welcomed the $360 million fund launched by Haiti’s new President to ensure the most disadvantaged children in the country can go to school.

The National Fund for Education (FNE), announced two weeks ago by President Michel Martelly is the biggest fund of its kind ever envisaged for out-of-school children in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Haiti’s education system was devastated by the earthquake in January 2010, according to UNESCO, which adds that even before the disaster only one in five children had access to a public school. A large segment of the population was deprived of education because parents lacked the financial resources to pay the registration fee.

“Haiti needs sustainable investments in education to give Haitians the means to rebuild their country,” UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said, commending Mr. Martelly on his initiative.

The fund is a multi-sectoral consortium which groups the Haitian Government, the private sector, international financial institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It is chiefly composed of a five-cent deduction on incoming international phone calls and $1.50 on international money transfers.

The resources identified so far should allow around 350,000 children to go to school in the first year, according to UNESCO, and a total of 1.9 million children are expected to benefit overall.

“This fund is a clear example of innovative financing to reach the Education for All goals, involving the State, private companies, NGOs and the international community,” said Ms. Bokova.

The Education for All goals were agreed to by more than 160 countries at the World Education Forum in 2000 in Dakar, Senegal, with the aim of achieving 100 per cent child enrolment in primary schools by 2015.

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