The World Bank Wednesday designated 23 countries, most of them in Africa, as eligible to receive financial support for fast-track primary education. The World Bank expects rich industrial nations to contribute $4 billion to the program.
World Bank president James Wolfensohn says the Fast Track Education program aims to bring education to the 125 million children in developing countries who don't go to school. Rich and poor countries pledged earlier this year to provide every boy and girl with quality primary school education by 2015.
In announcing the education initiative, Mr. Wolfensohn expressed hope that eight major industrial countries will endorse the program when they meet June 26 this month in western Canada.
"It's my hope and expectation that the Group of Seven and Group of Eight will in fact agree to do it. If they don't, it's very hard to know what one should do because we're suggesting nothing revolutionary. We're simply taking people at their word and saying let's move forward," he said.
Appearing at the same press conference, Gennet Zewide, the education minister of Ethiopia, says to qualify for help recipient countries must have comprehensive programs to boost education, particularly in rural areas.
"There will be monitoring and evaluation where every year we will sit with the bank or the donors, where we'll be evaluated as to whether we have reached the targets we have set for a particular year, so forth and so on," he said.
Other African countries in the fast track program are Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Gambia, Ghana, and Guinea.
Aid advocate Phil Twyford of Oxfam International says it is time for the rich countries to put up the promised money or stop making commitments to do so. Africa and its economic problems will be a principal topic at the Group of Eight summit in Kananaskis, Alberta at the end of June. The G-8 includes the US, UK, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Canada and Russia.