UNICEF and 20 countries in Europe and Central Asia called here Tuesday for an action to get millions of children who are out of school back into quality learning.
The call for action, entitled "Education Equality Now!," was made at a regional conference organized by UNICEF and the Turkish government in Istanbul.
A 16-page document issued by the conference urged the governments of Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Commonwealth of Independent States to redouble their efforts to ensure that all children, regardless of background, will have the right to a full cycle of quality education, from pre-primary to secondary education.
During the four-day conference, specialists and participants urged the governments in the region to accelerate their progress to achieve education equity.
The 20 participants are: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
While addressing the conference, Turkish Education Minister Naci Avci warned that the deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals would be in 2015, adding: "We must quicken our steps to serve the best interest of our children and young people. "
To achieve these aims, high level political will and appropriate policies are needed, Avci said, adding: "By ensuring that each and every girl and boy all around the region has completed their primary education by 2015, we will also contribute to promoting gender equality and empower women."
According to UNICEF, currently 2.5 million children at the level of primary and secondary education, and 1.6 million pre- school aged children are out of school in Europe and Central Asia. The number stands at 12 millions at the level of secondary school aged children.