Official photograph of the 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers opening ceremony in Mauritius
29 August 2012
"The fundamental cure to poverty is not money, but education," says Prime Minister of St Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony
The 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers got underway in Mauritius today (29 August) with a colourful opening ceremony attended by 800 delegates who were addressed by the Prime Minister of St Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony.
He focused on education in the context of the current global cutbacks in a powerful speech titled ‘Not money, but education – valuing human development in the face of financial crisis'.
Quoting the St Lucian developmental economist and Nobel Prize winner, William Arthur Lewis, Dr Anthony said: “The fundamental cure to poverty is not money, but education.”
Poverty, he added, comes in many varieties: “There is the poverty of scarcity of resources, but also the poverty of exclusion from the world; the poverty of not knowing or not knowing how to; and, indeed the poverty of absence of voice, conscience and spirit. Poverty in all its sense is an aberration of our humanity.”
Expenditure on education is threatened across the world, said Dr Anthony, but he called on education administrators to build sufficient political capital to resist the temptation to reduce spending on education even when it appears to have little immediate economic impact.
Dr Anthony also spoke of the importance of creating knowledge-based economies and the potential of technology as one of the bases for learning.
In his welcome address, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said the conference was taking place at a critical time of change.
“Globally, rapid advances in technology, economic transformation, and the cusp of change in the agenda for development and education, combine with a tide in the overall reform of our Commonwealth that is already well underway to make this a watershed Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers,” said the Secretary-General.
He told ministers that discussions and decisions taken during the meeting will influence not only how education is undertaken and developed within the Commonwealth, but also what the Commonwealth does collectively to raise opportunities for its citizens and how member states can contribute towards shaping and advancing development goals in education.
“We must think beyond what can be achieved from a desk when we have at our disposal the resources of the worldwide web, the internet and cloud technology, and by all these means, exchanges and partnerships that can be created,” Mr Sharma said.
The Mauritius Minister of Education and Human Resources, Dr Vasant Bunwaree, said the 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers sets the tone in exploring all possibilities for meeting the global education targets, and identifying constraints which will influence progress on the education agenda beyond 2015.
“Education acts as a rampart against ignorance and provides the leverage to make poverty-alleviation a reality,” said Dr Bunwaree.
“Investing in education increases the chances for greater socio-economic progress of the individual and the overall development of a country. But it is also a fact that poverty is self-reinforcing.The subsequent societal and economic toll to be paid is very heavy indeed,” he stressed.
The meeting was officially opened by the Deputy Prime Minister of Mauritius, Dr Ahmed Rashid Beebeejaun, who thanked the Commonwealth for its continuing support to the Government of Mauritius and to the overall development of the country.
“Education must be given the importance that it rightly deserves as it is the very foundation on which rests the edifice of development. Education is the driver of economic growth and fosters the development of human capital,” Dr Beebeejaun said.
He reminded delegates that it was the last Commonwealth education ministers conference before the 2015 deadline for meeting the internationally agreed goals in education.
“I am confident that by the end of this conference, we would have explored a new post-2015 education agenda for the Commonwealth. Thereafter, we will need political will, resolve and the judicious allocation of resources to achieve concrete results. The existing co-operation frameworks must no doubt be fine-tuned and made more efficient to help us realise our ambition,” said Dr Beebeejaun.