UN’s agricultural and educational agencies spotlight rural Caribbean poverty

18 May 2006 – With rural poverty high and the level of rural education low in Caribbean countries, the United Nations agricultural and educational agencies today opened a two-day regional meeting in St. Lucia on nutrition, education and HIV/AIDS.

According to a UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report to be presented at the meeting, “The education system in the Caribbean evolved from a colonial historical legacy which was predicated on privilege. Education served as a primary device for social selection and class stratification.”

With the attainment of independence, mass education has become a social and political priority, but has not reached many in the rural areas, the report said. In Jamaica, the rural poverty rate is three times higher than the urban poverty rate, while in Guyana, almost the entire rural population is poor.

“In the Caribbean region, the impact of poverty, HIV/AIDS and educational deficits is acutely felt in the rural context,” according to the report, which stresses the need to make a considerable effort to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and raise standards of living. The MDGs are a set of time-bound targets for slashing a host of global ills.

“Education is essential for the rural poor, many of whom are women. It is also essential for rural children who lose their parents to AIDS. Field schools need to be developed to provide essential skills and knowledge to orphaned children. Educating the rural poor contributes to preventing the (HIV) pandemic from expanding rapidly in rural areas,” said the head of FAO Gender and Population Division, Marcela Villarreal.

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