Speech by Xavier Marchal, Ambassador, Head of Delegation, European Commission

xavier_marchalEducation Transition Fund (ETF) Launch
It is a great pleasure for me to say a few words on the occasion of this very important event. I do this on the direct behalf of my Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Karel De Gucht, who was in Zimbabwe yesterday and the day before as part of the first EU ministerial visit to Zimbabwe since 2002

During this highly political visit, the way for EU-Zimbabwe re engagement was discussed with the three Principals of the Global Political Agreement. Commissioner de Gucht emphasised what the European Commission has done, is doing, and will do to support the Zimbabwean population, which is not strictly limited to emergency assistance. It is in this context that I am here today.

The education sector in Zimbabwe was once one of the best in Africa. We have seen it suffer severely from overall economic and political downturn of the last years. This trend culminated last year when a whole school year was lost for many children in Zimbabwe.

But it is good to see that there have been indications of limited recovery this year, mainly due to the payment of real salaries to teachers. However we have to remain alert as the situation remains very serious.

During all these last years the European Commission has been one of few donors to remain committed to supporting the education sector, in line with EU restrictive policy towards Zimbabwe and in direct support of the population. I am now happy to see much needed support to the sector now scaling up also by other donors.

Given the serious situation in the education sector it is a great pleasure to be able today to announce the European Commission’s support to the Education Transition Fund with a new contribution of 7.5 million euros (10.5 USD). This is done on behalf of the European Union. The Education Transition Fund will be the channel for this contribution. In my view, this tool will prove crucial to significantly improve the learning environment in primary schools.

With the creation of the ETF we support the supply side of the education sector which had so far been largely neglected. At the same time we, and many other donors, have been active already on the demand side through our support of the Programme of Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC). I am equally pleased that through this programme, the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) programme can be reinvigorated to enable access of vulnerable children to schools.

The EC’s new allocation to the education sector has to be seen in the context of a Short Term Strategy developed in agreement with the Government of Zimbabwe following a Ministerial EU Troika Meeting with the inclusive Government of Zimbabwe ( led from Zimbabwe side by the Prime Minister), on 18/19 June in Brussels.

The Short Term Strategy addresses urgent needs of the Zimbabwean population and supports the implementation of the GPA in a transitory period. It was defined to include both humanitarian interventions and tailored interventions to support both reforms and the Zimbabwean population, based on a refined list of priorities as described in the Government’s Short Term Economic Recovery Programme (STERP).

Only a few months after the Brussels meeting, and one day after the visit of the EU ministerial Troika to Zimbabwe, I am very happy to see a first concrete and very practical outcome of this process by launching our contribution to the education sector today.

I am also happy to increase our cooperation with UNICEF, a partner with whom we have worked significantly in the last years.

I hope and trust it will soon lead to a visible improvement of the learning environment of Zimbabwean children.

Thank you

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