Wed Jun 12, 9:38 AM ET
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON - The World Bank ( news - web sites) on Wednesday selected the first 23 developing nations to participate in pilot programs aimed at educating millions of poor children around he world.
The countries include 18 nations that will qualify immediately for money to expand schooling and another five that will be in line for aid once they have approved programs in place.
There are an estimated 113 million children in poor nations, two-thirds of them girls, who do not attend school.
The 18 countries judged ready for increased assistance now include nations in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
The five nations in line for money after approved programs are adopted are countries with the largest populations not in school: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Republic of Congo and Nigeria.
In announcing the countries selected for the "Education for All Fast Track" program, World Bank President James Wolfensohn called on the Bush administration and other leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrial countries to make significant pledges of support at the group's annual summit later this month in Canada.
The World Bank has estimated that the G-8 and other wealthy donor countries will need to commit about dlrs 3 billion annually in additional foreign aid over the next 10 years to achieve the goal of universal primary education in the developing world by the year 2015.
"We're making an important start here today with these 23 countries. More than 67 million children in these countries have never set foot in a classroom," Wolfensohn said in a statement. "Now it is up to the G-8 and other donors to follow through and provide the financing necessary to make this education fast track work."
The issue of providing greater resources for poor nations has received renewed emphasis since Sept. 11, as wealthy countries seek to demonstrate a commitment to wiping out the extreme poverty viewed as a breeding ground for terrorists.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who recently completed a 12-day tour of Africa with singer Bono of the rock band U2, is leading an administration effort to boost the amount of World Bank support that goes to countries in the form of grants rather than loans, which have to be repaid.
While Britain and other European countries initially objected to the plan, saying it would rob the World Bank of resources in future years unless donors increased their support, it was expected that all sides would reach a compromise this weekend at meetings of finance ministers preparing the agenda for the G-8 talks.
Wolfensohn said that to qualify for education financing under the fast track program, countries had to agree to adopt policies that improved the quality and efficiency of their primary education programs.
The 23 nations selected for the fast track program are part of a larger group of 88 nations that are not expected to meet the goal of universal primary education by 2015 without outside assistance.
The 18 countries eligible for immediate support once funding becomes available are Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Honduras, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Albania, Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, Vietnam, Guinea, Ethiopia and Yemen.
These nations qualified by having a World Bank-approved poverty reduction strategy and an acceptable education plan.
Wolfensohn said the World Bank would work in coming months with the five other countries in the initial group of 23 to resolve the problems blocking their receipt of education financing.
Those five nations account for 50 million of the 113 million children worldwide who are not in school.