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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 06:49 GMT
Students set out global priorities
Access to education varies widely
Young people from across the Commonwealth have urged politicians to act on gender issues, HIV and Aids and universal primary education.

Hundreds of delegates from 52 countries have been meeting in Edinburgh this week as part of the 15th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers.

The theme of the event is Closing the Gap: Access, Inclusion and Achievement.

Ministers and students have been setting out their priorities for education over the next three years.

The gaps are enormous, millions of pupils don't go to school
Professor Amartya Sen
While each country has its own individual problems, delegates heard that they all share a common need to reduce inequality.

The experience of pupils varies from a British-style education to overcrowded classrooms with few textbooks.

And across the Commonwealth 59 million children do not have any access to education.

Professor Amartya Sen, an expert in international development, said: "The gaps are enormous, millions of pupils don't go to school and should have had an opportunity to go to school.

Sharing knowledge

"It could make a dramatic difference to have well thought out, concerted action on that."

The event has been attended by First Minister Jack McConnell, who took the chance to share ideas with the students.

"This is an opportunity for us, not just to share our experiences and knowledge with the rest of the Commonwealth, but to learn from them too," said Mr McConnell.

Esther Barungi
We want to see that something has been done about the problems in our countries
Esther Barungi
Ugandan Youth Summit
The conference has brought together two students from each country, aged between 16 and 23, with teachers, charities and 48 Commonwealth ministers.

Esther Barungi, a delegate from the Ugandan Youth Summit, left ministers in no doubt that they should listen to the messages coming from young people.

"I want action, we need action, so for the next three years, maybe when we come back, we want to see that something has been done about the problems in our countries," she said.

The list of priorities presented to government ministers included closing the gender gap, reducing the impact of HIV and Aids and universal primary education.

The conference will conclude with the ministers themselves setting out their aims and objectives.

Youths join ministers' summit
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