Norwegian Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim commented:
“More children than ever before now have the opportunity to go to school. However, we must remember that a great deal remains to be done before we can say that we are satisfied. All children must have the opportunity to go to school, including those who are most vulnerable. We must also seek to further improve the quality of schools.”
The situation in Haiti today shows how important schools are in times of crisis. When things are difficult for children, schools are much more than places of learning.
“After a disaster like the earthquake, schools can often be a safe haven for children. Here they can find protection, support, and not least health care and food. An investment in children is an investment in Haiti’s future. It is crucial for development in Haiti that children get a good education,” said Mr Solheim.
For many years, Norway has played a leading role in UNICEF’s efforts to develop more and better schools in poor countries. Universal primary education is the one of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals in relation to which most progress has been made. Having said this, it is vital to ensure that more girls go to school in order to achieve the other seven goals.
“A girl who goes to school is much less likely to get married too early. Girls with education tend to be older before they become pregnant, have better health and have healthier children. It has also been shown that they are less vulnerable to violence,” emphasised Mr Solheim.
Norway is the second largest donor to UNICEF, providing a total of NOK 1.3 billion (USD 210 million) year.
The agreement was signed by Norway's UN Ambassador Morten Wetland and UNICEF's Executive Director Anthony Lake in New York.
See more photos from the signing ceremony on Flickr.