» A funding gap the world cannot afford - Jeune Afrique
26.06.2014 -

A funding gap the world cannot afford - Jeune Afrique

Joint article by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO and Julia Gillard, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education, published in Jeune Afrique on 26 June 2014.

In 2000, the world, through the United Nations Millennium Goals, made a promise to ensure that all children would get to school by 2015 and donors agreed that “no countries seriously committed to Education For All will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by a lack of resources.”

On the eve of the 2015 milestone, we need to remember and re-energize this promise.

According to the UNESCO Global Monitoring Report, aid to education has fallen by 10 percent since 2010 – while over the same period overall development assistance has fallen by just one per cent. This comes on top of a $26 billion annual shortfall in funding for education across the board.

In spite of the progress we’ve seen since 2000, such as the rise in the numbers of girls going to school and learning, the current downward trend in education funding is alarming and threatens those gains.. Some 57 million children remain excluded from education today. This figure has barely moved since 2007. We need to get back on a track of progress. We need a new commitment by all to meet the promises of 2000. This is the goal of the Global Partnership for Education Replenishment Conference, to be held on 25-26 June in Brussels and co-hosted by the European Union. Our goal is to raise $3.5 billion, which will cover the annual school costs of children in 66 low-income countries. In addition, we are asking developing countries to increase their domestic spending on education by up to 20 percent of their budget. It is encouraging to see how many developing countries have already raised their budgets by billions of dollars, understanding the importance of education to making progress in all other development goals.

But developing countries cannot do it on their own given the enormous needs. Of the 57 million children out of school, about 15 million girls and 10 million boys may never enter a classroom, unless we act now with determination and urgency. Another 34 million who started school in 2012 may yet leave before reaching the last grade –- because of poverty, poor education quality, and the lack of trained teachers. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than one out of every three children who actually starts school is expected to drop out early. We are convinced that while the situation is daunting,  we can turn it around. Now is the time.

South and West Asia show how it can be done. The region reduced the number of children out of school from 34 to 10 million in just over a decade, radically improving the outlook for the next generation.

This happened through positive action -- by abolishing fees, introducing relevant curriculum, and providing extra support to struggling families. Progress was accomplished by governments and donors working together.

These successes show that leadership and political will, backed by reliable financing, can bring positive change – this is the flag that we will be flying at the pledging conference of the Global Partnership in Brussels.

The stakes are high, because education is a basic human right. It also brings sustainability to all development by fostering more engaged citizens, empowering girls and women, improving health and lowering birth and mortality rates, raising the age of marriage. Education is the most solid of foundations for building more inclusive, just and sustainable societies.

We need to harness the transformational power of education, and this calls for the support of all donors. The world simply cannot afford for countries to fall short of their education goals.

We must not fail.

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