A major event in Copenhagen next week could make a crucial difference for the 67 million children around the world who are still not enrolled at school. Representatives of developing country governments, bilateral and multilateral agencies, civil society organizations and private foundations will gather at a pledging conference on November 8 to mobilize resources and political commitments for the newly branded Global Partnership for Education (formerly the Education for All Fast Track Initiative).
A major increase in funding for education is long overdue. Despite a recent rise in aid to basic education in 2009, of the US$5.6 billion available only US$3 billion is spent on the world’s poorest countries. This is vastly insufficient given that US$16 billion is needed to ensure all children in these countries are able to go to school, as we highlight in a new briefing paper by the EFA Global Monitoring Report team.
Just four countries benefited from over 80% of the increase in aid to basic education: India, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Viet Nam. Worryingly, anticipated future aid flows indicate that funding for education in countries most in need, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, are likely to fall significantly because major donors such as the Netherlands and the United States are shifting their priorities.
As our aid briefing paper concludes, “Recent increases in aid support have helped reduced the number of children out of school, but experience shows that overdependence on a small number of donors can jeopardize such gains. Aid to basic education, in other words, is not only vastly insufficient but also dangerously fragile.”
There appears to be little hope that the fragility of funding for education in the world’s poorest countries is going to change soon. As the leaders of the G20 meet this week in Cannes, France, to discuss key issues in the global economy, their minds are mainly focused on immediate concerns of the Eurozone crisis. To the limited extent that development issues are on the agenda, these almost entirely ignore the plight of children and young people who are denied the opportunity to develop skills they need to find work, as revealed by the communiqué of the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in October.
There is an urgent need to reverse the trends that are keeping education out of the international spotlight – and quickly. The meeting of the Global Partnership for Education in Copenhagen is a real opportunity for aid donors to show their financial and political commitment to the Education for All goals they signed up for in 2000. If they don’t do so next week, there is little hope that the 67 million children still out of school will have the chance to start school before the deadline of 2015.