Millions of children to lose schools ‘unless western donors help’
November 9, 2010
Source: The Guardian
By David Smith
Lack of support from the west could force many poor countries to shut schools and sack teachers, depriving millions of children of education, a campaign group warns.
Funds in the world's only international education financing body are nearly exhausted, threatening to reverse significant gains made in recent years, according to the Global Campaign for Education (GCE).
It called for radical action to save schools that are threatened because western donors have been hit by the global financial crisis.
Representatives of the financing body, the Education For All Fast Track Initiative meet in Madrid tomorrow to allocate its last portion of funds, totalling $80m (£50m). The campaign says this is less than 10% of the $1bn that 20 of the poorest countries would request to keep schools open next year.
Kailash Satyarthi, president of the campaign, said: "This news confirms our worst fears and shows that unless radical action is taken at the donors meeting in Madrid this week, millions of children will have the school gates shut on them and teachers will be out of work. The progress made in the last decade is on the brink of being reversed, which will mean more children could join the 69 million children who are out of school."
The campaign cited the case of Mozambique, which in the past decade has made strides towards the millennium development goal of universal primary education. Since 2008, the country has hired 20,000 teachers and built 3,000 classrooms with support from donor countries in the fast-track initiative. But more teachers and buildings are badly needed .
A food crisis, which led to riots in Maputo in September, forced the Mozambique government to divert funds from the education budget to food subsidies, affecting thousands of teachers and almost 100,000 pupils. Mozambique was set to cut 20% of its education funding and halve its school building programme until it received a last minute $56m bail-out from the World Bank.
Satyarthi said: "We welcome the World Bank's investment, but it's a great tragedy that they are having to bail out poor countries' schools with emergency support because western donors withdrew their support. If $1trn can be found to bail out the banks, surely $16bn a year can be found to ensure that children's futures are not jeopardised."
The GCE fears problems could spread across Africa. Shortage of funds means that Rwanda's request for $100m ‚ which would help make secondary education free and improve the quality of teacher provision across the country‚ will not be met in full. Ghana and Kenya, with 900,000 and 750,000 children out of school respectively, are expected to submit funding requests.
Haiti, which lost 4,000 schoolsin the earthquake and is the third worst place in the world to be a schoolchild, is also likely to approach the fast-track initiative with a funding request in 2011.
The GCE said recent high-level lobbying in donor capitals failed to win any new funding to meet poor countries' education needs. It called on leading donors – including France, Germany, America, Japan, UK and the Netherlands – to make good on their promises.
The campaign is backing a financial transaction tax, commonly dubbed the Robin Hood or Tobin tax, which could raise as much as $200bn each year towards anti-poverty measures and ensure predictable funding to put millions of children into school.
Max Lawson, a senior policy adviser at Oxfam, said: "The financial crisis created by billionaire bankers is hurting the poorest hardest, with aid cuts meaning millions of children remain without the fundamental human right to an education. A tax on the banks could end this and put every child in school."