Now Is The Time To Get Kids Into School
by Judith Rowland, Global Poverty Project
The opportunity to access something as basic as education shouldn’t be political. Yet, 2014 bore witness to more attacks on schools than any time in the past 40 years and global emergencies like Ebola and conflicts in the Middle East forced millions of children out of school. Never has the goal of getting kids into school and keeping them there safely been more important.
The impact of investing in education is profound: education results in rising incomes and stronger economies, reduced child mortality and improved child nutrition, as well as improved opportunities for girls and women. Economists estimate that one extra year of schooling increases an individual's earnings by up to 10%. And, if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty!
Getting kids into school can greatly open up opportunities for girls. Currently, women represent nearly two thirds of the world’s illiterate. Over 31 million girls are still out of school around the world. There is vast evidence suggesting that countries with better gender equality and less gender disparity in primary and secondary education are more likely to have higher economic growth. Some countries lose more than $1 billion a year by failing to educate girls to the same level as boys. Girls who aren’t able to go to school often don’t develop critical skills needed to pull themselves and their families out of extreme poverty. More educated women tend to be healthier, work and earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their children. Girls' education can literally save millions of lives, according to UNICEF.
Despite the incredible value that universal access to education brings to communities globally, education is one of the most underfunded development sectors. A recent piece from Brookings explains that the 2013 aid data by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) shows a decline in education aid for the third consecutive year. Basic education suffered in particular; while total overseas development assistance (ODA) rose by 11 percent in 2013, aid to basic education declined by 7 percent in this one year alone.
The crisis of 58 million kids being out of school sometimes seems bleak. “But in the face of these setbacks, something remarkable is emerging. A movement, led by young people and supported by NGOs, civil society, teachers, business leaders, faith organizations, celebrities, campaigners, global leaders, policy experts and digital advocates has come together - committed to keeping our promise and achieving A World at School by the end of this year,” Sarah Brown, co-founder of A World At School, explains.
Though 2014 brought attacks on schools in Peshwar, northern Nigeria and other parts of the world, it also brought a renewed commitment from leaders representing donor governments, developing countries, civil society and the private sector and foundations to the Global Partnership for Education as it works to increase access to a quality education for 29 million kids.
The Global Partnership for Education is the world’s only multilateral partnership working to increase access to a quality basic education. Through a truly innovative co-financing model, Global Partnership for Education supports partner governments in the global south to develop and implement national education sector plans. 22 million more children are in primary school with the help of GPE partners since 2003. And, 69% of girls in GPE countries now finish primary school compared to 56% in 2002.
Last June, USAID Administrator Raj Shah committed to double U.S. funding for Global Partnership for Education to $40 million for FY14 and to seek additional funding in FY 2015. Later in 2014, incredible leaders like Congresswomen Lowey and Granger secured an additional increase in funding to $45 million for FY 2015. More recently, the Obama Administration has requested $70 million for GPE in FY 2016 and more funding for Basic Education than previously requested. The additional funds requested for the account overall are a step in the right direction. However, the level approved by the Congress has been much higher in recent years and the US can and should do more to support Basic Education. Each of these announcements signals the emergence of a strong and close partnership between the United States and the Global Partnership and a renewed commitment from the US to ensure that more children have access to school.
But, we can’t stop here. It is vital that the United States Government and other donors step up their support for Basic Education and Global Partnership for Education specifically. This year, Global Poverty Project is joining leading advocacy groups like RESULTS and Global Campaign for Education to call on U.S. leaders to commit $125 million to Global Partnership for Education in 2016. And, you can get involved. Visit Global Citizen to sign the petition calling on world leaders and business leaders to support Global Partnership for Education.
Judith Rowland is the US Campaigns Associate at the Global Poverty Project