Five billion United States Dollars. That is the amount the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) expects to raise when it assembles donors and governments on July 28 and 29 in London to replenish its funds. The Summit will be hosted by Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. This amount will be to fund the next five-year cycle of the GPE in order for it to provide learning for 175 million girls and boys , get 88 million more children in school and reach 140 more students with professionally trained teachers in 87 mow-and middle income countries, of which 35 are in Africa.
Donors are expected to make significant commitments but the hope is that beyond the US$5bn benchmark funds for education should and MUST be generated from within.
Education has been hard hit by the COVID 19 pandemic the world over, more so in Africa. Besides many African governments have not been spending as much as they should on education. For instance the African Development Bank AfDB said in its Economic Outlook for 2020, that the continent has the worst education spending efficiency of all regions. It puts it at 58 per cent for primary education and 42 per cent for secondary education, which, it says, is 20 percentage points lower than the second worst performing region.
In Liberia, President George Weah has for long been harping upon the quality of education for all. It featured prominently during his electoral campaign for Liberia’s highest political office. He acknowledged that without sound education the development of the country will not be strong.
It is no surprise, therefore, that ahead of this week’s summit, President Weah joined his colleagues Heads of State in their call to action on education finance. They recognised the fact that “to maintain the education momentum generated in the last two decades of GPE support, and to ensure quality education that strengthens human capital and provides the skills and knowledge needed to seize the opportunities of the 21st century, “We must address the holistic needs of all learners, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.”
In their statement issued in the run-up to the summit they also acknowledged the role that bilateral and multilateral development partners as well as the private sector play in strengthening national government’s education strategies in beneficiary countries” and so called upon them to align their support with national education plans.
They committed themselves to “ensuring equity in access to quality education, and to making available resources reach the most marginalized children, especially girls, prioritize gender equality, with a specific commitment to improving girls’ education and increase investments for inclusion of children with disabilities or other historically excluded groups.”
The in-coming Chairman, Board of Governors of the GPE is former Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete. In the run-up to this week’s summit, Kikwete made a strong appeal to “raise their hands and pledge to maintain their education budgets at pre-COVID levels and work towards a global target of allocating at least 20 per cent of public spending to education.”
One of the aspects that usually worry donors is how their monies are being spent. The GPE has mechanisms in place for checks and balances and in most cases uses the services of Civil Society organizations to monitor and ensure that its funds are well spent
For the African continent, The GPE’s effort is being strongly supported by the ONE campaign organisation which has been working with African leaders through communiques or statements to, among other things: commit to maintaining current education budgetary allocations and funding, targeting the most marginalised; Commit to a future in which every 10-year old child can read and understand a simple story; Ensure that education is prioritised in the liquidity released from a comprehensive debt relief initiative and a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR’s) .
For this to happen ONE has been lobbying governments to “fence their education budgets,” amplifying African voices on the importance of improving learning outcomes and urging African leaders to write to donor countries encouraging them to contribute to the replenishment.
This week’s summit is a follow-up of that held in Dakar, Senegal, two years ago. African leaders and educationists are expected to make a huge contribution towards its success.