Education & Family

Global education summit raises £16.8bn

Gordon Brown Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Gordon Brown says a lack of schools should not be an "insoluble problem"

An international summit on supporting education in developing countries has received pledges worth £16.8bn.

The UK has increased its contribution to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to £300m, which sends funding to 59 of the poorest countries.

But the biggest increase has been in promises in increased spending from developing countries.

Julia Gillard, chairwoman of the GPE, said this was "an enormous step forward for delivering education for all".

The summit, held in Brussels on Thursday, brought together education and international development ministers, aid organisations and United Nations agencies.

The GPE was holding a "replenishment" process, to gather funding up to 2018.

'Civil rights struggle'

Alice Albright, the GPE's chief executive, also welcomed the addition of funds from private donors, such as the Hewlett Foundation and Dubai Cares, and the promise of support in the form of training from Microsoft.

Initial pledges worth about £1.2bn were delivered at the summit from governments and donors, including a doubling of funding from the European Union to £300m.

The UK currently remains the biggest single donor.

Former donors such as Spain have said their own financial problems mean that they will have to delay contributions.

Donations are linked to promises from recipient governments to increase their own public spending on education.

And the proposed increases from 27 developing countries are forecast to be worth £15bn over four years.

Figures published by Unesco on Thursday showed that there are still 58 million children without any access to schools - and that progress has been stalled since about 2007.

Image copyright AP
Image caption School day in Lagos: There are still 58 million children missing out on education

Girls are particularly likely to miss out on school.

Gordon Brown, UN global education envoy, described providing education for girls as "one of the great civil rights struggles of our generation".

Mr Brown told BBC News: "I think there is a new momentum that's come from girls leading their own campaign. They're saying 'We must have this right to education'.

"It's been forced onto the political agenda."

Economic investment

"I think governments are beginning to understand the connection between education and the economy. They're never going to move from being a low income country unless they invest in education," said Mr Brown.

Mr Brown said such increased spending on education by developing countries marked a significant change in attitude.

"The issue now is how we have a more effective partnership between additional aid and governmental energy in countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Yemen."

And Mr Brown said this was a problem that prompted both compassion and anger.

"There's compassion because you see a child locked out of school - the loss of hope. And there's anger because this isn't an insoluble problem. We don't need a medical breakthrough, or a technological genius, what we need is political will."

Andris Piebalgs, EU commissioner for development, said the increased funding was an act of "solidarity" with children deprived of a chance of an education by an accident of birth.

He said it should be "human nature" to want to provide education for all children.

But he also said it was to the long-term advantage of Western governments, by driving growth and expanding markets.

"It's self evident that it's an economic benefit," he said.

And he said that improving education and improving skills in developing countries would reduce the pressure for illegal migration.

Missed promises

The latest figures on children missing out on school, published by Unesco, show the scale of the challenge.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Too many children drop out of education, warns the Unesco report

The international community had set a millennium goal that all children around the world would have access to a primary school by 2015 - but the updated figures show this target is likely to be missed.

Unesco's monitoring figures show there have been major advances in 17 countries, including Morocco and Nepal - reducing the number of out-of-school children by 90%.

But overall there has been little progress since 2007, says Unesco, with more than 30 million children in sub-Saharan Africa without any education.

"Most of these children will never start school and those who do are at risk of dropping out, " the report said.

Julia Gillard says that the support given to the GPE is a sign of optimism.

"We have today secured a record commitment of new funding for education in developing countries around the world.

"This exceptional result is a vote of confidence in the power of education to lift the lives of millions of children."

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