Primary education is a fundamental building block of lives and livelihoods. But progress toward universal primary education has stagnated: there are still 57 million children out of school, and aid to basic education has dropped for the first time since 2002. As the G8 prepare to meet in Northern Ireland next week, it is crucial that they take the opportunity to renew their investment in helping children go to school.
Great progress was made in reducing the number of out-of-school children from 102 million to 71 million in the five years after the pledge to achieve universal primary education was made in 2000. Progress stagnated in 2005, however, and there has been little change since then. If this continues, we will be far from our goal to get all children into school by 2015.
With progress toward universal primary education stalling, investment in basic education is needed more urgently than ever. However, many donors are either reducing aid to basic education, or not targeting aid to developing countries where it is most needed. Our policy paper [PDF] published this week reveals that six of the 10 largest bilateral donors cut their aid to basic education between 2010 and 2011. In total, aid to basic education was reduced by 7 percent in one year. Of the $5.8 billion in aid to basic education by all donors in 2011, it is of particular concern that only $1.9 billion went to low income countries, falling far short of the financing gap, which is $26 billion.
Next week, the spotlight will be on what progress the G8 has made to support the world’s poorest countries. Our latest research shows that there is not good news: the total amount of aid from the G8 donors to basic education in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen for the first time since 2008. This is especially worrying given that the region is home to over half the world’s out-of-school children.
G8 countries also contribute to the World Bank, whose aid to basic education to sub-Saharan Africa has declined dramatically since 2004. While the World Bank’s contributions to basic education globally have increased, in 2011 the Bank’s International Development Association gave less than a quarter of the aid to basic education to sub-Saharan Africa that it gave in 2002.
The most recent G8 accountability report confirms the trends identified by the EFA Global Monitoring Report, identifying education as one of three areas that the report classifies as only “satisfactory”. As the leaders of the G8 countries meet at their summit in Northern Ireland next week, they must take the chance to do something about this situation by making a strong commitment to basic education.
The United Kingdom, which has assumed presidency of the G8 this year, has just become the largest bilateral donor to basic education. It has shown admirable leadership in meeting aid commitments and making basic education a high priority. We encourage the UK to ensure that other G8 countries follow its lead at next week’s G8 summit: all donors urgently need to meet their commitment that no child will be out of school in 2015 due to lack of resources.
Failing to meet our education goals could have grave consequences for development. Children who do not receive basic schooling are far more likely to live in poverty throughout their lives and have poorer health than their educated counterparts. In addition, gaps in education foster inequality. In Ethiopia, for example, almost all children from rich households in Addis Ababa have been to school, compared to only one third of girls from poor households in the predominantly pastoralist Afar region [PDF].
The message is clear: strong, dependable funding to basic education is urgently needed; it is a crucial part of the solution to development crises such as malnutrition and global poverty, and it is a pivotal in order to ensure that all children can fulfil their potential.
Pauline Rose is the Director of the Global Monitoring Report on Education published by UNESCO. First published in aljazeera