New Delhi: India has made significant strides in improving access to education with the government’s Education for All push, but there are persistent challenges of children dropping out of school and education inequalities. Today, youth activists from around the world will meet in New York with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and carry a clear and simple message: “We need more and better funding for education to achieve our full potential.”
The youth will hand over a global petition with more than 1.5 million signatures calling on world leaders to launch a new International Finance Facility for Education that can provide an additional USD 10 billion for global education investments for the most marginalized young people throughout the world.
India is facing a learning crisis. Fourteen million Indian children, many of them living in extreme poverty, are not in school and won’t have the skills they need to get jobs and build secure, stable futures. In rural India, there is a 20% gap in rates of learning between poor and wealthy children.
Globally, there is also a wide and persistent divide between children who have access to skills and opportunity – and those who do not. If no action is taken, more than 400 million girls around the world will not be on track to have the skills needed for employment in 2030. The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (the Education Commission) estimates that by 2030, more than half of the world’s children and young people – some 800 million youth – will not have the basic skills needed for the modern workforce.
On current trends, it will take until after 2100 for all countries to reach the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) target of ensuring that all children complete primary and secondary education.
UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown said: “The human faces behind these statistics are the most heartbreaking. In India, too many children living in poverty drop out of school and are forced into labor or early marriage.”
The International Finance Facility for Education would work with countries to collectively achieve the largest education investment in history and empower the next generation to fulfill their potential.
Young people are outraged that progress has stalled as investment has not kept pace with the need for education funding. international support has declined from 13% of all aid ten years ago to now just 10%. All aid to education in developing countries combined offers only USD 10 per child – not enough to pay for a second-hand textbook, let alone a quality education. In India, more resources have been targeted to disadvantaged areas to narrow gaps in education, but the country won’t be able to reach its goals without the help of the international community.
Today at the United Nations, Global Youth Ambassadors from Nepal, Kenya, and Sierra Leone are bringing the signatures of more than 1.5 million people asking for change and immediate action. The petition was collected by young people working with several organizations, including Theirworld’s network of 900 Global Youth Ambassadors in 90 countries, BRAC in Bangladesh, and Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi in Pakistan. The youth will meet with the United Nations Secretary-General, UN Special Envoy Gordon Brown, President of the Inter-American Development Bank Luis Moreno, and the World Bank’s Vice President for Human Development Annette Dixon to discuss funding for education.
The International Finance Facility for Education could help countries like India bridge the education funding gap and get all children in school and learning. The Facility, put forth by the Secretary-General, would make aid more effective by leveraging and maximizing the impact of donor resources through the World Bank and regional development banks to provide an additional 20 million places in school in its initial stage. Countries would multiply the impact by increasing their own funding and committing to critical education reforms.
Upon meeting with the youth advocates and receiving the petition, the United Nations Secretary-General declared, “In our fast-changing world, we cannot accept 250 million children failing to learn even the most basic skills. In the coming decade, some one billion young people will enter the workforce. They all need education so that they can help build a world of peace, prosperity, dignity, and opportunity for all. That is why the proposed new International Finance Facility for Education is critical.”
History shows that innovative and concerted international efforts can have profound impact. A decade and a half ago, such cooperation generated extraordinary new resources for the health sector and saved millions of lives. Achieving universal education would increase GDP per capita in low-income countries by almost 70% by 2050. The Facility will make what was once considered impossible – quality education for every child – possible within a generation.