The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is meeting in Brussels this week to make a push for funding the education of all of the world’s children. Despite progress made in the early years of the Millennium Development Goals, almost 58 million children remain out of school while many others have not progressed beyond the primary level. For those kids who are in school, the quality of education is key to getting the requisite literacy and numeracy skills needed to get ahead.
In his June 22 article in the Washington Post, Jeffrey Sachs says that while the world met the myriad challenges in delivering better health outcomes, education did not receive its fair due. He speculates that perhaps this is a result of the high stakes life a death scenarios with health care, or the fact that the private sector has more say in the provision of health care and drugs. Or perhaps, Prof Sachs muses, the lack of focus on education has more to do with effort.
Yet, effort on the part of global leaders is crucial. While the stakes with educating children are not, at first glance, as black and white as health care, the impact of an education on a child’s life is enormous. We know that an education improves economic prospects, and, as Prof Sachs points out, it could keep youth from associating with extremist groups. And we know that an education helps girls to speak up for what matters to them.
“Indeed, our efforts should go especially toward educating girls, to ensure they have every chance to complete a secondary education and gain skills that will allow them to enter the labor force rather than being forced into marriage as teenagers. Educating girls transforms communities, and the benefits are passed to the next generation, from mother to children.”
The GPE is asking for $3.5 billion for the next four years, which is, Prof Sachs says, equivalent to just $1 per year from each citizen in the developed world. However, as of June 22, the US government had not committed to its two year $250 million contribution. As of May 31, the United States has contributed a total of $43.5 million to the GPE. Canada’s contribution is over $100 million while the UK tops the list at $773 million paid so far, with another $89 million promised. Please click this link (GPE-Donor-contributions) for a list of country contributions.
The effective use of educational dollars will be vital to reaching all the children who are currently out of school and to help them all advance beyond the primary level.
To this end, through the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Prof Sachs teamed up with Ericsson to create Connect to Learn (LINK) to bring education to children, particularly those in remote areas where books, and even trained teachers, can be difficult to come by. The program gives kids access to online learning materials; it provides scholarships; and it “connects” youth on a more personal level by creating an online program to link up kids in developing countries with their developed country peers for group learning opportunities.
Watch this video of a Ugandan girl to hear a child’s dream:
The trick, says Prof Sachs, will be to scale up the program “to reach hundreds of millions of kids, not just hundreds or a few thousands.” Now, this is something that we can all strive towards.
In fact, the 60 million girls Foundation believes strongly in the importance of using technology to bring education to girls in remote areas. We also believe that children have an innate ability to learn and that even in the absence of trained teachers, access to educational materials greatly enhances their ability to learn.