On May 2nd the European Commission together with the World Bank and donor governments held a high-level conference with a view to allocating funds to education with a view to achieving Education for All by 2015.
‘Keeping Our Promises on Education’ was convened by Louis Michel, Commissioner for Development, together with former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and UK Chancellor Gordon Brown. Many other donor country ministers attended along with Members of the European Parliament, civil society and private sector representatives. A motivated and creative group of young campaigners and teachers joined the Chairperson of the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) Kailash Satyarthi and the President of Education International Thulas Nxesi to call for concrete and immediate action in support of education rights. Wielding banners and dressed as teachers, nurses, engineers and judges, the young people challenged the representatives of the richest countries in the world entering the Conference to ‘keep their promises’ and to ‘let us live, let us learn.’
At the event itself, children from Columbia, India, Ghana, Kenya and Germany – a number of whom were former child labourers - spoke about the impact that education had on their lives and expressed their wish for other children to be given the same chances. The Conference was exceptional in that it was the first time in five years that donors had gotten together to discuss the Education for All agenda and more specifically ‘concrete proposals and commitments for action to keep the MDG timeframe.’ More specifically, the agenda focused on achieving more, better, faster and long-term, predictable aid for education. Expectations were high that donors would use this opportunity to come up with more funding and more efficient methods of getting the aid through, such that the 80 million children still out of school might get a chance to exercise their human right to an education. Ultimately however, the hopes turned to disappointment. The GCE welcomed the pledges made by Germany and the European Commission to the Fast-Track Initiative’s (FTI) Catalytic Fund of $11 million and $30 million respectively. Nonetheless, they noted how far short this fell of bridging the $750 million gap needed to finance all FTI countries this year. Some countries, such as the Netherlands, the UK and Norway, kept to their prior commitments, which, according to the GCE, ‘demonstrates what can be achieved with strong political will’. Others such as Japan committed a mere $1.2 million to each of the two FTI Funds.
Overall it is estimated that the new funds pledged at the Conference could get about 1 million children into school. Without further action, however, the remaining 79 million will have to wait some time before they can join their friends in the classroom. You can download a copy of the GCE’s verdict statement on the conference at the following link: www.campaignforeducation.org/news