Big drop in donor aid threatens global education progress says A World at School report

Education funding

Donor funding for basic education is inadequate, uncoordinated and declining – and that signals a lack of ambition to reach Millennium Development Goal 2 of universal primary education, according to a new report published today by A World at School. 

The Donor Scorecard comes in the wake of a catastrophic few years for global education. There have been devastating terrorist attacks on schools in Kenya and Pakistan and abductions of schoolchildren in Nigeria and South Sudan, the Ebola crisis and schools destroyed in conflict in Syria, Central African Republic, Gaza and other countries.

It all makes 2014 and 2015 the worst years ever for the violation of children’s rights and means there is an increasing need for action. But donor countries are failing to address the issue of basic education for all and the lack of adequate financing remains worst in the poorest and fragile states.

The scorecard shows nine of the top 10 donor governments – including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France – have been reducing their aid since 2010, leaving 58 million children out of school around the world. Norway has been the only major bilateral donor to steadily increase its aid to basic education in the past four years.

The Donor Scorecard highlights that multilateral aid to basic education has been erratic and the top five multilateral contributors to basic education have reduced their share of total aid to basic education over the past 10 years, leaving current funding levels exactly the same as a decade ago.

Read the Donor Scorecard here.

In 2000, international donors made a commitment that “no countries seriously committed to education for all will be thwarted in their achievement of (universal education) by lack of resources.” The new scorecard shows that instead of increasing aid to meet the 2015 deadline and establishing a strong foundation for success on the 2030 agenda, most donors are pulling back. With only eight months to go before the deadline to 2015, the Donor Scorecard warns that lack of ambition to reach Millennium Development Goal 2 requires urgent action.

Sarah Brown, co-founder of A World at School, warned that “aid to basic education has fallen every year since 2010 which means that just when leaders should have been stepping up to achieve the 2015 target, they were pulling back. It is not acceptable that millions of children will not get a seat in a classroom as promised”.

She said the Education For All Global Monitoring Report – published last week – showed “there is an annual financing gap of $22 billion over 2015-2030 for reaching universal pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education of good quality in low and lower middle income countries”. She said the Donor Scorecard shows that we are falling far short of financing and subsequently access targets.

As enthusiasm grows for new 2030 goals on education and development more broadly, the scorecard and global education campaigners around the world warn that the enthusiasm for new 2030 targets must be built on a firm foundation of coordinated and increasing funding agreed this year. New targets should not “obscure the failure to adequately invest in reaching the 2015 deadline on which millions of children’s lives depend”.

Sarah added: “It is crucial that we reverse the decline in funding to education. The alternative is leaving 58 million children behind, particularly those hit hardest by conflict and emergencies, such as Syrian refugees and children out of school in countries affected by Ebola.”

Since 2008, investments in health have risen 58% while education investments dropped by 19%, showing clearly that reductions in aid cannot be explained away by the financial crisis. The scorecard articulates clearly the need for education investments to reflect the same level of ambition as health. 

The scorecard makes recommendations for increased, targeted and well-coordinated aid for basic education including:

  • The creation of a humanitarian fund for financing education in emergencies so that children have the education  necessary to protect themselves and rebuild their communities
  • Reversing the shift of multilateral agencies away from basic education and increasing aid targeted towards those children living in poverty and conflict and emergency situations

As part of the efforts to increase pressure on world leaders to keep their promises to financing universal education, nearly five million people around the world have signed the #UpForSchool Petition led by A World at School. It calls on governments to keep their promise, made at the United Nations in 2000, to ensure all out-of-school children gain their right to education before the end of 2015. Without adequate financing, this critical commitment will remain unfulfilled.

Learn more about the issues around global education and what needs to be done to get all children into school.

Education is a right.  It gives freedom, hope and a future. No child should be denied it. Sign the #UpForSchool Petition, which calls on the international community to get every child into school.

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