July 11, 2019

Two innovative funds can help to #WriteTheWrong for millions of out-of-school children

A new UN report warns that the number of children out of school will only fall from 262 million in 2017 to 225 million by 2030.

Photo credit: The Education Commission

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

International donors will be asked at the UN to make pledges to initiatives aimed at delivering education to some of the world's most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

When global leaders agreed a 15-year plan to get every child into school, the target date of 2030 seemed a long way off.

But we're already a third of the way there and the world is falling behind on its commitments, according to an alarming United Nations report this week. More than 260 million children are still out of school and only 60% of children in poorer countries complete primary school.

An almighty push from countries, donors, UN agencies and civil society organisations is needed if Sustainable Development Goal 4 is to be achieved. It promises to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all" by 2030. 

SDG4 has 10 key targets - the first is to get every girl and boy to complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.

Theirworld's #WriteTheWrong campaign has been highlighting the need for a dramatic increase in funding if that promise is to be met. At the UN General Assembly in September, funding appeals will be made for two vital parts of the jigsaw - the Education Cannot Wait fund (ECW) and the new International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd).

Theirworld will host a briefing for civil society organisations (CSOs) today, at which some of the people driving ECW and IFFEd will update them on progress and what still needs to be done.

Theirworld President Justin van Fleet said: “Theirworld is not a traditional charity model - and our #WriteTheWrong campaign is a testament to a model of unlocking bigger, larger-scale opportunity. 

"In the coming weeks, leaders will hear from our Global Youth Ambassadors and other campaign supporters about what they can do to ensure funding for education and create millions of school places for vulnerable children. This briefing kicks off our collaboration with CSO partners to fund SDG4 leading up to the UN General Assembly in September.”

Here we take a look at the need for these funding approaches, what they have achieved and how donors will have the opportunity to make pledges aimed at reaching all children who are missing out.

The global education crisis

A quality education gives children and young people the skills they need to succeed in life. It gives children in low-income countries a better chance of moving out of poverty and into a good job.

Children who are out of school are exposed to dangerous environments such as child labour, forced marriage, child trafficking, sexual exploitation and recruitment by armed groups. 

new report by UNESCO on SDG4 shows that - based on current trends - the number of children out of school will only fall from 262 million in 2017 to 225 million by 2030. That's means 14% of all children will still be denied an education.

The challenge is particularly great for countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where the school-age population is growing faster than elsewhere. In 2000 it accounted for 41% of all children out of school in the world - that rose to 54% by 2017.

The plan to change that outlook

The Learning Generation report, produced by the Education Commission in 2016, said universal education can be achieved - but only if countries increase their funding to education AND donors and other organisations increase their support.

Apart from low-income countries spending more of their budgets on education, the commission said international aid to education had to increase and a new funding mechanism had to be established to fill a significant gap in resources.

Collectively, to achieve SDG4, global spending on education must rise from $1.2 trillion annually to $3 trillion annually by 2030. 

Education Cannot Wait was established to deliver education to children affected by emergencies

Education Cannot Wait - the background

About 75 million children aged three to 18 in 35 countries need support because their education has been disrupted by humanitarian emergencies, including conflicts, natural disasters and forced displacement.

Such crises put children at risk of child labour, early marriage, child trafficking, exploitation and recruitment by armed groups.

Children living in countries affected by conflict are 30% less likely to complete primary school and half as likely to finish secondary school. The picture is even bleaker for refugee children. Only half have access to primary education and only 22% are in secondary schooling.

After campaigning by Theirworld and others, Education Cannot Wait was launched in 2016 as the first global fund for education in emergencies.

"The replenishment for ECW is a big thing for us this year," said ECW Senior Partnership Advisor Nasser Faqih. "The confidence of the CSO community with the direction and approach of ECW is key to continued support from all coalitions.

"The establishment of ECW is seen as the outcome of years of advocacy and hard work by the CSO community and committed leaders to reposition education in emergencies and protracted crises."

IFFEd - the background

Nearly 70 of the world's poorest countries are helped by the Global Partnership for Education, which works to strengthen their school systems. Education Cannot Wait helps children in crises.

Despite those organisations - and even if developing countries increased the amount they spent on education - there will still be a funding gap in the "missing middle" countries, such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cote D’Ivoire, Bolivia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen.

As these countries grow economically, they lose access to affordable financing for education. This limits their ability to invest in social services like education. They need longer-term financial solutions to let them commit domestic resources to giving every child a quality education. 

The International Finance Facility for Education is an innovative way to finance education in such countries. By multiplying donor resources and motivating countries to increase their own investments, IFFEd will unleash tremendous new funding streams for education. 

Liesbet Steer, Director of the Education Commission, said: "We need a step-change in education financing from both domestic and external sources on par with the challenge ahead and the commitments the international community made to the global goals.

"IFFEd is primarily about results, aiming to ensure that every child is learning. IFFEd’s success will not be measured by financial volumes but by the ultimate number of children who are in school and learning."

IFFEd will help children in the so-called "missing middle" countries

Photo credit: The Education Commission

Education Cannot Wait - the effect

In its first two years of operations, ECW has reached 1.3 million children and youth in 19 crisis-affected countries. 

The latest example of its work is an additional $7.8 million to support education responses for over 185,000 children impacted by Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. 3,500 classrooms were destroyed in Mozambique alone.

Maria Alberto, is a 42-year-old teacher in Mozambique. Her school lost eight of its 11 classrooms, along with most of the desks and learning materials. 

She said: “Once the children started to regain their confidence, it is now our duty as teachers to help them to take the next steps and bring them back to a normal life and continue their education with bright future prospects."

IFFEd - gathering pace

In a crucial turning point for global education, G20 leaders made a dramatic commitment to IFFEd in 2017, giving momentum to a mechanism that will unlock billions of dollas a year and help to get millions of girls and boys into school.

In May last year, Theirworld's Global Youth Ambassadors were at the UN headquarters in New York to deliver messages from 1.5 million people who are backing IFFEd. They told UN Secretary-General António Guterres that action must be taken to launch it.

In September 2018, world leaders, the business community and international donors gave their backing to IFFEd at the UN General Assembly - and this was echoed by development banks, UN agencies and countries at the World Bank 2019 Spring Meetings.

The plan is for IFFEd to become operational early in 2020.

ECW aims to reach nine million children affected by emergencies each year

Photo credit: UNICEF / De Wet

Education Cannot Wait - the big ask

ECW and its partners are calling on governments, private sector companies, philanthropic foundations and global leaders to rise and support its efforts to mobilise $1.8 billion and reach nine million children annually by 2021. 

By then, ECW will be supporting multi-year resilience education programmes in at least 25 priority countries affected by protracted crises: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, DRC, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Kordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Uganda and Yemen.

Support from civil society is crucial if ECW is to achieve its funding goal. Faqih said civil society organisations know that ECW will continue to hold itself accountable to people caught up in crises, will reach out to the most neglected and furthest left behind, and is willing to work closely with governments, CSOs and other education mechanisms including IFFEd. 

He added: "These are all factors that strengthen the bond and collaboration of ECW with CSOs."

IFFEd - the big ask

In the first round of funding, donor countries will provide IFFEd with grants and guarantees, which will then be leveraged unlock about $5 billion in new finance.

IFFEd money will help to build schools, train and employ teachers; put in curriculums; help children travel to school, provide supplies children need to learn at home and in the classroom - and much more.

IFFEd will support, not replace, initiatives already in place for education financing. It will enhance World Bank and Regional Development Bank financing for low-income and lower-middle income countries, and work alongside organisations such as GPE and ECW.

It aims to create over 20 million school places and help girls complete both primary and secondary school. IFFEd will support programmes to get at-risk children into school and stop child labour, child marriage or exploitation.

Education Cannot Wait moves with humanitarian speed to achieve development depth. We work with both humanitarian and development partners through the multilateral system, encouraging joint programming to deliver education to the millions of children and youth caught up in conflict and crisis. Today, we have an opportunity to invest in them through quality education. Let us seize it, sustain it and never let go of it.

Yasmine Sherif, Education Cannot Wait Director
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