Oslo Education Summit: Gordon Brown demands emergency fund as out-of-school numbers rise

Children in conflicts, Education funding, Education in emergencies, Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown will today call for a multi-million dollar humanitarian fund for education in emergencies as new data shows there are now 124 million out-of-school children and adolescents.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education insists urgent action is needed because 2015 has become “a year of fear” – particularly for girls.

Child marriages, child abductions, child trafficking and discrimination against girls are rising. One in eight girls are out of school, compared to one in nine boys.

The latest out-of-school figures are published today by the UN agency UNESCO. Its report reveals that 59 million children were not at primary school in 2013 – a rise of 2.4 million since 2010. And 65 million adolescents – that’s one in six – were not getting a secondary education.

Nepalese school visited after the devastating earthquake by Norway foreign minister Borge Brende Picture: Astrid Sehl/MFA Oslo

Twenty million children have been internally displaced from their homes and almost 10 million girls and boys forcibly removed from the countries of their birth in what Mr Brown calls an exodus of “biblical proportions”.

Today at the Oslo Summit on Education for Development, the former British Prime Minister will co-chair an event with Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of the UN children’s agency UNICEF, and Julia Gillard, former Australian Prime Minister and Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education

The aim is to build international support to take forward a plan to coordinate and finance education in emergencies through a new global humanitarian platform and fund.

Mr Brown will say: “We can make a start in helping what has become a vast group of vulnerable children denied the basic right to education by helping to deliver a humanitarian platform and fund for education in emergencies. Despite the mass exodus of child refugees, currently just a tiny percentage of humanitarian aid is spent on education.

“It is trapped between a humanitarian system which has had to focus on food, shelter and healthcare but overall aid which is often decided years in advance and makes little provision for crises such as the emergency of twenty million plus of out-of-school children in conflict zones. 

“A humanitarian fund for education would have allowed us to help Syrian refugees and those caught up in the Nepal earthquake emergency without having to spend months sending the begging bowl around the international community which is what happens now.”

*After two decades during which 40 million more children enrolled for school, progress towards universal education has not only stalled but has gone into reverse with, as confirmed by UNESCO today, 124 million children out of school – 59 million of them primary age and the majority of them girls who have never enrolled for school.”

Gordon Brown interviewed with Angry Birds’ Peter Vesterbacka

Earlier, in a speech at the Oslo summit’s civil society section, Mr Brown said the world is “failing to wake up” to a new civil rights struggle – a children’s freedom fight – which is underway.

He claimed new initiatives such as child marriage-free zones and the Global March Against Child Labour prove young people are now far more assertive than adults in fighting for children’s rights.

He added that, unless governments act, the opportunity gap facing young people threatens to bring them on to the street in demonstrations more widespread than the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement.

A humanitarian fund would have helped more children like this class in Nepal Picture: Astrid Sehl/MFA Oslo

Mr Brown said: “There is a sad truth that we have to confront in Oslo. Global education aid is so small.

“The aid going to primary education in low-income countries is worth only $5 per child in Chad, $10 per child in Central African Republic and Madagascar, and $11 per child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Togo and Guinea – barely enough to pay for one textbook far less a teacher.

“Aid is just $4 per child in Nigeria, the country with nearly 10 million girls and boys not in school, the largest out-of-school population globally.

Girls head into the #UpForSchool rally in Beirut – Mr Brown says young people are fighting for their rights

“While overseas development assistance increased by 9% between 2010 and 2013, aid to basic education fell by 22% from $4.5 billion to $3.5 billion.

“And when you take all the money delivered in aid and add all the money delivered by domestic governments, what do we get? The spending on education is as little as only $24 per child in the DRC and averages just $80 per child across the poorest countries.”

In countries such as Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States upwards of $8000 of public funds is spent per child per year on education.

Mr Brown said: “We say every child should be accorded the same human dignity wherever they are – but how can we say that we value each child equally when support to a child in sub-Saharan Africa is worth 100 times less than funding to a child in richer countries?”

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