September 16, 2019

#WriteTheWrong breakthrough as UNICEF commits to pre-primary education spending

About 175 million children around the world are missing out on early childhood education

Photo credit: UNICEF / Dejongh

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

Theirworld has welcomed action by global organisations - including a pledge by the UN children's agency to put 10% of its education budget to early learning.

A major commitment to early childhood education by UNICEF and other global organisations has been welcomed by Theirworld.

Our #WriteTheWrong campaign has been leading calls for donors, countries and United Nations agencies to spend 10% of their education budgets on pre-primary education - to provide crucial building blocks that will help children fulfil their potential.

Now the UN children's agency has committed to do just that. UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore revealed the news today as she tweeted: "Quality pre-primary education is the foundation of a child’s learning journey: every stage of education that follows relies on its success."

UNICEF and other major organisations are also following Theirworld's lead by urging governments and donors to support pre-primary education. A call to action statement was made by several of them, including the Global Partnership for Education and Education Cannot Wait (ECW) - the fund for education in emergencies.

The call to action says: "It is time for a world ready to learn, where all children have access to quality early childhood education and enter school equipped with the skills they need to learn, succeed and prosper."

Theirworld President Justin van Fleet welcomed the moves, saying: "If we are to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 by 2030, we must invest today in the youngest children to get them on track for the best start in life.  

"We are pleased that UNICEF has taken the lead in committing 10% of their education funding to early childhood education. We hope this leadership inspires other major donors to #WriteTheWrong and match this pledge for the youngest children."

Theirworld's Global Youth Ambassadors - a network of 1,000 education activists who have been campaigning on this issue - are planning to thank Fore at the UN General Assembly in New York next week and ask the other signatories to the declaration to back up their commitments with further action. 

Theirworld and UNICEF held a joint event in April, at which they called on countries and international donors to increase and prioritise their spending on early childhood education. A Theirworld report at the time revealed that 16 of the top 25 donors to global education aid gave nothing or reduced their previous spending on pre-primary education.

Theirworld's #WriteTheWrong campaign calls for increased funding towards education - including for domestic and aid donors to direct 10% of their education budgets to early childhood education.

During the first five years of a child's life, 90% of brain development happens. So it's crucial that early learning is provided as the stepping stone to success at school and beyond.

About 175 million children are not in early childhood education - and those who most miss out are the poor and most marginalised, including girls and children with disabilities. 

Early childhood education is vital for children to succeed at primary school and beyond

Photo credit: UNICEF / Frank

Only one in three children caught up in emergencies - including conflicts and disasters - have access to pre-primary schooling. And less than 1% of international aid to education supports pre-primary education.

Global Youth Ambassadors have been campaigning on this issue for more than two years. At the UN in June 2017, Benedict Joson from the Philippines handed in a report from Theirworld, which highlighted a severe lack of investment in early years education and revealed that 85% of children in low-income countries do not have access to pre-primary education.

"Effective pre-primary education provides a solid base for skill development for the young and future generation," wrote Kenyan Global Youth Ambassador Maryanne Mumbi Muriuki in a blog for Theirworld. "Increased funding for pre-primary will translate into better conditions for learning and skills development."

Late last year, UNICEF called for input from young people to help shape its new education strategy. GYAs took the opportunity again to reinforce the importance of early childhood education in making sure children arrive at primary school ready to learn. 

The call to action statement is also backed by the World Bank, African Union, Global Citizen and the Africa Early Childhood Network.

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