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Young people’s tireless campaign for an education game-changer

Theirworld visits Taalabaya school in Bekka Valley, Lebanon, in 2020 - before the pandemic disrupted education around the world (Theirworld.Diego Ibarra Sánchez)

Education funding, Global Youth Ambassadors, Let me learn

Theirworld wants the Transforming Education Summit this month to result in three major actions - here we spotlight the need for a bold global finance plan to deliver learning for all.


The background

Next week world leaders will tackle the learning crisis at the historic Transforming Education Summit. 

Theirworld and young campaigners, including our 2,000 Global Youth Ambassadors in more than 100 countries, are demanding they take three major actions. Part of our #LetMeLearn campaign, these bold measures are based on consultations with youth and education experts. 

We want governments and donors to commit to: 

  • Invest 10% of all education funding in early childhood education 
  • Invest at least 6% to 10% of humanitarian assistance in education for refugees and displaced people 
  • Launch the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) as part of a new global finance plan to achieve education for all by 2030 

Last week, in the first of our in-depth look at the three asks, we spotlighted education for refugees and displaced children. Here we look at the issue of funding. 

The summit

The Transforming Education Summit will be held during the United Nations General Assembly in New York. September 16 is the youth-led Mobilisation Day, when the voices and experiences of young people will be heard. The summit culminates on September 19 with Leaders Day, featuring UN Secretary-General António Guterres, heads of government and a special Youth Declaration. 

Gya Motunrayo Fatoke From Nigeria

We need to take affirmative actions and not just talk about it. I want to see investment in education increase dramatically.  Funding goes a long way.” 

Motunrayo Fatoke, a 24-year-old Global Youth Ambassador from Nigeria

The voice of youth

Theirworld is taking GYAs to New York to attend a series of events in around the summit and the UN General Assembly, ensuring the voices of young people are heard loud and clear.

The issue

Drastic action is needed to prevent children falling into child labour, early marriage, forced recruitment and grinding poverty. But the scale of investment needed is massive especially with economies contracting and lower-income countries lacking the finances to upgrade their under-performing school systems. 

260 million children out of school, millions more not learning and pandemic disruption risks many dropping out completely

The challenges

Lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) – including India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia – are where most of the world’s poor and out-of-school children live. But they also have the largest financing gaps when it comes to education needs.  

Even if they spent as much of their budgets on education as possible, they would still fall short of the sums needed. And because they are not among the very poorest countries, they are ineligible for many grants and cheaper financing programmes. 

For donors, including richer countries and philanthropists, deciding where and how to invest in education can be also difficult. The current collective efforts of the international community are well-intentioned but insufficient. 

Theirworld estimates about $75 billion dollars a year needs to be mobilised for all children to receive a quality education by 2030. 

The opportunity

We believe the time is right for a new and achievable global finance plan. Theirworld is calling for: 

  • Governments to use fair and efficient taxation to meet globally-agreed budget targets for education – allocating at least 4% to 6% of Gross Domestic Product and/or at least 15% to 20% of total public expenditure to education.     
  • Donors, philanthropists and businesses to meet or exceed funding commitments, such as spending at least 0.7% of Gross National Income on development aid.   
  • The International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) to be launched and backed by donors, multilateral banks and recipient countries. 

IFFEd, which will create new pools of funding for lower-middle-income countries, was first proposed in a report by the Education Commission in 2016. The idea was for a system of low-interest loans – similar to the funding approach of the 2000s that ensured vaccination schemes saved millions of children.

Learn more about how IFFEd works

The actions needed for a global funding plan are spelled out in Theirworld’s Education Finance Playbook, produced last year. 

Theirworld’s role

Long before we launched the playbook, we started campaigning for IFFEd. In 2017, Saket Mani – a Theirworld Global Youth Ambassador (GYA) from India – delivered a powerful message to G20 leaders.

At an international youth forum in Berlin ahead of the G20 summit, he handed over petitions supporting the creation of IFFEd signed by 138,000 supporters of Theirworld, ONE, Global Citizen and other organisations. He said: “Together, we’re getting the attention of the world’s most powerful people.” 

Gyas In 2017 Saket Mani Gya At Y20

GYA Saket Mani hands petitions and call to action to Lars-Hendrik Röller, a German government G20 official, and Chancellor Merkel’s economic advisor, left, and Katarina Barley, Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth

The G20 summit made a commitment to act on IFFEd – but Theirworld didn’t ease up the pressure. In 2018, we began working with the organisations BRAC and IITA and the campaigning website Avaaz to collect names for an even bigger petition demanding that IFFEd be established. 

Kakar Hayat Hamandzai, a GYA from Pakistan, personified the incredible spirit of those taking part by gathering more than 20,000 signatures from educational institutions, centres and communities.  

Kakar Hayat Gya 3

I met with many different people, children and teachers. They were all enthusiastic for education.

Kakar Hayat Hamandzai, pictured collecting a thumb print from a child who could not sign their name

Later that year, our GYAs went to the UN to deliver the new petition to António Guterres. It had an incredible 1.5 million signatures. Guterres told them: “Investment in education is absolutely crucial” and added that the petition “comes from the will of the young people who want to have the chance to build a future for themselves.” 

Singing superstar and Theirworld supporter Shakira also sent a personal message of thanks to the young campaigners who signed the petition. Watch it here. 

It’s taken a while. But we are confident that IFFEd will become a reality soon – thanks to the persistence and passion of young people for real and lasting change. 

What you can do

Support the #LetMeLearn campaign 


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