A Global Youth Ambassador shares her experience of representing youth voices at events and high-level meetings during the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC.
During the World Bank Spring Meetings, I represented the 1,000 Global Youth Ambassadors within the network at events hosted by Theirworld and the Global Business Coalition for Education as well as meetings with key dignitaries. Throughout the week, I carried the Theirworld message that all countries and donors should spend 10% of their education budgets on pre-primary because it gives children the basics needed to succeed at school.
I felt proud to be representing my fellow Global Youth Ambassadors to champion the cause of increasing funding for Early Childhood Education. I was encouraged in my meetings with the dignitaries that youth has a strong voice and an important role in calling for the necessary fundings needed for 260 million young people who are not in primary or secondary school.
It was an incredible experience opening the Global Business Coalition for Education’s event “From Billions to Trillions: Investing in the next Generation” with Theirworld’s President, Justin Van Fleet. As a young woman and youth activist for education, I was extremely proud to have had the platform to speak about how together we can work together to find innovative solutions to the education and youth skills crises and ensure every child has the best start in life. I also spoke about the work I have been doing with several other youth activists to rebuild schools in Nepal to ensure children have a safe space to learn after the earthquake in 2015.
Once the events of the morning ended, I rushed to three important meetings with senior members of the Inter-American Development Bank, His Excellency Deng Deng Hoc Yai, Minister of General Education and Instruction of South Sudan, and His Excellency Dr. M. Mirwais Balkhi Minister of Education of Afghanistan. During these meetings I advocated for increasing the demand for aid towards education and setting the benchmark for at least 10% of their education budget to go towards early childhood learning. Minister Yai of South Sudan, reiterated his government’s commitment to increasing its support for Early Childhood Education (ECE) and their commitment to directing up to 15% of its education budget to ECE by 2020.
On my second day, I had meetings with the Director of Education Cannot Wait, Yasmine Sherif, Senior Director and later, with the Head of the Global Practice of Education at the World Bank, Dr. Jaime Saavedra. We talked about using aid as a leverage to bridge the financial gap towards early childhood learning and reflected on the two driving forces - money and political will - that can Write the Wrong in early childhood development. I ended my day with a further meeting with the Minister of Education of Norway, H.E. Dag Inge Ulstein to discuss the Sustainable Development Goal 4 – quality education.
It was rewarding being appreciated and recognised by Minister of Norway and Director of Education Cannot Wait, for Theirworld’s contribution to continuing advocating for education in our report on “Leaving the Youngest Behind: Declining aid to early childhood education” and the grassroots work that fellow Theirworld Global Youth Ambassadors continue to spearhead in their respective countries.
When reading Theirworld's report "Leaving the Youngest Behind", I was concerned that of the 25 top donors to ECE, about 9 donors have decreased their commitment. To ensure every child can have the best start in life, we need to have at least the benchmark of 10% of education budget going strictly towards early learning. After my experience at the World Bank Spring Meetings, I think there is a genuine interest to invest in early childhood education, however, money and political willpower need to be the tools that move words into tangible actions.
Through this week, I learnt that as a Global Youth Ambassador, I have a duty and a collective voice to speak up and advocate for the most marginalised young people who need quality education. We need to harness the financial and political will power to achieve our minimum 10% funding for early learning.