Educating girls is critical to the global Covid recovery plan | Dominic Raab and Julia Gillard
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The pandemic has exacerbated the longstanding crisis in global education. Many children around the world missed most of the final year of school. At the height of school closings, 1.6 billion children and young people were without education.
Girls are among the hardest hit. If they are not enrolled in school, they are more likely to be forced into child marriage, subjected to female genital mutilation and gender-based violence. There is a real risk that a generation of girls will be lost as 20 million are unlikely to ever return to school. So we have to act.
We’re collaborating on this because we believe girls’ education is a game changer – and it’s one of the smartest investments we can make. It will help lift people out of poverty, boost the economy, save lives and rebuild better after Covid-19. A child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live to be over five and twice as likely to go to school. You are also 50% more likely to get vaccinated.
This is why the UK is using its G7 presidency to put the spotlight on girls’ education and to bring together world leaders to increase their support. On the first day of the G7 summit, the Prime Minister announced a commitment of £ 430 million in new British aid to the Global Partnership for Education. The EU and Italy have also made commitments, and the G7 partners are expected to make further announcements in the coming days.
This support will provide real, hands-on support for education in 90 lower-income countries and areas with 1 billion children over the next five years. It includes education for the most disadvantaged children in Nepal, special education for children in Uganda, outreach programs to keep girls at risk in school in Sierra Leone, and community school support for girls in Afghanistan.
The funds go to the Global Partnership for Education, the largest partnership and fund to transform education in low-income countries. In the two decades since the Global Partnership was founded, we have seen the largest expansion of primary and lower secondary education in history.
Kenya is a great example of where this work is helping governments make a big difference and transform the lives of young people. In just five years, the Global Partnership has helped the Kenyan government train more than 102,000 Kenyan teachers and distributed 60 million textbooks to elementary and secondary schools. It supports hard-working school principals like Nicholas Gathemia from Nyamachaki Elementary School, which is located on the southwest flank of Mount Kenya. He says that “most of the children in our school come from the slums … such a program gives these children the chance to learn and become what they are supposed to be”. Kenya has now achieved the goal of universal primary education.
We have to maintain this momentum. Now, under the leadership of the UK, the G7 has signed two critical, ambitious global goals to get 40 million more girls into school and 20 million more girls aged 10 or over, on low incomes and reading less to leave middle-income countries by 2026. As part of the Global Partnership, we’re putting our shoulders behind the wheel to train 2.2 million more teachers, build 78,000 new classrooms and buy more than 500 million textbooks to open up the opportunities for children in changing the world’s poorest countries.
In July, the UK and Kenya will host a landmark Global Education Summit in London to raise funds for the Global Partnership to continue this important work. The goal is to raise at least $ 5 billion over five years to transform education in the world’s weakest countries. This will give 175 more million children the chance to learn – that means changed lives for millions and millions of communities with better future prospects.
Ultimately, education is the foundation on which communities and nations build their futures. Without it, we cannot fight poverty and inequality or fully recover from the pandemic.
As Malala Yousafzai said, “A child, a teacher, a book, a pen can change the world.” For the benefit of the next generation, it is time for the world to get involved and fund education.
Dominic Raab is British Foreign Secretary; Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, chairs the Global Partnership for Education