Education International
Education International

Millions of children to lose schools 'unless western donors help'

published 9 November 2010 updated 9 November 2010

As donor nations meet in Madrid, EI has renewed its calls for a Financial Transactions’ Tax. The lack of support from the west could force poor countries to shut schools and sack teachers, depriving millions of children of education.

Funds in the world's only international education financing body, the Education For All Fast Track Initiative (FTI), are nearly exhausted and threaten to reverse significant gains made in recent years, according a new report from the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) of which EI is a founding member.

The report calls for radical action to save schools that are threatened because western donors have been hit by the global financial crisis.

Representatives of the FTI meet in Madrid this week to allocate its last portion of funds, totalling $80m. GCE says this is less than 10 per cent of the $1bn that 20 of the poorest countries will request to keep schools open next year.

GCE president Kailash Satyarthi, said: "This news confirms our worst fears and shows that unless radical action is taken at the donors meeting in Madrid this week, millions of children will have the school gates shut on them and teachers will be out of work. The progress made in the last decade is on the brink of being reversed, which will mean more children could join the 69 million children who are out of school."

The GCE has cited the case of Mozambique, which in the past decade has made strides towards the millennium development goal of universal primary education. Since 2008, the country has hired 20,000 teachers and built 3,000 classrooms with support from donor countries in the fast-track initiative. But more teachers and buildings are badly needed.

A food crisis, which led to riots in Maputo in September, forced the Mozambique government to divert funds from the education budget to food subsidies, affecting thousands of teachers and almost 100,000 pupils. Mozambique was set to cut 20 per cent of its education funding and halve its school building programme until it received a last minute $56m bail-out from the World Bank.

Satyarthi said: "We welcome the World Bank's investment, but it's a tragedy that they must bail out poor countries' schools with emergency support because western donors withdrew their support. If $1trn can be found to bail out the banks, then surely $16bn a year can be found to ensure that children's futures are not jeopardised."

The GCE fears the problems could spread across Africa. Shortage of funds mean Rwanda's request for $100m‚ which would help make secondary education free and improve the quality of teacher provision across the country‚ will not be met in full. Ghana and Kenya, with 900,000 and 750,000 children out of school respectively, are also expected to submit funding requests.

Haiti, which lost 4,000 schools in the earthquake and is the third worst place in the world to be a schoolchild, is also likely to approach the FTI with a funding request in 2011.

The GCE also says that recent high-level lobbying in donor capitals has failed to win any new funding to meet poor countries' education needs. It has called on leading donors – including France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, UK and USA – to make good on their promises.

The GCE and EI are backing a financial transactions’ tax, which could raise as much as $200bn each year, towards anti-poverty measures and ensure predictable funding to put millions of children into school.

EI’s President, Susan Hopgood, said: "The financial crisis created by billionaire bankers is hurting the poorest hardest, with aid cuts meaning millions of children remain without the fundamental human right to an education. A tax on the banks could end this and put every child in school."

The Global Campaign for Education is a coalition of 100 organisations in 100 countries including Education International, ActionAid, Oxfam and Save the Children