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Access to education is a human right. It is essential in building human capital, which in turn benefits individuals and societies. Education raises self-esteem, furthers employment opportunities and strengthens countries’ ability to innovate, reduce poverty and drive long-term economic growth. This may be obvious to many of us who have grown up in Australia – or any other OECD nation – with abundant academic resources. In low-income countries, however, decades of progress in improving access to education are now threatened as a result of COVID-19.  

Lockdowns, and associated requirements for remote learning, have laid bare a technological divide that isolates already vulnerable communities. This challenge is compounded for girls, as they are particularly at risk of being excluded from opportunities for education at times of crisis. Economic hardships and cultural expectations have contributed to girls dropping out of school, leaving them susceptible to exploitation, sexual abuse, child marriage, child pregnancy, inaccessibility to healthcare, and extreme poverty. The Malala Fund has found that more than 20 million girls from pre-primary to upper secondary age are at risk of dropping out of school and may never return due to COVID-19. 

We must call on our political leaders to take action on this education emergency. 

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is a global fund that works multilaterally with state governments, non-profit organizations, the for-profit sector, and civil society to develop equitable, inclusive, and strengthened education systems in low-income countries, with gender equality at its heart. 82 million more girls have been attending school as a result of the GPE’s work in partnering countries. Between 2011 and 2014 Australia pledged $AUD 270 million to the GPE, but nearly halved this replenishment in the period 2015-2018 with a contribution of $140 million. This figure further dropped, to $AUD 90 million, for 2018-2020, dropping Australia to 10th place in terms of nation donor contributions. The GPE is holding its Global Education Summit from July 28-29 to replenish its funds. They hope to raise $USD 5 billion for the 2021 to 2025 period to help transform education systems in up to 90 countries and territories, which are home to more than 1 billion children and more than 80% of the world’s out-of-school children. The ripple effect of this investment would add an estimated $USD 164 billion to GPE partner economies, save 3 million lives, lift 18 million people out of poverty, and protect two million girls from early marriage. 

Australia must join world leaders in ensuring the COVID-19 pandemic does not undo the hard-won gains achieved on global education over recent decades.

How to show your support: 

 

 

Daniel Child is a Sydney-based technology leader currently working in data analytics. His background includes start-up, media and regulatory experience as well as volunteer roles in a variety of community-based not-for-profit organisations.

 

 

Image: Students in Timor-Leste – Global Partnership for Education