Tuesday, November 30

Aid cuts mock UK promises on girls’ education | Zoe williams

WWith all the fanfare that Covid allowed, the world education summit opened in London this week. Before the meeting, the European and American Neighborhood Minister was in top form. “Educating girls is a game changer,” Wendy Morton said, then outlined what a plan to do just that would look like.

The UK, co-hosting the summit with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, plans to raise funds for the World association for education, from governments and donors. The UK government has promised £ 430 million over the next five years.

They followed a number of reasons why the issue is so important, all of them absolutely solid: On any given metric, from GDP to child health and beyond, a nation stands or falls based on how well, for how long, and how long. inclusively educates. his girls.

The problem has never been more important than during this pandemic, which in many countries is reaching its peak and has already disproportionately affected girls.

These are all the correct words, even in the correct order, but they completely disagree with the behavior of the government.

Lis Wallace, head of advocacy for the One campaign, is more immediately concerned that these promises are fully funded. There are two main goals: one is to increase girls’ access to education, the other is to advance the key milestone for all boys: that they can read and understand a simple story by the age of 10.

The last 18 months have been devastating for education, particularly in countries where online learning is more difficult to access. About 1.6 billion children do not attend school all over the world. There is a target to raise $ 5 billion (£ 3.6 billion), “which is a drop in the bucket of what is required to tackle the global learning crisis,” says Wallace. It appears that this summit will raise no more than $ 4 billion, which is nothing short of a “failure of statecraft,” as Wallace explains: “It is a challenge when the host government is stepping back and making aid cuts. for him and then ask other countries to step up. “

This is a depressing echo of the failure of the G7 earlier this year; Commitments to share vaccine doses with low-income countries came too little, too late, with devastating results, and it is hard to avoid the question whether that outcome would have been different if the host nation had modeled its role with some generosity.

Furthermore, there is some confusing causality in the minister’s claim that staying in school protects girls from “forced child marriage, gender-based violence and early pregnancy”. The opposite is true: it is largely teenage pregnancy that forces girls to drop out of school in the first place, and trying to use education instead of sexual health and reproductive provision is illogical.

Esi Asare Prah, who is a Ghana youth and advocacy officer for MSI Reproductive Choices, describes a situation where 5,000 to 7,000 girls drop out of school each year after becoming pregnant; last year, 2,000 of them were between the ages of 10 and 14. Sub-Saharan Africa, MSI Dear that up to 4 million girls drop out or are excluded from school each year due to pregnancy.

“These girls are more likely to be on the streets, doing menial jobs; their children will not be able to enter higher education. Create a cycle of poverty and a cycle of slums. The rationale for me is that you cannot seek to invest in girls’ education in sub-Saharan Africa and cut funding for sexual and reproductive health. If you treat development problems as isolated, you will have the same problems as 50 years ago haunting you into the future. “

Here, recent cuts to the aid budget make a mockery of these promises in education: UK funding to the United Nations Population Fund was recently cut by 85%.

However, there is inspiration to take from this summit; President Kenyatta has been leading the charge not only in education but also in the climate crisis, and there is a solidarity and sense of purpose among the poorest nations that can still inspire greater generosity from donors. However, whatever he achieves, it will be in spite of his host in the UK, not thanks to them.


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