The Australian government announced it would provide AU$180 million over the next five years to support the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) during UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Global Education Summit in London on July 29.
Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the funding injection to the GPE, the world's only partnership centred solely on delivering education to children in lower-income countries, would allow the organisation to address the impact the pandemic has had on children's learning, early years and well-being across the Indo-Pacific.
The education of girls, Payne added, would be prioritised.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on education in the region. It is estimated to have affected 343 million children, particularly girls. Disruptions to education threaten to undo decades of progress, pushing millions of children out of school across Asia and the Pacific,” Payne said in a statement. “Education and skills in the Indo-Pacific are more critical than ever as we seek to build stability and drive economic growth.”
Since 2019, the GPE has doubled funding to the Pacific.
Eight Pacific nations, including Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu, received funding for the first time last year.
BREAKING NEWS: 🇦🇺 will commit $36M per year over the next five years to @GPforEducation. Thank you @MarisePayne and @ZedSeselja for this huge announcement and for striving to safeguard children's learning and well-being. While more can always be done — this is a great first step. pic.twitter.com/oXmjZdjJgR— Global Citizen Australia (@GlblCtznAU) July 30, 2021
Australia’s leading education organisations have welcomed the new commitment, but warned amid the ongoing impact of COVID-19 — which continues to see two-thirds of all students affected by school closures — more must be provided.
Susanne Legena, the CEO of Plan International Australia, said now was the time for Australia to “redouble efforts.”
"At this critical time, when COVID-19 has upended the education of so many children, especially girls, it’s encouraging that Australia has shown its commitment to children and inter-generational gender equality,” she wrote in a media release along with UNICEF Australia, ChildFund Australia and Global Citizen. “However, in light of the damage that the global pandemic has done to children’s access to education, we need to do much, much more.”
Legana added: “We’ve seen funding to education in Australia’s aid and development budget sustain the biggest cuts over the last decade.”
Australia's pledge follows on from $90 million committed for 2018-2020 during the GPE's last replenishment and sits alongside new commitments of $812 from the UK and millions more from the European Union, Canada, Norway and the United States.
All in all, US$4 billion was raised, which, despite being record-breaking, was still a billion less than the summit's goal.
Renowned education activist Malala Yousafzai urged wealthy nations to think of the 130 million girls currently out of school and pledge more to address the urgent “education crisis.”
"Their futures are worth fighting for," she told the BBC.