The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has allocated a further $20.5 million to help improve access to school for children living in poverty, those with disabilities and students who live remotely across eight Pacific island nations.
The funds — which will be spread across the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu — will also aim to improve student retention at a secondary school level and build stronger, climate-resilient education systems.
The funding builds on $6 million pledged to the Pacific nations as part of a COVID-19 response fund last year.
"Small island states face unique challenges due to their size and remoteness,” said Alice Albright, GPE Chief Executive Officer, in a media release. “These grants will help improve education quality equitably across the Pacific and benefit millions of children in the region.”
DFAT works w/ @GPforEducation & our Pacific neighbours to improve children's access to quality education across 15 countries. Our High Commissions in 🇻🇺 🇰🇮 🇹🇴 🇹🇻 actively coordinate & support the development & implementation of education programs⬇️ #PacREFhttps://t.co/QcJjbTO5dmpic.twitter.com/ME88mKGGEB— DFAT🇦🇺 (@dfat) February 23, 2021
The new funds were originally provided by neighbouring Australia as part of a $90 million donation to the partnership during its 2018-2020 replenishment. Australia’s most recent commitment forms just a fraction of the US $444 million donated in total since 2008.
In a tweet, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), the branch responsible for the allocation of Australian aid funds, said Australian High Commissions in Vanuatu, Tonga, Kiribati and Tuvalu would work closely with the GPE to “coordinate and support the development and implementation of education programs.”
Before COVID-19 hit, 15 million girls were out of school in East Asia and Pacific. During the 2020 lockdowns, 80 million children in the region did not access any kind of learning at all, while close to 70% of all girls reported studying and learning less than usual.
Without access to schools and education, children are vulnerable to violence, child trafficking and child marriage.
Alongside commitments to the GPE, Australia also pledged $10 million in 2017 to Education Cannot Wait, a global fund to transform the delivery of education in emergencies and crisis settings. In its most recent federal budget, Australia increased overall aid to the Pacific from $1.38 billion to $1.44 billion.
Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Nauru, Tonga and Kiribati all also had their respective Australian aid injections increased. Funding to Papua New Guinea and the Solomons Islands — the largest recipients of Australia’s aid in the Pacific — was marginally cut.
A one-off $305 million COVID-19 recovery package for the Pacific and Timor-Leste was also committed.