When Boris Johnson first became the UK’s prime minister in 2019, Global Citizen sent a message reminding him of his commitment to education — an “absolutely fundamental” campaign, he said on April 17, 2018, to tackle the “sheer global sexism” in schools across the world.
Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened these circumstances: at the peak of the crisis, over a billion children were affected by school closures, including 650 million girls. Experts say that the economic turmoil that has followed will mean many are at risk of never returning.
The urgency to act now on education for all genders has rarely been greater. Thankfully, Johnson’s commitment has remained intact — and has evolved into a partnership with Kenya in 2021 that could determine the state of global learning for many years to come.
Britain and Kenya will co-host a huge education summit in 2021, the same year the UK assumes the presidency of the G7 — meaning it will also host the G7 summit, where leaders from the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Italy will gather to discuss the biggest issues of the day.
The education summit, announced on Sunday, will be co-hosted between Johnson and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to raise funds for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a partnership that aims to transform education in low-income countries.
GPE has said it requires $5 billion in investment for the period 2021–2025 to help 175 million children from 87 low-income countries get quality schooling.
Education is intimately connected to a wide variety of social issues too — so that funding would help lift 18 million people out of poverty, save 3 million lives, prevent 2 million child marriages, and add $164 billion to developing economies.
Girls’ education is the best investment we can make to unlock opportunity.— Baroness Sugg (@liz_sugg) October 12, 2020
Delighted that today @BorisJohnson announced the UK and Kenya will host a landmark global education summit in 🇬🇧 next year, raising vital funds to get girls into school 1/ https://t.co/nMwrj9RMsa
Sadly, it would be too easy to say that the spiralling education crisis was just down to the COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, decades of progress had stalled, with 9 in 10 schoolchildren in low-income countries lacking in literacy by the age of 10.
However, 160 million more children are in school since 2002 because of GPE’s work — including in Kenya, which has since established universal education in primary schools.
“An educated population is a country’s most valuable resource,” said President Kenyatta. “GPE has been a key partner in helping us invest in innovative solutions to get all our children, especially girls, learning.”
He added: “We must use the opportunity of GPE’s financing conference to make ambitious pledges to invest in quality education so our children and young people have the skills and knowledge they need to seize the opportunities of the 21st century.”
The UK is already the top donor to GPE — and will hope other countries join it at the critical summit due to take place in the middle of next year. Since 2015, 15.6 million children have had a decent education thanks to British support.
“Since coronavirus struck, the number of children out of school around the world soared past 1.3 billion,” Johnson said. “It is a toll of wasted potential and missed opportunity that is a tragedy not just for those children, but for each and every one of us.”
“Education unlocks doors to opportunity and prosperity. It offers girls a ticket out of poverty and exploitation to chart their own futures,” he added. “I urge the global community to come together, dig deep, and ensure we fund their vital work to give every child the chance at an education.”
Every change starts with a powerful act.— Global Partnership for Education (@GPforEducation) October 7, 2020
Creating the world we want begins by investing in the generation that will build it. #RaiseYourHand#FundEducationhttps://t.co/ElzE77Fjhzpic.twitter.com/HDpi1UDbV3