World leaders joined forces in Mozambique last week to exhort wealthy nations, including the United States, to step up their contributions toward educating all children in the next decade.
The United Kingdom last week pledged $15 billion—$1.5 billion annually—to give a major boost to the Education for All Fast Track Initiative that builds on a promise made by 150 nations in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000 to send every child to school. Leaders of major industrial nations reaffirmed the promise at the G-8 conference last year.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown announced the aid, alongside former South African President Nelson Mandela and President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique.
“Rich countries must keep their 2005 promise of increased aid,” Mr. Brown said in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. “It’s no longer acceptable to a civilized world that less than two-thirds of Africa’s children never complete a primary education. We know that education puts opportunity directly into people’s hands, and is not just the very best anti-poverty strategy but also the very best economic-development program.”
He said he hopes such countries as the United States, Japan, Germany, and Italy will help raise a further $10 billion a year toward the initiative.
According to the Global Campaign for Education, an alliance of teachers’ unions and aid groups that is working to hold governments accountable for the promise, as many as 115 million children are out of school and the initiative is underfunded by as much as $10 billion.
At the current rate of development, the organization estimates it would take another 150 years before the goal of education for all children becomes a reality in Africa. The continent also needs at least 15 million more teachers to fulfill that goal by 2015.
U.S. Falls Short
Twenty countries, including Mozambique, have so far met conditions under the Fast Track initiative, including demonstrating a clear commitment to getting every child into school and spending 20 percent of their budgets on education.
But population growth has meant the number of children that need schooling has not declined substantially, said Gene Sperling, the chairman of the U.S. chapter of the Global Campaign for Education, based in Washington.
The United States now contributes about a third of what Britain plans to make, said Mr. Sperling, a national economic adviser to President Bill Clinton.
For fiscal 2006, the U.S. contribution was $450 million, Mr. Sperling said. “The U.S. should certainly, at a bare minimum, be pledging the same amount the U.K. is. Traditionally, one looks at the U.S. to meet 30 percent of the financing gaps for development,” he said.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, which provides economic and humanitarian assistance around the world, did not provide comment by press time last week.