|© UNICEF Denmark/2011/Thormann|
|UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake speaks at the Global Partnership for Education Pledging Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.|
The Global Partnership for Education has helped more than 19 million children go to school for the first time. A campaign to renew support for these efforts culminates in a pledging event in Copenhagen on 7-8 November 2011. This series of stories seeks to highlight the Partnership’s work during this critical time.
By Joan Howe
COPENHAGEN, Denmark, 9 November 2011 - Leading donors at the first-ever Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Pledging Conference promised an initial US$1.5 billion over the next three years to put millions more children in school.
The multi-partner global partnership met on 7-8 November in Copenhagen, Denmark, where donors also pledged to increase bilateral funding to support education investment and achieve concrete results in access and quality of education. The pooled education fund aims to secure predictable funding to put 25 million more children in school over the next three years. Developing countries pledged to increase domestic funding for education by more than US$2 billion.
“Millions of children depend on your pledges today. And we know who most of them are,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake told ministers from donor and partner countries, high-level officials, heads of UN agencies, CEOs, and leaders from Civil Society Organisations (CSO), teachers' unions and development bankers. “They are the poorest children living in the most isolated places, suffering from exclusion and discrimination, often struggling to grow in the midst of conflict or humanitarian catastrophe.”
Education key to rebuilding lives
Mr. Lake gave examples of how education has helped to restore a sense of normalcy for children growing up in countries like Haiti, Liberia, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, proving that progress is possible even in the most difficult situations. He highlighted Afghanistan, which has made significant strides in education in recent years, increasing the number of children in primary school from one million ten years ago to nearly five million enrolled today, with a total of approximately 7.3 million children enrolled in all grades.
The Executive Director also emphasized that in Afghanistan today, more than four million children are still out of school, the majority of whom are girls. “Afghanistan’s future depends on investing in the potential of all its citizens,” said Mr. Lake. “Indeed, no country has ever become strong and remained so, without such investments.”
UNICEF has been working in partnership with the Government of Afghanistan to achieve national education objectives. Afghanistan’s Minister of Education, Mr. Farooq Wardak, described the government’s efforts to put communities at the heart of a strategy to open schools and keep them open by protecting students and teachers. In provinces with the lowest enrolment, there is a special emphasis on girls going to school.
Mr. Peter Crowley, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan, emphasized that education is essential to achieving peace and stability. Recognizing the long journey that the country has already made since the Taliban banned girls from school, Mr. Crowley observed that “Afghanistan has begun to achieve real momentum in education; by continuing to support these gains, they can become self-sustaining.”