Investing in girls’ education is critical to development. Far from depriving other social development sectors, financing girls’ education adds value to their work. It eases the strain on health-care systems by reducing child and maternal mortality, by keeping children healthier and by reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS. It increases women’s productivity, strengthening the economy in the long term. Supplying safe water and sanitation to schools brings more girls into the classroom and improves the health and hygiene of the community.
The cost is surmountable. The estimated $9.1 billion to $38 billion cost to achieve universal education will be borne mostly by developing countries themselves. By World Bank estimates, the external aid needed between now and 2015 is around $60 billion. This is a considerable sum, but substantially less than the price of large-scale military operations for which, it seems, money can always be found.
The barriers are surmountable. The solutions are tried and tested. What works, however, cannot simply be grafted to existing educational programmes. Girls’ education projects must be designed as such from the start.
There are three clear goals of girls’ education programmes: reducing the number of girls out of school; improving the quality of education for all children; and ensuring progress in learning achievements for all students.
A new paradigm for education
To get and keep girls in school, integrated strategies are required at all levels: family, community, and local and national government. The challenge lies with all government ministers – not just the minister of education.
Seven steps forward
Governments, aid agencies and international institutions must take action to rescue 65 million girls who are out of school. There are seven critical steps:
An unfinished piece of 20th century business
The world must focus its attention on the 2005 target date for girls’ education or the Millennium Development Goals will go unrealized. It is the 21st century; time to finish last century’s business.