Australia’s leading international development organisations have today called on the Federal government to make a commitment to replenish the Global Partnership for Education in the 2021-22 Budget.
Plan International Australia, UNICEF and Save the Children Australia are calling for $70m per year for the next five years to address the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s education.
Australia has fallen far behind comparative donor countries in committing to the GPE: on average, leading donor countries committed $98m per year from 2018 to 2020, however Australia’s commitment was only $30m a year, falling far short of other donors such as the UK, US, France and Germany.
A letter to Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Minister for International Development Zed Seselja from the INGOs highlighted that an estimated 1.5 billion students and youth worldwide have been affected by school and university closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic:
‘We believe there is an urgent need to address the breakdown in access to education for children and to stop the winding back of decades of progress that has been achieved in strengthening education systems, increasing school enrolments, improving learning outcomes and achieving gender parity,’ the groups wrote to the Ministers.
‘Australia’s aid and development program has, over many years, invested in programs in the Indo-Pacific region that have promoted access to inclusive and quality education, with significant success in countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam. However, these gains are now under threat and require decisive leadership from Australia.’
In the Asia Pacific region the impacts have been particularly devastating - including a marked increase in girls’ being forced to drop out of school, an increase in domestic violence, and a dramatic spike in child, early and forced marriages in Indonesia.
UNICEF estimates that at least every seventh girl globally – 222 million in total – was unable to access remote learning programs when schools were closed due to COVID-19 and it is projected that twenty four million children will drop out of school, driving more and more families into poverty for decades to come.
Prior to the latest outbreak, the World Bank found that more than 50 percent of families in Papua New Guinea had removed children from school due to COVID induced income reductions.
“Education has the ability to lift children, their families and communities out of poverty, and address the gender gap. With a predicted 38 million people falling below the poverty line in the Asia Pacific region alone, education is the best investment that donors and governments can make to empower children, youth and adults and break the cycle of poverty,” said Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena.
“We should all be alarmed that there are children in our region missing out on an education; being forced from school into marriage or labour, because of COVID. Australia can make a big difference, through the Global Partnership for Education, to the lives of children now as well as the future prosperity of the Pacific,” said Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds.
“The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on children’s access to education and we must urgently take action together to stop the winding back of decades of progress. By investing in their future, we can empower children and young people and break the cycle of poverty,” said UNICEF Australia CEO Tony Stuart.
For interviews, please contact Plan International Australia media and ambassador manager James Norman on 0451291775 or public relations advisor Claire Knox on 0452326549
Or contact Angus Smith at Save the Children on 0488 330 882 / firstname.lastname@example.org