The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is providing US$250 million to help developing countries mitigate both the immediate and long-term disruptions to education being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds will help sustain learning for up to 355 million children, with a focus on ensuring that girls and poor children, who will be hit the hardest by school closures, can continue their education.
The GPE Board Chair, Julia Gillard, in a statement made available to THISDAY, said the COVID-19 pandemic is creating an education emergency that could have devastating impact on children in developing countries.
According to her, “unless we act now to support education systems, millions of vulnerable children, especially the poorest girls, may not be able to resume learning when this crisis is over.”
She said at least 630 million children are out of school in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, adding that of the 67 countries eligible for the GPE funds, 63 have already closed schools nation-wide in response to the pandemic.
“This has already cut more than 350 million children off from learning, but also from other vital services provided through schools, including health care and nutritious meals.
“Long-term school closures threaten hard-won development gains and could expose the world’s poorest children to increased risks. Evidence shows that girls who are excluded from school are more vulnerable to gender-based violence, early marriage and other forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. During the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, school closures were linked to 11,000 school girls becoming pregnant and being unable to return to school. “Boys are at increased risk of being recruited into armed groups. Teachers may be forced to find other sources of income and may not return once the pandemic is over.”
GPE Vice Board, Serigne Mbaye Thiam said it acted swiftly in the face of an unprecedented challenge.
“These funds will ensure that developing countries like Nigeria and Senegal are able to act quickly to mitigate the detrimental impact COVID-19 will have on the most vulnerable children and maintain the resilience of education systems.”
She said GPE funding will be available immediately to support coordinated and country-driven responses in up to 67 countries and meet both urgent and longer-term needs. Thiam said ministries of education (MoE) and local education partners can use the funds to ensure that learning continues, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable, for example by producing educational radio and television programmes and distributing equipment such as radios and textbooks to the poorest households.
“The funds can also be used to support teachers, ensure children with special needs and disabilities are included; collect data to know that learning is happening; mitigate poverty and gender barriers to learning, which will be exacerbated by economic shock; and ensure that teachers and schools are equipped to re-open when it is safe to do so.”
The Chief Executive Officer of GPE, Alice Albright said it is stepping up to mitigate the impact that school closures in developing countries will have on the most vulnerable children.
“GPE is committed to ensuring that learning can continue and that no child’s education is left behind.”
The US$250 million has been made available by repurposing uncommitted funds, with an expectation that additional funding will be required to help developing countries keep their education systems going through the pandemic and assist children who are vulnerable as a result of school closures.
The move was approved at an exceptional virtual meeting of the GPE’s Board of Directors on March 31.