The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, are to co-host an education summit in the United Kingdom in mid-2021 in a bid to tackle the heightened global education crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figures show that at the peak of school closures during the health crisis, 1.3 billion children – including 650 million girls – were not receiving formal education.
Experts have now warned that many of these children will never return to school, particularly as countries experience economic downturns in the wake of the pandemic.
On Monday, Mr Johnson said that with 1.3 billion children out of school around the world, “it is a toll of wasted potential and missed opportunity that is a tragedy not just for those children, but for each and every one of us.”
He added: “Education unlocks doors to opportunity and prosperity.
“It offers girls a ticket out of poverty and exploitation to chart their own futures.”
Mr Kenyatta, whose Government has placed education at the centre of its strategy to make Kenya a newly industrialised nation by 2030, said: “An educated population is a country’s most valuable resource.
“Even before the pandemic, nine in 10 school children in low income countries were unable to read proficiently by the age of 10.”
Since 2002, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has contributed to getting 160 million more children in school and doubling girls’ enrolment.
On Monday, the GPE announced a funding target of $5 billion for the next five years, urging governments, businesses and individuals to invest in children’s futures.
The money will help ensure that 175 million children can learn in 87 lower-income countries, according to the GPE.
It added: “In the longer term, this investment could add $164 billion to economies in the developing world, lift 18 million people out of poverty, and protect two million girls from early marriage.”
Mr Kenyatta said that since Kenya became a GPE partner in 2005, his country “has made impressive gains, achieving universal primary education and breaking down gender barriers to get as many girls as boys enrolling in school”.
He added: “GPE has been a key partner in helping us invest in innovative solutions to get all our children, especially girls, learning.”
“We must use the opportunity of GPE’s financing conference to make ambitious pledges to invest in quality education so our children and young people have the skills and knowledge they need to seize the opportunities of the 21st century.”
UN analysis have shown that missing out on education does long term damage to individuals and communities, with girls particularly at risk.
It showed that the benefits of schooling are transformative and multi-generational, noting that a child whose mother can read is 50 per cent more likely to live past the age of five and twice as likely to attend school.
With just one additional school year, a woman’s earnings can increase by a fifth, according to the analysis.
Julia Gillard, the former Prime Minister of Australia and GPE Board Chair, said: “An investment in GPE is an investment in the world’s most powerful asset – its children and youth.
“By refinancing GPE, leaders can send a clear message that the world is serious about creating a brighter future for all girls and boys through education.
“We must seize this opportunity to make sure that no child is left behind,” she added. The landmark global education summit will take place during the UK’s presidency of the G7.