Leaders, educationalists, social workers and several others called on the G20, IMF, World Bank and regional development banks and the country heads to take immediate action to address the global education emergency triggered by COVID-19.
In a signed appeal, more than a 100 leaders said that every country should pledge to protect front line education spending and giving priority to the needs of the most disadvantaged children. They also said that the international community must increase aid for education and focus on the most vulnerable, including the poor, girls and children in conflict driven regions.
Noting that the best way to free up resources for education is through debt relief, they said that 76 poorest countries have to pay 86 billion dollars in debt service costs over the next two years. They have called for debt suspension and to reallocate that to education and other priority investments for children.
The leaders also opined that the IMF should issue 1.2 trillion dollars in Special Drawing Rights and the resources should be channelled towards the most needed countries. They also pointed out that the World Bank should unlock more support for low income countries through a supplementary International Development Association budget on the lines of Netherlands and the UK. These countries have already pledged 650 million dollars to the new International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd).
Pointing out that with over a billion children out of school, they said that there was a real and present danger that the public health crisis will create a COVID generation who lose out on schooling and whose opportunities are permanently damaged.
They also noted that the UNESCO had reported that an estimated 30 million children may never return to school. Several of these children are adolescent girls for whom being in school is the best defence against forced marriage and the best hope for a life of expanded opportunity, they said.
They also warned that many of the children are at risk of being forced into dangerous labour. They noted that if education was not given the priority, then it could undermine the prospects for achieving all our 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and potentially set back progress on gender equity by years.
They also said that the situation was not good even before Covid-19 pandemic. Over half of the children in developing countries were affected. About 800 million young people leave education with no qualifications whatsoever.