Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, currently chairperson of a Global Partnership for Education (GPE), has urged governments to allocate more funds to education in order to boost chances of achieving the final targets for education post-2015 Millennium Development Goals.
Gillard, who is in Kigali to attend a two-day Unesco-Africa regional conference, which starts today, made the remarks during an exclusive interview with The New Times at the weekend.
The conference will be attended by education officials and other stakeholders from over 10 African countries for consultations ahead of the 2015 World Education Forum, which will be hosted by the Republic of Korea in May.
The former premier, who was appointed to lead GPE in February, last year, expressed concern that governments are not allocating enough share of their budgetary resources to education which doesn’t help global efforts to achieve Education for All (Efa) targets.
Global Partnership for Education is a multi-national effort working with 60 developing nations to enable all children including the poorest and most marginalised to attend school and receive a quality education.
“We want to see governments allocating at least 20 per cent of their budgets to education,” Gillard said, applauding Rwanda for being one of the few countries that have come close to that threshold.
As of 2013, the education expenditure represented 19 per cent of Rwanda’s total budget with primary education accounting for 30 per cent of education’s total expenditure.
“These funding efforts are clearly visible in what Rwanda has managed to achieve over the past years regarding education,” she said, calling on other countries on the continent to pick a leaf from Rwanda.
Rwanda joined the GPE initiative in 2006 and, in 2012, received the Commonwealth Education Good Practice Award for its Nine-Year Basic Education programme, which placed it in a position of being a model for other developing countries in the sub-Saharan African region.
Currently, Rwanda is working closely with GPE to implement a new education strategy covering the period 2013 – 2018 which seeks among others to expand access to 12- Year Basic Education.
Since taking office last year, Gillard has focused her efforts on getting donors to support global education initiatives to help the world’s 57 million children still lacking access to basic education to get into schools.
“Over 30 million of these children are in sub-Saharan Africa and to help them access basic education, we need to attract more support from stakeholders,” she said.
In June 2014, Gillard presided over a successful fundraising conference in Brussels that brought in $28.5 billion in pledges from developing countries and donors, which Gillard said will help replenish GPEs efforts to support education needs in member countries.
However, she said, beyond partners putting children in school, new efforts are needed to invest in the quality of education pointing out that 250 million children are unable to read, write or master simple math in spite of attending school.
Gillard will speak at today’s event in Kigali which is the second last of five major regional conferences taking place prior to the Unesco-organised World Education Forum scheduled for May, 19-22 in Incheon, South Korea.
She will interact with officials from Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania.
Meetings for the Asia Pacific, Latin America and Caribbean, already took place in August and October last year in Bangkok and Peru, respectively, while that for the Arab region was held last month.
The last meeting will be for countries in the Pan-European and North America Region to be held in Paris, France from February 19-20. Gillard said that these are consultative meetings aimed at getting stakeholders reach a consensus on several issues before Wef.
The outcomes from Wef will be fully aligned to the education goals and targets of the global development agenda expected to be adopted at the UN High-Level Summit to be held in September 2015, to forge a single education agenda for 2015-2030.
These five regional meetings targeted education ministers and high-level officials, civil society representatives, UN agencies, development banks, the private sector, research institutions, and other stakeholders whose input is vital in forming that single education agenda.
Rwanda is hosting the Africa regional conference because it’s one of the few countries that have achieved most of the millennium development goals including on education.
As the world prepares for the post-MDG era, stakeholders at today’s event will take stock of regional progress in education, in particular Education For All, yield lessons learnt for the future while examining persisting and emerging issues, challenges and priorities for education beyond 2015.