Obama’s Timely Global Education Fund

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But without a focused, strategic intervention - involving both donor
reform and service delivery improvements - in the face of the current
economic crisis, millions more children are at risk of joining the 75
million children worldwide who do not have access to education.

[Global: Commentary]

In an era where “smart power” is needed most to secure America’s
safety and bolster democracy worldwide, President Obama has made a
bold commitment to funding education globally, with a $2 billion
dollar pledge for a Global Fund for Education.

The proposed Global Fund for Education would innovate a new system of
managing donor funds with built-in accountability measures and
required, results-oriented reporting.

Although education is a prioritized Millennium Development Goal, an
$11 billion dollar funding gap must be closed in order to meet the
goal for education by 2015.

But without a focused, strategic intervention - involving both donor
reform and service delivery improvements - in the face of the current
economic crisis, millions more children are at risk of joining the 75
million children worldwide who do not have access to education.

When I last visited East Africa, I encountered several hundred out-of-school
children while walking through Pabbo, a large, densely crowded, government-created
camp in war-shocked northern Uganda. The sounds of crying babies echoed from behind
the walls of small mud huts; some hut doors were crafted from shiny United States
Agency for International Development (USAID) corn oil cans, children of all ages dashed about.

These were the poorest children, whose lives weren’t touched by donor
dollars. Due largely to government mismanagement and widespread
corruption, the much-heralded Universal Primary Education (UPE)
program, initiated in 1997 to eliminate primary school fees for
primary education wasn’t a factor in their lives. Many were visibly
malnourished, all were confined to a camp where their parents couldn’t
earn money to pay for school uniforms and required school-related fees
-- much less feed their families.

The lone school in the camp was a one-room classroom filled to
overflowing, equipped with one chalkboard and no books in sight.  As
noted by the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, “The (UPE)
initiative was not accompanied by sufficient resource planning, and
despite a decade of donor agency support … the basic conditions for
effective learning are not present in many Ugandan villages…“
Currently, a woeful 64% of girls in Northern Uganda drop out of school.
One might wonder what kind of a future might be awaiting each of
these children?

Without even basic skills, how will these future adults contribute to
creating solutions for their society and nation?

It has tragically become a normal, every-day occurrence for children
in developing nations to have little or no access to health services,
clean water or education. This is unacceptable; we in the developed
countries must work with those in developing countries to ensure that
these conditions are reversed.

Writing jointly in a May 5, 2009 Wall Street Journal editorial, former
Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright caution that
in the face of the current economic crisis “pulling back from global
engagement is not an option. Stability and prosperity go hand in hand,
neither is possible in the presence of widespread and extreme poverty.”

And during her Senate confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Clinton
stressed that “the best way to advance America’s interest in reducing
global threats and seizing global opportunities is to design and
implement global solutions.”

The Global Fund for Education is a solution which, with continued
commitment, will effectively deliver access to education for all the
world’s children. For the sake of those children, President Obama must
continue his support for education for all and lead the world in
establishing a multi-lateral Global Fund for Education.




Hellen Otii is a member of RESULTS, an organization dedicating to
creating the public and political will to end hunger and the worst
aspects of poverty.

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