May 8, 2009—A global push to enroll children in school faces an immediate financing gap of some $1.2 billion—a situation that threatens the goal of universal education by 2015, say backers of the Education for All-Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI).
Supporters from 34 countries endorsed a campaign April 25 during the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings to mobilize resources for the program, an international partnership set up in 2002 to provide all boys and girls in developing countries a complete primary school education by 2015.
“We have to do whatever we can to convince other donors that they should take part of the EFA-FTI and support it also in terms of financial means,” said Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, Ms. Ulla Tørnæs, currently co-chair of the EFA-FTI.
Some 37 low-income countries are endorsed by the EFA – FTI and most of them are counting on financial support for education so more children can go to school. Another 10 countries hope to join the partnership before the end of 2010 and send millions of out-of-school children to primary school.
With the global slowdown impacting poor countries worldwide, governments and donor agencies need to continue to invest in long-term education despite the fiscal pressure to cut back, FTI supporters said.
At stake are the hard-fought education and other development gains of previous decades. Now more than ever, education is one of the best investments a country can make, particularly ensuring that girls have educational opportunities, they said.
“The current crisis is undermining the enormous progress that is being made on education outcomes,” warned World Bank Managing Director Graeme Wheeler.
“ It is putting them at risk. And we need to move quickly to increase our assistance to education. The funding needs, quite simply, are enormous.”
Progress Seen in FTI Countries
Over 15 million children enrolled in school in African FTI countries between 2001 and 2006 and 28 percent more children were enrolled in primary school in all EFA–FTI-supported countries between 2000 and 2007.
Most of the EFA–FTI countries are on track to achieving a primary school completion rate of at least 80 percent by 2015. This is catalyzed in part by the allocation of over US$ 1.4 billion through EFA – FTI’s Catalytic Trust Fund.
The Ethiopian Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Sufian Ahmed, highlighted the impressive results that have been achieved so far in Ethiopia.
“The primary school gross enrollment has increased from 19 percent in 1992 to over 97 percent by 2008. Net primary enrollment has also increased from 27 percent in 1997 to over 84.4 percent in 2008; and the number of children in school has more than tripled, from 3.8 million in 1998 to well over 15 million in 2008.”
EFA – FTI supported programs are yielding tangible results which have a positive impact on the lives of the children, parents and communities in the countries. Examples include:
- In Ghana, a government program of school fees abolition along with a free daily meal at school reached about 600,000 children at the end of 2008.
- Better trained teachers in Madagascar are building parents confidence to send their children to school. The total number of children enrolling into primary school in Madagascar grew from 2.2 million in 2000 to 3.7 million in 2006.
- EFA – FTI funding of mobile schools in Mongolia is bringing education to herders’ communities in remote steppes of the country. FTI grants contributed to the financing of 100 mobile schools spread out over 21 regions.
- The Government of Yemen is working with its partners to boost girls’ education in the country by training more female teachers. 214 new girl-friendly schools were built in remote provinces and school kits were provided to 350,000 children with support of EFA FTI grants. As a result, enrollments increased 23 percent in the target provinces.