April 21, 2006—On the eve of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Spring Meetings, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and the United Kingdom's Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown called on rich nations to increase funding for education so that every child on every continent can go to school.
Brown issued the challenge at a joint media conference in Washington, DC, after announcing the UK would pledge US$170 million to help fill a US$510 million funding gap in a program that fast tracks education funds to poor nations.
"We call on other donors now to come forward to announce their contributions," said Brown. The UK said last week it would spend US$15 billion on aid for education over the next 10 years-four times as much as it spent in the previous 10 years. For US$10 billion extra a year, "every child on every continent could have teachers, books, and classrooms," said Brown.
"It is one of the world's greatest scandals that must now be addressed that 100 million children are not going to school today, denied one of the most basic rights of all, the right to education. And most who lose out are girls, denied the most basic chance to realize their potential," said Brown.
Wolfowitz hailed the UK's $15 billion pledge as "historic" and a "very important step forward." But he said more funding is needed to give every child a chance for an education.
"We know that investment in education, particularly for girls, can help slow the spread of AIDS, contribute to economic growth, and break the cycle of poverty…The urgency is clear when you consider in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 40 million children don't go to school."
He said all wealthy nations, including the United States, should increase contributions to the Education for All Fast Track Initiative, a global partnership between donors and developing countries. The UK contribution to education amounts to US$20 per capita, while the US contribution, at about US$260 million, is about $1 per capita.
"I think the US could do a lot more. So could just about every G7 country, with the exception of the UK," said Wolfowitz.
Launched in 2002, the Education Fast Track Initiative aims to raise funds to help developing countries get more children into school-to achieve the target of every child in the world in primary school by the year 2015.
The initiative currently supports US$1.1 billion in education programs in 20 developing countries. Donors provide $605 million to the initiative, leaving an annual funding gap of around US$510 million.
That gap will grow to US$2.4 billion annually if, as expected, 40 more countries qualify for fast track by the end of 2008. At that point, the initiative would need US$3.7 billion in financing, but only US$1.3 billion would be available from donors if more is not pledged.
Wolfowitz and Brown, joined by Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Jan Willem van der Kaaij, the Bank's Executive Director for the Netherlands, urged countries to make long-term contributions to the initiative, so countries can develop 10-year education plans, hire teachers, and provide quality education.
Ngozi said African finance ministers will meet in Nigeria May 20 to 22 to see what they can do to speed up progress on education.
"We know we need to act to get 40 million African children back into school," said Ngozi. "And we're raising the resources to do this ourselves-we're not just waiting for the donors. But …we need these additional resources, and if we make these education plans and we don't get the support we need, it will mean we're condemning a whole new generation, girls and boys, to not having the basis to escape from poverty."