September 18, 2006 — The Education for All Fast Track Initiative (FTI) received a boost on Sunday with the Netherlands, UK and the World Bank pledging additional predictable, long-term funding, and 17 African countries reciprocating with concrete national education action programs.
However, a special ministerial round table held at the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings in Singapore, ended with a strong call to donors to live up to their promises.
The African countries submitted 10-year education plans aimed at meeting the Millennium Development Goals for education covering 25 million children - half of all the children in Africa. Of the $ 80 billion required, the countries will mobilize $ 50 billion domestically.
"This illustrates not only the scale of the challenge but also the scale of the opportunity," said Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, finance minister of Ghana. "Development partners' action on commitments to provide long-term, predictable financial support must start now."
Agnes van Ardenne-van der Hoeven, development cooperation minister of the Netherlands, announced that her country would increase its support to post-primary and higher education to 110 million euros per year from the earlier level of 60 million euros, and increase its contribution to the FTI Catalytic Fund to 150 million euros in 2006 and subsequent years. The Catalytic Fund provides transitional assistance to low income countries.
In addition, by 2007, the Netherlands would devote 15 percent of its overseas development assistance, translating to 640 million euros a year, to basic education alone.
Chancellor Gordon Brown of the UK confirmed Britain's commitment to putting up $ 15 billion over the next 10 years. And the World Bank's support through IDA for education is projected to increase to $ 1.5 billion a year for the next two years, the remaining period of IDA 14, from the present level of $ 900 million. Of this, 50 percent would be IDA grant funding, up from 20 percent.
Thanking the Netherlands and UK for their leadership in providing long-term and predictable financing, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said it was "time for all major donors to commit their fair share."
Pointing out that there was still a $ 1.2 billion shortfall for the 20 FTI countries whose plans were already endorsed, he said: "We can't afford hollow promises. They need the support that is supposed to go with those plans. Without an increase in predictable long-term funding, developing countries will fall short in their efforts to hire and train new teachers, to build schools, to improve the quality of the education they provide, and to help the hardest-to-reach children into the classrooms."
Brown argued that "we could be the first generation in history that would ensure that every child in the world had the chance of basic schooling." Echoing Wolfowitz's call, he said: "This announcement that of the $ 80 billion that is needed, $ 50 billion will come from the countries themselves, puts an extra responsibility on us to raise the additional money…The combination of the World Bank with country ownership, donors prepared to commit to the long term, and the public support for this project…means that this is our chance. We cannot let this moment slip."
Ministers from Nigeria, Liberia, Uganda, Kenya, Nicaragua and several of the donor countries made similar interventions.
Faced with the challenge of over 100 million children being out of school, 54 million of them girls, FTI emerged in 2002 as the first global compact on education to accelerate progress toward a quality primary education for all children by 2015. Under FTI, developing countries agree to prepare sound national education plans and donors agree to provide increased and coordinated financial and technical support.
To date, 20 developing countries with a total of 16 million out-of-school children have received FTI endorsement. In the first ten, an additional 3.5 million children have been enrolled in primary school. By the end of 2008, an estimated 60 countries could be FTI-endorsed, enhancing opportunities for 70 million out of school children to go to school.