23 April 2009 Steep drops in aid to basic education in developing countries threatens to roll back progress made towards achieving the global goal of universal primary schooling, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) cautioned today.
Total aid commitments to basic education has dropped over 20 per cent from $5.5 billion in 2006 to $4.3 billion in 2007, according to the latest figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
At present, there are 75 million children out of school, with many millions more dropping out before completing primary education, the 2009 report of the UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report Team said.
It also predicted that the goal of achieving universal primary education by 2015 will be missed by at least 30 million children.
Commitments made by donor nations have not been sustained, with only 5 per cent of all education aid going towards basic education in 2007.
Only the United States’ aid to basic education rose significantly in 2007, but too few countries stepped in to fill the financing gap.
“The concentration of aid to basic education among just a few donors means that financial assistance for countries is highly unpredictable,” said Kevin Watkins, Director of the UNESCO report.
The current global economic crisis could drive aid for basic education even lower, possibly even driving assistance down more than $1 billion by 2010, the study warned.
“This is not the time to be cutting aid to basic education,” Mr. Watkins said. “With the economic downturn pushing millions of vulnerable households into poverty and putting budgets under strain, donors should be providing a fiscal stimulus aimed at keeping children in school.”
The new report put the price tag for meeting key education goals in the world’s poorest countries at $11 billion, of which only one-quarter was received in 2007.
“Millions of children stand to be hardest hit by the [current economic] crisis, and face irreversible long-term consequences if denied health, nutrition and education,” said Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO. “We must invest in their future and provide them with the education they need to end poverty and improve their lives.”
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