With Global Action Week on Education almost upon us, world leaders are under pressure to make a move on education sector commitments. As part of the Global Action Week campaign, EI President Thulas Nxesi yesterday called on governments worldwide to translate words into actions and to spend more on education.
Global Action Week is organised annually by the Global Campaign for Education and its founding members (Education International, Oxfam, Action Aid and the Global March on Child Labour) with the intention of mobilising public opinion to exert pressure on governments on free, quality Education for All (EFA). During this week, millions of people around the world organise activities in their own country to remind their governments to fulfil the promise made by 185 governments at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000 to provide EFA by the year 2015. Teachers’ unions affiliated to EI are playing a major role in this year’s Global Action Week, with its theme “Every Child needs a Teacher.” Speaking on the issue of the plight of the education sector in developing countries today, EI President Thulas Nxesi commented that “The issue of the environment in which children are learning and teachers are teaching is a critical one. In a country such as South Africa, which is regarded as relatively well off in African terms, children are still learning under trees and in unsafe buildings. So whenever there are grave weather conditions you have to dismiss schools.” EI President Thulas Nxesi’s comments were made in reaction to Chancellor Gordon Brown’s announcement yesterday that the UK government will be pledging $15 billion to education between now and 2015. This means at least a doubling of UK aid to basic education and also poses a challenge to other G8 countries to follow the lead, particularly the US, Japan, Germany and Italy. In relation to this commitment of funding for education, EI President Nxesi noted that it is important to ensure that decisions are implemented and that words are proceeded by actions. Drawing on the example of last year’s G8 Summit at Gleneagles, Mr. Nxesi noted that “The tendency is toward rhetorical pledges, but when it comes to implementation, the record is poor.” This said, on balance EI, together with its partner organisation the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), welcome Chancellor Brown’s announcement and the commitment of the UK government to provide long term funding to ensure free quality education to children around the world. Nonetheless it must be recognised that this is not “new” money, but rather a restatement of the money committed in Gleneagles which has now been earmarked for education. EI welcomes the prioritization of education in international development. However, the other G8 countries need to step up to the table to make up a shortfall of $10 billion per year—particularly the US, Japan, Germany and Italy. This money is crucial because at least 15 million teachers are needed, especially in developing countries, between now and 2015. This is why ‘Every Child Needs a Teacher’ is the theme of Global Action Week 2006. Asked what he would do if he were in UK Chancellor Mr. Brown’s place, Mr. Nxesi stated that “There are a number of initiatives we have to talk about. We have to talk about how to ensure that we spend what we get in terms of development aid effectively and efficiently, because one of the problems facing us is efficiency – there is also a lot of corruption affecting us. Furthermore our governments must commit to spend more on education. As I see it, education is not just another expense because it is central to skills development. Indeed it is central to development.” For more information, contact: Wouter van der Schaaf, +32 2 224 06 11