5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Edwin Ikhuoria

GPE asks Edwin Ikhuoria 5 questions on the power of education. GPE's financing campaign seeks to raise at least $5 billion to transform education for up to 1 billion children in 90 countries and territories.

April 21, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
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4 minutes read
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5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Edwin Ikhuoria

Edwin Ikhuoria is the Executive Director of ONE Africa.

1. COVID-19 has pushed up to 115 million people into extreme poverty and caused sub–Saharan Africa to experience its first recession in a quarter century, threatening a looming debt crisis. What are key actions world leaders must take to ensure equitable global recovery?

While G20 countries have kept their economies afloat through comprehensive stimulus packages of nearly 19% of GDP, we have seen that African countries don’t have this firepower, spending less than 2% of GDP. The pandemic has reduced their spending power due to falling revenues and increased their vulnerabilities to debt crises.

To recover from the pandemic, Africa needs to close a financing gap of around US$345 billion in the next 3 years. World leaders need to support African leaders to free up more resources, particularly through both the issuance and redistribution of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) worth $650 billion, and the extension of Debt Service Suspension Initiative until at least the end of 2021.

2. How can African leaders maximize stimulus spending on priority sectors like quality education to improve coordinated impact on health, food security and green growth so that economies can build back better?

Although the pandemic has claimed hundreds of thousands lives on the continent today, a poor-quality education threatens the futures of millions too. We can’t sacrifice to respond to the crisis today at the cost of a catastrophic future.

Investment in education is key to accelerating recovery and progress in every country. To eradicate poverty and hunger, improve health, develop a skillful workforce, protect our planet, and build back a more inclusive and peaceful society, then every individual must be empowered with access to quality education.

African governments can maximize the impact of education stimulus spending by: identifying context-specific needs; setting clear policy goals and thresholds for measuring progress; mainstreaming education budgets to address environmentally sustainable goals; and establishing a transparent mechanism for tracking policy and program implementation.

Public entities must issue tenders that emphasize the performance or outcomes they seek and ensure multi-stakeholders are fully involved in the budget formulation and implementation processes.

3. According to the World Bank and UNESCO, two-thirds of low income and lower middle-income countries, based on available evidence, have cut their education budgets since the onset of the pandemic. In this context, what is the role of global movements, like ONE, to drive political action to protect education in domestic budgets?

ONE and other organizations have the critical role of mobilizing voices and shining a spotlight on the global learning crisis and how efficient and equitable financing can help change the picture. We amplify citizen voices and hold governments accountable for protecting the allocation of financing to education.

Using creative products and channels, we bring light to the urgency around the global learning crisis. We also support governmental efforts to champion this cause and get other countries to respond and protect their education budgets too.

4. How are GPE and ONE Africa collaborating to address the learning crisis?

In March, ONE released a report that included some damning statistics: this year alone, 70 million children - over half the world’s 10-year-olds - will fail to acquire basic literacy skills. By 2030, this could add up to over 750 million children, or nearly 10% of the world’s population.

ONE will also launch an advocacy tool on April 26 to demonstrate the number of children at risk of lacking the most basic literacy skills by the time they reach the age of 10, which is when they should be switching from learning to read and start reading to learn.

To address this, in February ONE launched a global education campaign with a quiz and petition calling on governments to commit to a future in which every 10-year-old can read. This includes protecting education financing from all sources and ensuring it is spent well.

ONE is calling on donor governments to sign up to the UK targets on girls’ education and to commit at least $5 billion to the GPE replenishment.

ONE Champion, Selina Nkoile from Kenya, was also nominated to join the GPE Youth Leaders with whom she is doing a great job of engaging parliamentarians and policy makers to champion for pledges and protection of domestic education budgets. Many more activities and products are also in the pipeline.

5. What do you remember most about school? Were there moments or teachers that had a particularly big impact on you?

My secondary school was located within the military barracks in a small town in Lagos, Nigeria, and most students were children of soldiers in the Nigerian Army cantonment. The level of discipline with academic and non-academic activities was the most influential part of my growing up.

Times were allocated for specific activities outside of academics and ensured that every student was skilled in at least two vocations including farming, woodwork and food making.

The balance of academic performance with non-academic activities has shaped most of my outlook to life. The school’s philosophy was “character and service”. So, you may be smart in academics but your non-performance in non-academic disciplines means that you are downgraded.

Today, I always seek balance and really appreciate the experience of pursuing balance in all spheres of life.

Read other interviews from this series.

Edwin Ikhuoria raising his hand to support GPE financing campaign
Edwin Ikhuoria raising his hand to support GPE financing campaign.
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