5 reasons for $5+ billion: Interview with Kevin Watkins

In this series, GPE asks changemakers five 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.

January 27, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
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4 minutes read
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5 Reasons for $5+ Billion: Interview with Kevin Watkins

Kevin Watkins is the Chief Executive of Save the Children UK.

1. Save the Children is a key partner of GPE as a grant agent, member of local education groups and civil society leader campaigning for education. GPE has launched its 4th Financing Campaign, Raise Your Hand, with the ambition to raise at least $5 billion to continue transforming education systems in up to 90 lower income countries and territories. Why is a fully funded GPE important to Save the Children?

As the largest global education fund, a fully funded GPE is critical for realizing the right to quality, inclusive education for the most marginalized children. Not only will the full replenishment help ensure 175 million girls and boys are learning, but it also has the potential to lift millions out of poverty and protect millions more girls from child marriage. That is why the GPE replenishment is a key priority for our Save Our Education campaign in 2021. We will mobilize global action to help secure domestic and international financing so that children’s right to and demand for education is realized.

2. Up to 1.7 billion children were out of school this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and between 7 to 10 million are expected never to return to school. Why is it so important to call for financing education in this context? And why is GPE’s Financing campaign so crucial?

We are facing the greatest education emergency of our lifetime. There is a significant risk that when schools do reopen, the poorest and most marginalized children will never return, including girls, displaced and conflict-affected children. Our survey of 25,000 children showed that four in five children learned little or nothing while out of school, and we know that learning loss could have a devastating impact on economies for years to come.

GPE quickly unlocked funding for its developing country partners – providing schools with remote, learning materials, water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and more. It is now essential that donors fully fund GPE for the next five years to support the learning of millions of the most marginalized children in some of the world’s poorest countries.

3. Save the Children has just published a briefing on COVID-19 and the effects on education. Could you tell us more about this research and its main conclusions?

Our new research sets out five evidence-based actions that governments should prioritize to ensure that children whose education has been disrupted by the pandemic can safely return to school:

  • Cash transfers
  • Catch-up classes
  • Water sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools
  • Back-to-school campaigns
  • Training teachers on how to communicate about COVID-19 and keep schools safe.

Save the Children’s analysis suggests that just over US$50 billion is needed to ensure the safe return to school and catch up for children in some of the poorest and conflict-affected countries, as well as support to help them catch up on lost learning.

4. What are the top 3 things you want to see from the G7 summit for education?

The G7 summit must recognize the pandemic has triggered an unprecedented global education crisis and respond to that crisis by putting in place a global recovery plan – a Marshall Plan – for education.

Girls’ education is a priority for leaders at the G7. This is an opportunity to raise the level of ambition in delivering the UK Government’s manifesto commitment to 12 years of quality education for every girl, and secure global support to deliver on its ambitious forthcoming Girls’ Education Action Plan. World leaders must also ensure that girls have a seat at the G7 table and are listened to in setting priorities.

The G7 is an important moment to secure early and ambitious commitments to the GPE replenishment, and support governments in low- income countries to leverage domestic resources for education. As Chair of the G7 and co-host of the GPE replenishment, the UK can galvanize financing from G7 leaders and other donors to build back better education systems that will enable countries to recover from this crisis.

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

The best of school was the window it provided on learning, problem solving, and new ways of viewing the world beyond my own life.

Read other interviews from this series.

Kevin Watkins is raising his hand to support GPE's financing campaign
Kevin Watkins is raising his hand to support GPE's financing campaign
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