With calls to build back better education systems adversely affected by the pandemic, higher shares of domestic finance will be needed to meet SDG 4 goals, particularly given post-COVID challenges, of keeping schools open, ensuring continuity of learning.
More funding needed for education in times of fiscal constraints
The UNESCO 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report indicates COVID is likely to increase a huge annual financing gap to reach SDG 4 by one third, from $148 billion up to almost $200 billion. Aid to education is estimated to fall by up to $2 billion in 2022 (UNESCO 2020), placing even greater responsibilities on governments to provide adequate domestic financing for education.
Given the need to prioritize health to combat the pandemic, social sector spending, including education, should not be a zero-sum game. Financing education must remain a top political priority, as the African continent is dependent on its human resource for development, including combating future crises.
Mounting debt, slowdown of GDP in real terms, including loss of tax revenue from COVID’s economic impact, and other competing national priorities also impeded effective financing of the education sector. Yet, a commitment to financing schooling, learning and gender equality is key to a productive workforce, a quick recovery, future growth, development and resilience.
Households in Africa have to balance between meeting everyday needs and education expenditures. This poses a risk for children, especially girls, being exposed to child labor and child marriage as family livelihoods diminish and economic crises continues.
In response, the African Union/International Centre for Girls’ and Women’s Education launched its #AfricaEducatesHer campaign in September 2020 to sensitize AU Member States, educators, civil society organizations and youth on the need for girls and young women to return to school as countries slowly reopened schools around the continent.
Protect and increase domestic financing for education
Financing education for most African governments during COVID-19 requires adequate evidence to inform decision-making in resource allocation, while there are competing health-related priorities. The justification for resourcing girls’ education needs strong social-economic analysis backed by gender disaggregated learning data.
The KIX Observatory on COVID-19 responses in Africa’s educational systems released a report: “Education Financing, Wellbeing and Schools Reopening”. It highlights priority areas of funding in 41 GPE partner partners in Africa, and pinpoints the need for increased investment in girls and young women’s education.