As I reflect back on this year, COVID-19 continues to impact countries all over the world, causing huge disruptions to our lives, including to education systems. The learning losses we are seeing as a result of the pandemic are staggering. The economic impacts of the pandemic are deepening inequalities and adding to the impacts of climate change and conflict, worsening the global education crisis and keeping millions of children out of school.
Despite these challenges, or indeed because of them, GPE has stayed strong in our pursuit of a quality education for every girl and boy. Throughout 2021, our focus has remained on supporting the children most at risk of being left behind, including girls, children from poor households, displaced children and those living with disabilities.
This year, GPE provided $740 million to more than 30 countries to help keep the most marginalized children learning, strengthen education systems, respond to the impacts of COVID-19 and build resilience to future crises. We also began to roll out GPE’s new operating model, which is now well underway in 17 countries, including six pilot countries, and as the rollout gains speed we expect it to be another record year for GPE funding in 2022.
A high point of the year was the Global Education Summit in July 2021, co-hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, which secured record commitments of international, domestic and private sector funding for education. Donors pledged US$4 billion to GPE, putting us firmly on the path to achieving our target of raising at least $5 billion over the next five years to help transform education in up to 90 countries and territories.
The Summit also mobilized more than $1 billion from partners in innovative co-financing to transform education for the world’s most vulnerable children, with the business community and private foundations collectively pledging over $100 million at the summit - the largest contribution from these communities in GPE’s history.
The Summit was the culmination of GPE’s Raise Your Hand campaign. Throughout the campaign, education champions like Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, football star Didier Drogba, UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohamed, Olympian Eliud Kipchoge and super model Naomi Campbell joined political leaders, youth advocates, civil society organizations and many others to raise their hands for education.
I thank our partners, donors, education advocates and youth leaders, who were instrumental in making the campaign, and the subsequent Summit, a success for millions of children and young people around the world. Their education has been upended by the pandemic. The campaign and Summit have been a critical step to place education at the heart of our response and recovery.
To oversee the delivery of commitments made at the Summit and take forward GPE’s strategic plan, GPE 2025, in September, we welcomed a new Board Chair, H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Vice Chair, Dr. Susan Liautaud, Chair of Council trustees of the London School of Economics and Political Science and Chair of the Advisory Council for the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford. Their leadership will be vital in delivering on GPE’s ambitious mission of enabling quality learning for every boy and girl.
Gender equality and girls’ education is a part of GPE’s DNA. Over the past year GPE has advanced girls’ education at major policy platforms like the Generation Equality Forum, the G7, the African Union Summit, the 3rd African Girls Summit and other gender focused moments. I also had the privilege of being part of the 2021 G7 Presidency’s Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC).
One of the GEAC’s core recommendations to the G7 on gender equality is to advance girls’ education, including through a fully funded GPE. The GEAC’s recommendations on girls’ education are reflected in the G7 Girls’ Education Declaration as well as the G7 Communique, which committed $2.75 billion from the G7 to GPE to transform education systems.
Our 2021 Results Report showed that girls’ access to education in GPE partner countries has increased overall. But girls around the world are, on average, still at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a quality education. We were starkly reminded of this when girls’ access to education was suspended in Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, I am heartened by the resolve that families and communities are showing to bring girls back to the classroom. GPE continues to advocate for girls’ right to education and bring partners together to prevent Afghanistan’s education system from collapsing.
Recognizing the significant impact of the climate crisis on education systems and children’s well-being, in November of this year GPE engaged at the COP26 global climate conference for the first time, positioning gender-transformative education as a critical solution to addressing the climate crisis, building community resilience against climate change and advancing mitigation efforts.
In December, GPE participated in the RewirED Summit hosted by the United Arab Emirates and Dubai Cares. At RewirEd, GPE and the Arab Coordination Group – a grouping of Arab financial development institutions - launched the Smart Education Financing Initiative, generating half a billion dollars in innovative financing for education for 37 countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, where 28 million children are out of school.
Also at RewirEd, GPE Board Chair HE Jakaya Kikwete joined H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya in welcoming engagements from signatories to the Heads of State Call to Action on Education Financing, a commitment to spend at least 20 per cent of national budgets on education. This builds on pledges made at the Global Education Summit in July, where 19 Heads of State and Government endorsed the declaration – a commitment equivalent to $200 billion in education financing over the next five years.
As this year comes to an end, I want to take this moment to thank all GPE partners for their continued hard work, dedication and commitment. Our joint efforts have helped us improve the lives of millions of children around the world and provide them with hope, opportunity and agency through a quality education.
As we look ahead to 2022, with your support, GPE will continue to rise to the challenge of ensuring a quality education for every boy and every girl.