The 2007 G8 summit which took place in Germany from June 7-8 ended up just like any other talk show in the bid to save 80 million children and 800 million adults world wide from the dungeon of illiteracy.
On a positive note, in their communiqué, the section on 'Growth and Responsibility in Africa' reiterates the pledge of leaders of G8 countries, which include UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan and USA, to increasing aid to Africa. The leaders announced aid to Africa of about US$60 billion in ten years to combat Malaria, Aids and tuberculosis.
However the leaders goofed in their pledge to ensure that by 2015 every person has access to the right to quality education. At the conclusion of the summit, they only reaffirmed promises made in 2000 in Dakar that “no country seriously committed to ‘Education for All’ will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by lack of resources”. This feat was also repeated in the 2005 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.
They did not, as various analysts have pinpointed, make any substantial commitment as to how much they would be providing to Africa annually to achieve the six education for all goals which focus on Early childhood Development, Universal primary education, out of school youth education, adult literacy, gender parity and quality education.
In April the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) mobilised about 5 million campaigners from around 100 countries world wide to send a message to the rich countries to increase aid for education. In addition in the run up to the summit GCE and Germany Education Coalition came up with several initiatives to make the G8 heed the need for more money for education but to no avail.
It can be argued that since the great 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and EFA declarations, the world has been fed with promises and lies in almost all the sectors.
Collins Magalasi a known campaigner from Action Aid International, recently told a local Malawian daily that the G8 countries had not lived up to their promises.
“Two years ago they committed to increase aid by US$50 billion by 2010. Yet in 2006 they gave US$8 billion less than they should have, had they been on track to reach the 2010 target. Aid to Africa actually fell, once debt relief’s excluded, between 2005 and 2006”, Magalasi told the local daily, while noting that the G8 were short of disbursement by US$10 billion. “There is no failure worse that writing bouncing cheques to the poor as the G8 have done.”
What implications does this behaviour of the G8 countries have on education?
According to the 2007 School Report by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), the G8 leaders are failing miserably to fulfil their pledges and are lowly ranked. Out of the 22 OECD countries ranked according to the degree of aid to education, none of the G8 countries is within the top three. Of course there are countries like UK and Canada which are on 4th and 9th position respectively, but the rest of the countries are down, with USA positioned at number 20 at the bottom of the G8 countries in delivering aid for education.
Failure to deliver aid is a clampdown on education meaning that the fight to end illiteracy by 2015 will never be won.
While the world is burdened by the deafening cries of 880 million illiterate children and adults, most of the countries in developing countries particularly Africa are grappling with poor quality of education at all levels.
Most countries are faced with acute shortage of trained teachers and are far from achieving a teacher pupil ratio of 1:40 needed to achieve high quality education. Many teachers are underpaid, and schools lack teaching and learning materials and infrastructure.
In Malawi for instance, a country that has an estimated population of 12 million 5 million children and adults are illiterate representing over 40 percent of the entire nation. Mid point towards the 2015 targets for EFA goals and MDGs, Malawi’s progress towards EFA goals is unacceptably slow and education services are only being made available to less than 20 percent of the vulnerable groups like illiterate adults, orphans and vulnerable children. Just over 10 percent of children who must access early childhood education are covered. Government is only able to reach around 0.5 million adults out of the 2.5 million adults in need of education. The country is only providing primary education to less than 50,000 children with special needs out of the minimum 300,000 in need.
In 2005 Malawi missed the gender parity target, and she risks missing it again by 2015. Teachers, who are at a risk of HIV/Aids, are continuously being de-motivated by being exposed to poor salaries, poor housing, and being denied adequate teaching and learning materials. As such teachers cannot effectively deliver quality education.
Many developing countries are providing inadequate funds to education with most of them devoting less than 6 percent of GDP and less than 26 percent of the education budgets to education which are minimum requirements to attain the EFA Goals by 2015.
United Nations estimates that the funding gap is currently at $6 billion per annum for universal primary completion and as much as $13 billion for the full EFA agenda.
According to a renowned education campaigner, Kailash Satyarthi, the G8's share of the financing gap is at least $5 billion per year. By mid 2007 the G8 and other FTI countries had failed to meet their aid commitment for EFA activities by margin of US$500 million.
The G8 leaders need to take the issue of aiding education as a matter of urgency. Education, which is a fundamental human right, is the best weapon the world has against illness, disease, poverty and conflict. With good education, in time, come jobs, national development, growth, empowerment and prosperity.
Taking into account what the G8 countries are already providing for education and the financing gap for achieving EFA, there is need for them to pay the aid arrears. In addition each of the G8 countries should devote at least US$2.5 billion to education in developing countries to meet the EFA targets.
The starting point should be delivering on pledges made to the poor countries in the past five years especially in 2000 ad 2005 and quickly write the cheque of US$60 billion promised this year in Germany.