Education International renewed its calls for a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT) at the meeting of education donor nations in Madrid, Spain, in November 2010. The lack of support from the West could force poor countries to shut schools and sack teachers, depriving millions of children of education. The meetings of the Education For All Fast-Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) Board of Directors and Catalytic Fund Committee were hosted by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation from 10 to 11 November 2010. The Catalytic Fund Committee discussed the status, implementation and disbursement of the Catalytic Fund (CF) as well as its transitional arrangements as the single EFA-FTI Fund becomes operational. The CF Committee also considered allocation requests from Rwanda, Papua New Guinea and Mozambique.
It is a matter of significant concern to the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), of which Global March and Education International are founding members, that funds in the world’s only international education financing body are nearly exhausted and threaten to reverse significant gains made in recent years. A report by the GCE calls for radical action to save schools that are threatened because Western donors have been hit by the global financial crisis.
Representatives at the Madrid meetings allocated the last portion of FTI funds, totalling US$80 million, which the GCE says is less than 10 per cent of the US$1billion that 20 of the poorest countries will request to keep schools open in 2011. Chairperson of the GCE and Global March Against Child Labour Kailash Satyarthi said:
“This news confirms our worst fears and shows that unless radical action is taken … millions of children will have the school gates shut on them and teachers will be out of work. The progress made in the last decade is on the brink of being reversed, which will mean more children could join the 69 million children who are out of school.”
The GCE has cited the case of Mozambique, which in the past decade has made significant strides towards the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education. Since 2008, the country has hired 20,000 teachers and built 3,000 classrooms with support from FTI donor countries. But more teachers and buildings are badly needed. A food crisis, which led to riots in the country earlier this year, forced the Mozambique government to divert funds from the education budget to food subsidies, affecting thousands of teachers and almost 100,000 pupils. Mozambique was set to cut 20 per cent of its education funding and halve its school building programme until it received a last minute US$56 million bail-out from the World Bank.
Satyarthi said: “We welcome the World Bank’s investment, but it is a tragedy that they must bail out poor countries’ schools with emergency support because Western donors withdrew their support. If US$1 trillion can be found to bail out the banks, then surely US$16 billion a year can be found to ensure that children’s futures are not jeopardised.”
The GCE fears the problems could spread across Africa. Shortage of funds mean Rwanda’s request for US$100 million, which would help make secondary education free and improve the quality of teacher provision across the country‚ will not be met in full. Ghana and Kenya, with 900,000 and 750,000 children out of school respectively, are also expected to submit funding requests. Haiti, which lost 4,000 schools in the earthquake and is the third worst place in the world to be a schoolchild, is also likely to approach the FTI with a funding request in 2011.
The GCE also says that recent high-level lobbying in donor capitals has failed to win any new funding to meet the education needs of poor countries. It has called on leading donors, including France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, UK and USA, to make good on their promises. The GCE and EI are backing a financial transactions’ tax (FTT), which could raise as much as US$200 billion each year, towards anti-poverty measures and ensure predictable funding to put millions of children into school. EI President Susan Hopgood said: “The financial crisis created by billionaire bankers is hurting the poorest hardest, with aid cuts meaning millions of children remain without the fundamental human right to an education. A tax on the banks could end this and put every child in school.”