The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is set to provide an additional US$250 million to help Nigeria and other developing countries respond to the immediate and long-term disruptions to education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This brings GPE’s total coronavirus response funding to more than US$500 million. The funding will help sustain learning for up to 355 million children in 67 countries.
The move comes in response to the extremely high demand for GPE’s support. Since the launch of GPE’s COVID-19 fund on April 1, 48 countries have applied for US$511 million in emergency grants, and more are expected to apply in coming weeks.
GPE’s response came amid growing concerns that the combined impact of school closures and economic hardship caused by the pandemic will increase inequalities and roll back hard-won gains in improving education in some of the world’s poorest countries.
This, in turn, would have adverse impacts on future economic growth, peace and stability, environmental sustainability and health outcomes – including countries’ abilities to respond to future pandemics.
GPE board chair, Julia Gillard said, “The group’s swift response will help mitigate the immediate impacts of this crisis, but it is nowhere near enough. We need global action to protect and finance education in order to prevent irreparable damage to our children’s future.”
More than 80 per cent of the 1.2 billion children currently out of the classroom due to COVID-19 are in developing countries, where school closures are compounding an already urgent learning crisis.
GPE board vice-chair, Serigne Mbaye Thiam noted that the coronavirus pandemic could exacerbate inequalities and force tens of millions of children out of school forever.
“This would be a devastating loss, both for children’s future and in our global fight against poverty.”
GPE has already allocated $125m to 10 countries, where the funds are supporting the roll-out of distance learning programmes that prioritise the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, including girls, children with special needs and disabilities, and children without access to electricity or internet connectivity.
The partnership has also provided US$7.5 million to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Bank to ensure countries can benefit from economies of scale, learning and best practices.
On her part, GPE’s chief executive officer, Alice Albright said, “Disrupted learning and losing the lifeline of school could permanently derail millions of children’s lives. GPE is helping our partner countries keep students learning and plan how to get children safely back in school, and working with Ministries of Education to re-imagine education for a post-pandemic world.”
The additional funding, approved at an emergency session of GPE’s board of directors brought the total response of the partnership to US$509 million, making GPE the largest provider of funds dedicated solely to education in the global coronavirus response thus far.
On March 25, GPE provided about $9 million to UNICEF to help 87 developing countries plan their responses to school closures.
On April 1, the partnership announced a $250 million response fund, including $225 million to help 67 countries implement these response plans, and $25 million to support global and regional learning.
The 67 countries eligible for GPE’s COVID-19 funding are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Republic of), Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Dominica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Kiribati, Lao PDR, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.