EDUCATION

Nobel laureates urge more cash for education in poor countries

According to the UN, 58 million children remain out of school and 781 million adults are illiterate

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 July, 2015, 6:36am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 July, 2015, 6:36am

International donors must boost aid to developing nations to ensure that millions of the world's poorest and marginalised children can go to school, a group of Nobel laureates said, ahead of a global conference on financing for education.

Kailash Satyarthi, last year's Peace Prize co-winner, said he had brought together the world's most renowned science laureates for the first time to urge rich nations "to be more generous" on the eve of the Oslo Summit on Education for Development.

"Donors have failed to deliver the investments needed for education," the Indian child rights activist said by phone from Stuttgart, Germany.

"We need an additional US$22 billion annually, which is not that much. If you compare it with global defence budgets, it works out at 4½ days of military spending
Kailash Satyarthi

"That is why I brought the issue before a group of Nobel laureates last week. They agreed to speak out clearly through an open letter on the need for more financing for education as well as ending child slavery."

According to the UN, 58 million children remain out of school and 781 million adults are illiterate despite a 2000 global agreement to increase enrolment in primary schools and halve adult illiteracy, among other goals.

An April report by Unesco said that two-thirds of the countries - including Niger, Pakistan and Ethiopia - had missed some of the goals, while others such as Nepal, India, Rwanda and Sierra Leone had improved access to schooling.

Satyarthi said only 4 per cent of all Overseas Development Assistance was targeted at education, arguing it should be 15 to 20 per cent.

"We need an additional US$22 billion annually, which is not that much. If you compare it with global defence budgets, it works out at 41/2 days of military spending," he said.

"The best defence is investment in education. If we had invested in education, the world would be much safer today. Education is not only the key to sustainable development, but also the best shield to defend against terrorism, insurgencies and other obstacles that impede the progress of humankind."

Satyarthi said that he and the other laureates wanted to use their influence to ensure adequate funds for education were promised as nations meet in September to agree on a new set of developmental targets for the next 15 years.

An open letter signed by scientists such as chemical physicist William Moerner, astrophysicist Brian Schmidt and biologist Elizabeth Blackburn was presented last week at the Oslo Summit on Education for Development. It stated, in part: "We urge the international community to loosen the purse strings for the future of our children, to protect them from exploitation and violence, and to invest in their education."

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for global education, urged creation of a multimillion-dollar education fund for nations suffering emergencies, where food, water, shelter and medicines have priority.

Aid to basic education fell to US$3.5 billion in 2013 from US$4.5 billion in 2010, even as overall aid flows increased to developing nations, he said.

Last month, the UN's refugee agency said the number of people forced to flee their homes had surged to 59.5 million last year, with 30 million aged under 18. It was 51.2 million in 2013.

Worldwide, 59 million children were not getting primary education in 2013, up by 2.4 million from 2010 but well down from 99 million in 2000, according to a report last week by Unicef.

Reuters