Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now U.N. special envoy for global education, writes:
On Tuesday a United Nations education audit that I will launch with UNESCO director Irina Bokova will expose that for too long we have been too complacent in assuming inevitable year-by-year progress to universal education. The report will reveal that despite a global commitment that every child would be in primary school by 2015, there are still 61 million children of primary-school age who are not in education, 32 million of them girls.
The arithmetic of educational neglect makes grim reading. Fifteen million children who should be at primary school are working full time. Ten million girls every year leave education to become child brides, and millions more are trafficked. And in some areas of the world we are not just stalling, but sliding backwards. The UNESCO report will highlight how much we have neglected 28 million out-of-school refugee girls and boys, displaced children in the camps, tents, and shacks of broken-down regimes and conflict zones.
Yet today just $3 billion of global aid goes to education, amounting to a meager, shameful $12 per child in Africa, hardly enough to finance a schoolbook and far less a teacher or a school. As need rises, aid is falling this year, and unless something is done, it will fall every year through 2015. Yet because of a new initiative, Education First, launched last month by Ban Ki-moon, bringing together every U.N. and World Bank institution concerned with education, we can act quickly and ensure that Malala’s suffering will not be in vain.