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Investing in girl’s education is investing in the future.

July 27, 2021

British High Commission Development Director Kobi Bentley and Minister for Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Dr. David Sengeh.

Girls face an education crisis around the world: we must act now.

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all our lives in many different ways and not least through the impacts it has had on education.   At the height of school closures, 1.6 billion children and young people around the world faced disruption to their education.  Girls have been disproportionately affected. The pandemic has compounded and exacerbated the many obstacles to getting a quality education that many girls already face – obstacles such as poverty, gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, early marriage and pregnancy, and a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Prior to the pandemic, girls were already facing an education crisis. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 33.3 million girls of primary and lower secondary school age were out of school. The number rises to 52.2 million when considering girls of upper secondary school age. There is now a real risk of a lost generation of girls’ education.  As many as 16 million disadvantaged children may not return to school at all with secondary age girls most at risk of staying home or marrying early because their families have fallen into poverty. This is a global crisis. We must act as a global community to tackle it.

That is why the UK, Kenya, and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) are co-hosting the Global Education Summit on the 28th and 29th July, bringing world leaders together to invest in education to ensure that all children, with a particular focus on ensuring this includes all girls, are able to complete 12 years of quality education. The aim is to set GPE on a path to raising $5 billion over the next five years to transform education in the world’s most vulnerable countries. This will give 175 million more children the chance to learn: transforming the lives of those individuals, and their communities, for the better.

The Summit is a critical moment for world leaders to stand together and commit to protecting and increasing funding for education, to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 on education systems and to get the Education Sustainable Development Goal – SDG 4 – back on track.  Donor Partners will commit funding to the GPE – the UK has already announced that it will contribute £430 million over the next five years – and GPE partner countries will commit to prioritise domestic financing for education.

Investing in girls’ education is a game-changer for everyone. It boosts incomes and develops economies. With just one additional school year, a woman’s earnings can increase by a fifth. $28 trillion could be added to global GDP if women had the same role in the labour market as men. Investing in girls’ education also creates healthier and safer societies. A child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live beyond the age of 5 years, twice as likely to attend school themselves – and 50% more likely to be immunised.  If every girl went to secondary school, infant mortality could be cut in half, saving three million lives every year.  So it is clear, investing in girls’ education is a strong investment in all of our futures.

His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio will lead the Sierra Leone delegation at the summit, accompanied by Minister Sengeh and other members of his Cabinet.   The Summit will be an opportunity for Sierra Leone to showcase the steps that it is taking under the Free Quality School Education Initiative to ensure that all children are able to go to school and learn.  Sierra Leone will be able to share how it has applied lessons from Ebola to mitigate the disruptive impact of C19 on education; how it is committed to a policy of Radical Inclusion ensuring all children can go to school, no matter their gender, socio-economic background, ability, or reproductive status; and how it is one of the few countries in the world to have increased education’s share in the national budget through the pandemic. 

Sierra Leone will also be able to learn from the experiences of other delegations. The Summit will unite some of the world’s brightest minds and leading education innovators to exchange ideas on how we can collectively drive change and progress in tackling global challenges including the ambitious target of getting an additional 40 million children into school by 2026 and ensuring that every ten-year-old child can read and understand a simple story.

The UK is committed to working with the Government of Sierra Leone to take forward plans to implement these commitments here.  We strongly believe that quality education transforms not just the lives of girls, but of communities and future generations too.  Investing in education is not only the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense.  An inclusive system that supports all children, including the most marginalised will help to break cycles of poverty, and contribute to sustainable social and economic development.  

The pandemic risks undoing much of the great progress we have made so far. Now is the time for the global community to step up, fund education and improve access for girls. If we want to change the world for the better, girls’ education is a good place to start.

Notes to Editors

The Global Education Summit

  • The Global Education Summit (GES): Financing GPE 2021-2025 will take place on 28-29 July, with the UK Prime Minster and the President of Kenya as co-hosts. The Summit will take place in London as an in-person event, incorporating virtual and hybrid options. The donor funding target is $5 billion, a 20% increase on its last replenishment.
  • The Summit also seeks commitments from developing country partners to protect and increase their education expenditure. Kenya is leading on securing commitments from developing country partners in the run-up to the Summit, asking countries to endorse a declaration on domestic financing to education and to commit to allocate at least 20% of government expenditure to education over the next 5 years.
  • GPE is the largest global multilateral fund solely dedicated to education in developing countries. GPE aims to strengthen education systems in developing countries to dramatically increase the number of children who are in school and learning. GPE is particularly important in driving spend on basic education. GPE also incentivises governments who receive aid to increase domestic spending on education. Over 90 countries and territories with the greatest education needs are eligible for GPE funding and GPE targets the hardest-to-reach children in those settings.  Sierra Leone receives GPE funding and Minister Sengeh is currently a member of the GPE Board.
  • Since 2002, GPE has contributed to the largest expansion of primary and lower secondary schooling in history, supporting 160 million more children, including 82 million girls into school.  In GPE partner countries, enrolment for girls has increased by 65 percent and almost three quarters have achieved gender parity in school completion rates.
  • GPE mobilised the largest financial response to the education crisis posed by COVID-19, by providing over $500m worth of education grants to partner countries efforts to ensure continued learning, reopening of schools, and better recovery.  Sierra Leone benefited from additional GPE C19 funding.
  • A fully funded GPE replenishment will deliver funding to transform education in countries that are home to 1.1 billion school-aged girls and boys. The UK’s contribution, alongside that of 30 other donors, will help GPE partner countries train 2.2 million more teachers; build 78,000 new classrooms; and buy 512 million textbooks.
  • GPE’s approach of influencing national governments’ priorities and domestic financing for education, means that $5 billion will lever much more than these inputs. GPE hopes to enable 175 million girls and boys to learn; Reach 140 million students with professionally trained teachers; and save $16bn dollars through efficient education spending
  • The pandemic has worsened the education crisis, with an estimated additional 16 million children at risk of not returning to school, on top of the 258 million children who were out of school before the pandemic. At the height of the COVID-19 restrictions, 1.6 billion children were out of school.
  • Pandemic restrictions have not just affected children’s access to school – they have also affected learning. Children have now missed two thirds of an academic year, with estimates suggesting this could lead to lost earnings amounting to a tenth of global GDP. The most marginalised children are likely to be worst affected by the impacts of the pandemic.
  • Estimates suggest that the pandemic has increased the annual education financing gap from $148 billion to $200 billion.

UK Support for Education in Sierra Leone

  • The UK supports education through our in-country programmes, through multilateral spending (including our contributions to the World Bank, the Global Partnership for Education) and HQ managed programmes such as the Girls Education Challenge fund.
  • The UK’s main education in-country managed programme ‘Leh Wi Lan’ is a £69.6 million investment to support the delivery of improved secondary education, particularly for girls and children with disabilities.  It works closely alongside the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education to help develop and deliver policy reform.  Through Leh Wi Lan, the UK is supporting the Government of Sierra Leone’s flagship Free Quality School Education (FQSE) programme aimed at ensuring all children can complete a basic education. This includes driving up the quality of teaching and learning through initiatives such as teacher training, the provision of Pupil Handbooks and support to curriculum reform.
  • Through Leh Wi Lan, the UK has supported the safety of girls in government secondary schools. School safety committees have been established, and written safety guidelines are in all schools. These committees aim to identify, report and resolve incidence of violence or harmful behaviours, making schools a safer place for girls.
  • Girls and boys are empowered to understand their rights and develop life skills with the national roll-out of the Girls and Boys Clubs in schools.
    Schools have received solar radios pre-loaded with lessons on topics such as reproduction and family planning, and sexual and physical violence.
  • In Sierra Leone, adolescent girls miss up to the 20% of their school year due to menstruation. To address this, Leh Wi Lan has distributed individual menstrual hygiene kits to 300,000 girls across more than 2,650 junior and senior secondary schools nationwide.
  • Leh Wi Lan is coming to an end in 2022 and the UK government is already in discussion with MBSSE to discuss plans for a follow on programme focussed on helping to implement the Radical Inclusion Policy.

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