UK and Kenya to host education summit in 2021

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Students in class at a primary school in Nyeri County, Kenya. Photo by: Kelley Lynch / GPE

LONDON — The United Kingdom and Kenya announced they will co-host a major summit next year to raise funds for the Global Partnership for Education as it seeks a $5 billion replenishment.

It comes as campaigners warn that students around the world are facing the biggest education emergency in decades, as schools have closed and economies contracted, putting pressure on children to seek work.

“Since coronavirus struck, the number of children out of school around the world soared past 1.3 billion. It is a toll of wasted potential and missed opportunity that is a tragedy not just for those children, but for each and every one of us,” said U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He added: “Education unlocks doors to opportunity and prosperity. It offers girls a ticket out of poverty and exploitation to chart their own futures.”

Promoting girls’ education has been a core development objective of the U.K.’s governing Conservative Party, and is one of the key areas that government ministers say are protected from aid budget cuts.

Johnson urged the international community to “come together, dig deep, and ensure we fund their [GPE’s] vital work to give every child the chance at an education.”

GPE works with a wide range of stakeholders to improve access to quality education in lower-income countries, using a model focused on working closely with national governments, who must also commit to raising domestic resources for education.

The U.K. has been a key donor to the group, pledging £225 million ($293 million) for 2018-2021, although that figure was lower than many had hoped for at the time. 

The funds from GPE’s new replenishment will help educate 175 million children across 87 lower-income countries, according to a release.

Speaking about the summit, which will be held in the U.K., Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said: “An educated population is a country’s most valuable resource. GPE has been a key partner in helping us invest in innovative solutions to get all our children, especially girls, learning. We must use the opportunity of GPE’s financing conference to make ambitious pledges to invest in quality education so our children and young people have the skills and knowledge they need to seize the opportunities of the 21st century.”

The announcement was broadly welcomed by the development sector in the U.K.

“We need urgent investment to overcome this crisis. The UK Government has already shown itself to be a world leader in girls’ education, and today’s announcement builds on this commitment by promising to bring governments together to fill the massive funding gaps in education across the world,” said Rose Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International UK, in a statement.

She added: “As the world responds to the pandemic, the UK’s global leadership is more important than ever. The Government must now make good on its strong commitment to support twelve years of quality education for every girl around the world by making an early financial pledge to the fund, together with a promise to increase UK Aid for education to 15 per cent. For millions of girls living in crisis, this support will be a lifeline.”

About the author

  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process. He can be reached at william.worley@devex.com.