The $26 billion needed to achieve universal primary education is spent each week on military activities by countries across the globe, according to education campaigners.
The startling statistic was revealed at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) summit in Qatar, as global leaders debated how to reduce the 58 million children of primary school age currently not receiving an education.
Just weeks before the Millennium Development Goals deadline for achieving universal primary education will expire, the conference heard how $26 billion – the annual investment needed to get all children into primary school classrooms – equates to just six and two-thirds days of global military spending.
Mozambique politician and campaigner Graça Machel called for “concerted political will” to see more funding diverted to education. “It’s not that the world doesn’t have the resources,” she added.
Thomas Gass, the United Nations’ (UN) assistant general secretary for policy coordination and inter-agency affairs, said he expected that, even by the end of 2015, as many as 55 million children will still be out of school.
Alice Albright, chief executive of the Global Partnership for Education, said that education aid funding had dropped “precipitously”, by 5 per cent each year since 2009.
“We are actually in danger of losing progress,” she said. “The number [of children not receiving a primary education] used to be 57 million, it’s now back up to 58 million. That’s something that ought to be a real wake-up call.”
Esther McFarlane, a member of a UN youth advocacy group for education, said young people have become “disillusioned” at the slow progress towards universal education.
“We’ve heard the struggles, we’ve heard [about] the lack of resources, we’ve heard [about] all the barriers… How long is it going to take us to get to where we really want to be? If we’re talking about achieving this in 2030, that’s another 15 years of losing the potential of young people.”
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