In the wake of the New Coronavirus outbreak and its impact on education globally, President Paul Kagame has called for increased funding and the need to ensure that learning is safely restored as countries around the world look to resume education even as the pandemic remains around.
President Kagame made the observations on Thursday while participating in the virtual UNESCO Global Education Meeting which was aimed at canvassing for global efforts to urgently strengthen learning and protect finance for education.
The meeting was attended by global leaders including President Nana Akufo-Addo, the President of Ghana, Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, Co-Chairs of the SDG Advocates Group and the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, among others.
“Our countries are in the midst of determining how to safely re-launch learning in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and mitigate the longer-term effects on education outcomes,”
“The priority actions outlined by UNESCO cover the key areas requiring our urgent attention. Ensuring the health and safety of learners is paramount,” President Kagame said.
The Head of State pointed out that stakes are very high for African countries, where the youth population is growing, which will require finding creative ways to not only protect education financing, but also increase it.
“In Rwanda, we are counting on close collaboration between national stakeholders, including clear communication with citizens, to help us stay focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,”
“International cooperation with UNESCO, the African Union, and other global partners, is an important part of these efforts,” he pointed out.
Norwegian Prime Minister Solberg said that as countries start to reopen in the era of COVID-19, education must come first.
“We cannot slow down our efforts to save the future of 24 million children and youth who are at risk of dropping out,” Solberg said.
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in a UNESCO-led Policy Brief, said that an unprecedented education crisis is looming over millions of learners across the planet, as a result of the New Coronavirus outbreak.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created the most severe disruption to global education systems in history, forcing more than 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries out of school at the peak of the crisis, according to the UN.
“It threatens the future of a generation with 24 million children and youth at risk of dropping out. This pandemic has brought to light already-existing challenges to education that have not adequately addressed for far too long,”
“It has highlighted alarming inequalities within and across countries that must be tackled urgently in order to guarantee everyone’s fundamental right to quality education,” the brief reads.
Guterres said that from financing education to reopening schools safely, the world must immediately set priority actions for the recovery and strengthening of education systems around five themes considered key to the COVID-19 response.
Globally, the share of education in public budgets has remained constant at about 14.5% for the past two decades.
The UN warns that with the economic impact of COVID-19, government capacity to raise revenues will be seriously tested, while education is expected to continue to face stiff competition from other sectors.
The financial downturn will put increasing pressure on national education budgets and aid to education at a time when higher funding is required for the recovery.
According UNESCO’s estimates based on data from the IMF and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), even if the budget share allocated to education remains stable, public spending could drop by 8% (US$210 billion) and aid to education could fall by 12% (US$337 billion).
The 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report estimated that annual spending on education was at US$4.7 trillion worldwide: Governments account for 79.3% of total spending, households for 20.4% and donors for 0.3% globally (12% in low-income countries).
Reopen schools safely
Countries across the globe are gradually reopening or planning for the reopening of schools after several months of closure to curb the spread of the virus.
Protecting the physical and mental health of students, teachers and school personnel and preparing for a potential viral resurgence remain the top concerns.
Additional challenges to be addressed include the consequences of prolonged social isolation, both on the education system and on the school community.
Rwanda has gradually began reopening schools, with some universities already allowing students to resume studies this month but majority of the students, beginning with higher classes, will return to school from November 2.