UAE is a global advocate for education and youth

Every child has the right to learn

Even before the pandemic gripped the world, the education scenario globally was far from ideal. Despite decades of hard-won progress in education for all children, millions more across the world needed to be in school, studying and improving their prospects for life. In 2018, the estimate was that globally more than 258 million children and adolescents were out of school, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco). In April last year, when Covid-19 upended all our lives, perhaps one of the biggest developmental setbacks was that the virus endangered decades of progress made in global education – last year, close to 1.6 billion children and youth were out of school.

The worst affected continued to be pupils in developing countries, for whom the chances of an education, and thus a life rid of poverty, were slipping away by them remaining out of the classroom. And an unfortunate reality is that girls are rendered especially disadvantaged in developing countries. The pandemic further exacerbated reasons why so many – 129 million girls worldwide, according to the UN – had to stay home.

It is up to wealthier countries to ease the obstacles in the path of every girl's progress. In fact, a former president of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete recently called it the “moral duty” of wealthy nations to invest in the education of children in the developing world.

At last week's Global Education Summit in London, where people such as Malala Yousafzai and the WHO's Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, spoke, these challenges that stand in the way of education for all – as per the fourth UN Sustainable Development Goal – formed a part of the discussion. The aim of the summit was to raise at least $5 billion to support the work of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the largest global fund to transform education in lower-income countries.

To this end, the UAE has pledged Dh367 million ($100m) to the GPE. In a promising development, over the next five years, the Emirates will support educational programmes in developing countries – prioritising the plight of girls. Reem Al Hashimy, the UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation, rightly said that children's education is a priority when it comes to foreign aid for developing countries around the world.

The UAE is a long-standing supporter and advocate of education, providing aid where needed, for years. Previously, in 2018, the Emirates pledged $100m to support the GPE, in Dakar, Senegal. And in January 2019, to mark International Education Day, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development granted Dh2.5 billion for 129 projects in the education sector across 14 developing countries.

These instances illustrate the importance of the point Dr Tedros made last week at the summit when he said that investment was needed to provide safe schooling in the age of the pandemic. "The pandemic has hit the world’s children hard," Dr Tedros said. "This has magnified inequities for already marginalised children, especially girls."

When Ms Al Hashimy talks of developing the skills women, girls, and youth needed for long-term success, it is necessary that we listen and do what is in our individual capacities to make sure every child has the opportunity to overcome socioeconomic disadvantages and get his or her due – fundamentally, the right to learn and the right to a good education.

Published: August 1st 2021, 3:00 AM