Disadvantaged children in three African countries to enjoy $50m education grant

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is working to improve education prospects for the world’s most disadvantaged children using newly raised funds. Grant approvals by the GPE Board of Directors in the seven months since the successful Financing Conference in Senegal in February have reached almost $300 million. At the conference, donors pledged $2.3 billion for 2018 through 2020 to support the organisation that works with more than 65 developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education. Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone and Somalia will receive grants of more than $50 million from the new funding.

“GPE is putting this new education financing to work so that all children can go to school and get a quality education,” said Julia Gillard, Board Chair, Global Partnership for Education. “We are turning the global momentum in support of education into concrete action, helping countries strengthen their education systems that will be the backbone of their future prosperity and stability.”

Recently, the sum of $55.7 million was approved for Bhutan, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Zimbabwe, following a first set of grants of $95.3 million approved in March for Cambodia, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Madagascar. A second set of more than $45 million had also come in May for Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Chad, Comoros and Somalia.

The latest grants build on progress from earlier GPE support for the implementation of national education plans in the countries that are beneficiaries of the grant. According to GPE, they have met the requirements for its funding, which include the development of quality plans, commitment to increase domestic financing for education and a strategy for improved data collection.

“GPE’s results-based funding model also means that 30 percent of the funding for Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe will only be disbursed once the countries have met agreed results to improve equity, efficiency and learning,” a statement by the organisation says, adding “This does not apply to Somalia, because of the country’s vulnerable circumstances, and for Bhutan, because of the small size of the grant.”

The GPE in a statement noted that several of the beneficiaries, which are low-income countries, are in the midst of conflict or just emerging from difficult times and have a growing school-age population.

The GPE Board has also approved close to $100 million in allocations to 11 countries from the GPE Multiplier, the organisation’s new innovative financing instrument. The funding is set to leverage more than $400 million in additional financing for these countries.

“The GPE Multiplier has quickly gained traction and is successfully crowding in significantly more investment for education,” said Alice Albright, GPE’s Chief Executive Officer. “It demonstrates that developing countries and donor partners want creative and flexible mechanisms to address local education challenges. The new Multiplier is another example of how GPE continues to evolve to deliver impact and extend its role as a leading catalyst of progress toward the Sustainable Development Goal to educate all the world’s children by 2030.”

Sierra Leone will receive a grant of $17.2 million, which will focus on strengthening the country’s early learning program for children between 3 and 5 years and on improving reading, writing and math skills of children in grades 1 through 3. It will also strengthen school monitoring, improve data management and support a new learning assessment unit in the education ministry. To receive the results-based portion of the grant, Sierra Leone must increase pre-primary education in underserved areas, reduce the repetition rate in first grade and improve how learning is measured. The improvements will be monitored by UNICEF, the GPE grant agent in Sierra Leone.

Somalia’s grant of $17.9 million will help eliminate fees that keep the poorest children from attending school and enroll more children from marginalized groups. The grant will improve the quality of schooling through teacher training, textbook distribution and the development of new learning standards. It will also provide Somalia with essential resources to improve administrative capacity and education data monitoring and learning assessments.

Zimbabwe will receive a grant of $18.8 million, including $10 million from the GPE Multiplier, which Zimbabwe has leveraged to raise an additional $50.5 million from other donors. The funding will be used for a school grant program to improve around 1,000 schools in disadvantaged and rural areas. In addition, it will support a new learning curriculum and teacher training to improve learning outcomes and student retention. To receive the results-based portion of the grant, Zimbabwe must improve transition rates to lower secondary school in districts where many children drop out after primary school, ensure that more girls complete lower secondary school and improve math skills across the country. UNICEF serves as the grant agent.

Most countries in Africa do not invest enough in education, which is key to developing the capacity of the continent’s growing youth population. The activities of organisations like GPE will go a long way in helping partner countries build stronger education systems and ultimately a better future.