SOME of the world’s poorest children are missing out on vital education in the first few years of their lives because of a woeful lack of investment, a global children’s charity warns today.
A commitment to devote just 10% of education budgets to the early years would reap quick dividends, placing millions more children around the world into pre-primary education, according to Theirworld.
Only one in four children aged three to five attend some form of pre-school education in sub-Saharan, West and Central Africa, falling to less than 2% for the poorest children in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This compares to 94% in the UK or other rich countries.
Research shows that 90% of a child’s brain development takes place before a child turns five, yet education for the under-fives is chronically underfunded, especially in the world’s poorest countries.
In a typical year, governments spend 6.6% of their education budgets on early childhood education, falling to 3% in poorer regions. Countries that provide international aid for education contribute less than one per cent of education aid to pre-primary education.
The Global Partnership for Education (GPE), one of the major funds for education in lower-income countries, held a board meeting as it builds its strategy through 2025.
The decisions made this year will determine how billions of dollars in education financing will be spent.
Theirworld is urging GPE to recognize the 10% target for early childhood education in its new funding strategy. It also wants all national sector plans to include early education.
Hundreds of people from more than 75 countries across the globe have added their name to the charity’s campaign to get the GPE to increase investment in early years education.
Justin van Fleet, President of Theirworld, said:“Every child has a right to a quality and inclusive education, starting with good quality preschools, playgroups or nurseries. So it is a tragedy that around the world 175 million children are denied this right because of a chronic lack of funding in early years education.”
“Countries have already agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals so it’s important to acknowledge the costs to achieve them. It’s time for governments, donors and international agencies to prioritise quality early childhood education – and we’re calling for at least 10% of education budgets to be dedicated to the education of young children. The youngest children are just learning to speak – so we need to speak up for them. And the GPE board members have a unique opportunity to lead on this issue.”