What assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 pandemic on progress in implementing the Government’s policy on ensuring that girls throughout the world receive 12 years of quality education.
About 650 million girls were removed from primary and secondary education at the pandemic’s peak, and some risk dropping out of school permanently, so we must mobilise global investment and commitment to get education back on track and defeat the global learning crisis. The UK is proud to be co-hosting the Global Partnership for Education 2021 financing conference. We have adapted our education aid programming, and have committed new funding to UNICEF, Education Cannot Wait and the United Nations Population Fund to address the impacts of covid-19 on women and girls. We will use our presidency of the G7 next year to rally the international community for greater support for girls’ education.
I certainly welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday about the summit on global education. One reason girls are prevented from receiving education is that they are forced into child marriage. A recent Save the Children report revealed that a further 2.5 million girls are at risk of being forced into marriage by 2025 because of the current pandemic. With that in mind, will the Minister assure me that the FCDO will ensure that programmes to end the heinous practice of child marriage are at the centre of international development strategy?
My hon. Friend raises an important point, and ending child marriage is key to delivering the Prime Minister’s commitment of championing 12 years of quality education for girls. Since 2015, our £39 million flagship programme has helped to reach just under 40 million people with information designed to change attitudes towards child marriage. The UK will continue to use its development programmes and global leadership to end child marriage.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke about his manifesto commitment that every child should have the best possible chance to have an education, yet development spending on primary education has been cut by more than 27% this year, which is evidence of a Government without a strategic direction who cannot be trusted to deliver on their rhetoric. Will the Minister tell us whether the Prime Minister is aware that the Foreign Secretary is cancelling and postponing programmes that would enable girls to have a safe education, such as the one investing in adolescent girls in Rwanda?
The UK is a world leader in both our educational expertise and our development spend, and during the official development assistance prioritisation process difficult but necessary decisions were made to meet our 0.7% ODA commitment. However, the process has ensured continued support and commitment to ODA priorities, including girls’ education. On Rwanda, the issue was raised with the Prime Minister at the Liaison Committee. A tough decision was taken, but the UK has protected schools and education spending across the world. We continue to support women and girls in Rwanda to have a decent education, and our spend in the country is expected to total approximately £13.6 million.