UN International Day of Education

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:21 pm on 28th January 2021.

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Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Labour, Liverpool, Riverside 4:21 pm, 28th January 2021

I too welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate today. Covid-19 is steadily turning the global learning crisis into a catastrophe, both at home and abroad. Existing inequalities are widening at a terrifying rate, threatening to leave behind a lost generation and undo decades of progress.

Currently, 1.6 billion children and young people globally are suffering from educational disruption, risking the future of the world’s most marginalised children, and this is particularly so for girls and children with disabilities. Educational development enriches society and minds. It could be a lifeline to those from disadvantaged backgrounds and it paves the way to a thriving, more enriched and liberated society for all to enjoy and to prosper in.

Even before the coronavirus, UNESCO estimated that 258 million children and young people were out of school around the world, and millions more were attending school but not learning the basics. Once again, I ask the Minister to commit to uphold the current aid commitment of 0.7% of gross national income, at a time when coronavirus is throwing decades of progress on poverty, healthcare and education into reverse. Not to do so is a dangerous decision for millions of the poorest people around the world. We have a moral responsibility to support them.

These cuts are most likely to effect the children who are already the most marginalised, impacting support for refugees and the internally displaced, supported children with disabilities and specialist programmes to keep girls in school, and displacement from climate change due to crop failure and famine. Natural disasters and conflict over resources is another key disruption to education. Those displaced face significant barriers, including saturated school capacity, destroyed infrastructure, linguistic barriers and discrimination.

Pushing ahead with further cuts to our aid budget, this Government are yet again turning their back on those most in need. If covid has taught us one thing, it is that we have responsibility for each other. It is a recognition that, when children in one country are left without an education, we all are poorer as a result. Education is the defining factor in building a fairer, more prosperous society. It is the foundation for building a better future with global development, peace and prosperity at its heart. It is a power to change lives. Will the Government take the opportunity today to demonstrate global leadership in their commitments to funding education for those most vulnerable, marginalised and desperate children in conflict and crisis settings by increasing their aid allocation to education to 15%, and will they utilise our position as president of the G7 and COP26 to encourage other donors to step up and increase their funding too?