Ireland increases overseas aid as part of global drive to boost education access

Colm Brophy says aid budget rising this year, despite the economic shock from Covid-19

Syrian refugees revise their lessons inside their family’s tent at a refugee camp in  Lebanon. The Irish government has announced it will increase overseas aid aimed at boosting access to education for millions of children in developing countries. Photograph: Joseph Eid/AFP

Syrian refugees revise their lessons inside their family’s tent at a refugee camp in Lebanon. The Irish government has announced it will increase overseas aid aimed at boosting access to education for millions of children in developing countries. Photograph: Joseph Eid/AFP

 

The Government has announced an increase in overseas aid aimed at boosting access to education for millions of children in developing countries.

Minister of State for overseas development Colm Brophy said Ireland has pledged €60 million in aid to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) for the period 2021 to 2025. This represented an increase of 44 per cent over its previous aid commitment to the organisation, he said.

GPE is an international partnership and fund that supports children’s learning in the developing world by making improvements in countries’ education systems. The funding announcement comes ahead of a summit meeting of GPE in July, which is being jointly organised by the UK and Kenya.

Mr Brophy said Ireland’s funding will contribute to getting 88 million more children into school, ensuring that 140 million students are taught by qualified teachers and that 175 million children receive a quality education.

“Reaching the most marginalised children is a priority for GPE and for Ireland. This includes children with disabilities, those from poor and vulnerable households and internally displaced and refugee children,” he said.

Education for girls

Mr Brophy said the Government was earmarking €10 million of Ireland’s pledge for a special initiative to boost access to education for girls.

“Girls’ education is essential if we are to tackle the world’s major challenges,” he said.

Last year Ireland launched the ‘drive for five’ initiative, the aims of which include access to 12 years of free education, supportive schools and gender responsive curricula, relevant education and skills, ensuring girls are safe from violence, and keeping girls healthy and in school.

Mr Brophy said the new “girls’ education accelerator” initiative can provide the extra support needed for overcoming barriers where girls are lagging behind. Among the likely recipient countries are Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Sierra Leone.

He made the pledge during an event on girls’ education featuring Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and former prime minister of Australia Julia Gillard.

GPE is the only education partnership and fund dedicated to achieving quality education in lower-income countries. The partnership is seeking to raise at least $5 billion (€4.2 billion) to transform education for up to one billion children in 90 countries and territories over the next five years.

Mr Brophy added that the Government has increased its overall aid budget this year, despite the economic shock posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Latest official figures for 2019 show Irish overseas aid was 0.32 per cent of our Gross National Income. Ireland has committed to reaching the UN target of 0.7 per cent by 2030.