Global Partnership for Education


Sir, – The right to education is the fourth of the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals.

Ireland and the Irish people’s commitment to helping others achieve that right stretches back nearly 1,500 years.

St Columbanus was one of many Irish monks in the first millennium to leave Ireland and travel across Europe in the Dark Ages, preserving and restoring the cultural heritage of Europe, establishing centres of learning in Bobbio in Italy, and Luxueil in France, among many.

The city of St Gallen in Switzerland was founded as a centre of learning by St Gallus, an Irish monk, inspired by Columbanus.

It is not possible to count the number of schools that have been set up and run by Irish missionaries across the world.

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and UN high commissioner for human rights, in 2016 said of missionaries: “Both directly and through their networks they focus on education for the girl child, female genital mutilation, pregnancy and child-birth services, early marriage of girls, the vulnerability of women and girls especially in human trafficking, and psycho-social supports during crises such as Ebola and HIV.”

Today, missionaries and many NGOs, like Plan International, continue to improve education opportunities and learning for children in the poorest and most challenging parts of the world.

In West Africa, with Irish Aid funding, Plan International Ireland works with teachers and governments to improve curricula, develop learning materials and work locally to improve literacy and numeracy, for all children; girls, boys, minority groups and children with disabilities.

With 264 million children out of school globally, another 162 million not getting beyond primary education, and 617 million not achieving even minimum proficiency in reading and writing, the case for increased investment in education is strong.

Over 3.5 million refugee children, forced from their home countries by war, are not in school. Without education, the already perilous future for these children, is threatened further.

In 2011, 15 per cent of Ireland’s overseas aid was invested in education. In 2015, this was only 11 per cent. It is time to reverse the trend. And right now is a good time to do it.

Tomorrow and Friday, in Dakar, Senegal, Ireland will have the opportunity, along with other wealthy nations, philanthropies and corporations, to pledge funds to the Global Partnership for Education, which supports education for the poorest and most marginalised.

If Ireland were to step up its contribution to this fund, it would send a message to the other world leaders of Ireland’s continued commitment to education across the world. It could inspire others to do likewise. – Yours, etc,


Head of Programmes,

Plan International Ireland,

Harrington Street,

Dublin 8.