UN Sec.-Gen calls for increased budget in education as countries reopen school
By Unekwuojo O
Aug.4, 2020 – UN Secretary-General, António Guterres has recommended that countries increase and protect education budgets as they move to reopen schools which have been closed for months due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Guterres made the recommendation in a video message to get children back in the classroom in a policy brief launched alongside a new global campaign called Save our Future .
The policy brief calls for action in four key areas, starting with the re-opening of schools once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control.
The UN chief called for greater investment in education, as low- and middle-income countries had already faced an annual funding gap of $1.5 trillion prior to the pandemic.
Describing education as the key to personal development and the future of societies, Guterres said, “We must take bold steps now, to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.
“We must take bold steps now, to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.
"As the world faces unsustainable levels of inequality, we need education – the great equalizer – more than ever.
“Education budgets need to be protected and increased.
“And it is critical that education is at the heart of international solidarity efforts, from debt management and stimulus packages to global humanitarian appeals and official development assistance,” Guterres said.
Guterres said education initiatives must also seek to reach those at greatest risk of being left behind, he continued.
They also should be sensitive to the specific challenges faced by girls and boys, and women and men, while also addressing the digital divide, the UN Chief added.
The UN estimates that the pandemic has affected more than one billion students worldwide.
According to the UN Chief, despite efforts to continue learning during the crisis, including through delivering lessons by radio, television and online, many are still not being reached.
Guterres however noted that learners with disabilities, members of minority or disadvantaged communities, as well as refugees and displaced persons, are among those at highest risk of being left behind.
He said that even students who can access distance learning face challenges, as success depends on their living conditions, and other factors such as fair distribution of domestic duties.
Guterres says a potential catastrophe looms the education sector as a learning crisis existed even before the pandemic, with more than 250 million children out of school.
He added that furthermore, only a quarter of secondary school children in developing countries were leaving school with basic skills.
“Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.
“The knock-on effects on child nutrition, child marriage and gender equality, among others, are deeply concerning.”
Guterres in his final recommendation highlighted what he sees as the “generational opportunity” to deliver quality education for all children, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He said the 17 goals, which world leaders adopted five years ago, provide a pathway to a more sustainable future that benefits both people and the planet.
“To achieve this, we need investment in digital literacy and infrastructure, an evolution towards learning how to learn.
“A rejuvenation of life-long learning and strengthened links between formal and non-formal education.
“And we need to draw on flexible delivery methods, digital technologies and modernized curricula while ensuring sustained support for teachers and communities,” Guterres said.