With 22 million children out of school in Pakistan alone – and 222 million crisis-impacted children in need of education support worldwide – the time is now to fund education for the world’s most vulnerable children.
The futures of millions of Pakistani children have been wiped away by the massive floods that wreaked havoc across our nation, took thousands of lives and destroyed over 22,000 schools.
This disaster – no doubt made exponentially worse by human-made climate change, environmental degradation and limited coping mechanisms – is just one of many playing out across the globe that are putting children at grave risk and derailing progress toward the promises we have made through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
European leadership is essential in addressing the converging impacts of climate change, conflict, displacement and other protracted crises which are putting the futures of 222 million children and youth worldwide at risk.
Education – with its power to transform minds, build strong economies and promote peace – is the single best investment we can make in addressing these crises and fulfilling our promises to end poverty and hunger and ensure education for all, as outlined in the SDGs.
Imagine what the future holds for the children of Pakistan – and the millions of refugees we host – if we do nothing?
There are an estimated 22.8 million children out of school in Pakistan; that’s about double the total population of Belgium. We are also the third-largest refugee hosting country in the world, with over 1.4 million Afghan refugees seeking asylum within our borders.
While we are making efforts to provide every girl and boy living here with the safety, protection, hope and opportunity that only a quality education can provide, we are falling behind.
Just over half of the children in Pakistan (57%) are able to attend primary school, and just three out of ten make it on to secondary education.
Girls face even greater risks and marginalization. About 20% of girls will drop out of school after the sixth grade – increasing risks of child marriage, teen pregnancy and other forms of gender-based violence.
Climate change is one of the single biggest threats today, and it’s inextricably linked with education. Every year, this crisis – completely of our own making – is impacting the education of 40 million children.
This isn’t just a problem for Pakistan, this isn’t just a problem for developing countries, this is a problem for the world.
We must invest in the education of these girls and boys. It’s the single best investment we could make in building a new world order built on peace, equality, opportunity and humanity. For the people of Pakistan, it’s our only hope.
The European Commission has been a global leader in providing education for children and adolescents worldwide – especially the most vulnerable.
To continue European leadership – and protect the interests of the people of Europe both at home and abroad – it is essential that the EC step up funding to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG4, which calls for education for all.
This February in Geneva, the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), will host a High-Level Financing Conference. The Conference builds on the momentum of the recent Transforming Education Summit and provides donors, the private sector and other education champions with the chance to stand and be counted.
Speaking for the people of Pakistan – and for the 222 million children worldwide that need urgent education support – I am calling on the European Commission to pledge at least €160 million over the next four years to ECW.
This funding will directly support over 2 million children and youth affected by crises in receiving holistic education supports, including access to mental health services, school feeding programmes, disaster risk reduction training and other cross-cutting supports.
This is about keep promises. This commitment will bring the EU closer to achieving its target of investing 13% of its development budget in education, as announced at the 2022 Transforming Education Summit.
The future of the world hangs in the balance. Education is our only hope to save humanity from the unimaginable impacts of climate-induced disasters, massive displacement, wars, attacks on girls, and other assaults on our collective humanity that are pushing us toward oblivion. Join me and Members of Parliament worldwide, in calling for renewed support for these 222 million dreams.