World Bank Corrects Course with $750 Million to Education

Advocates push for frontloading monies

The World Bank announced today $750 million in additional investments between now and 2015 to achieve universal primary education. The funding, announced at the United Nations Summit by World Bank Senior Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is intended to focus on countries in South Asia and Africa unlikely to achieve universal primary school completion and gender parity in education by the deadline set five years from now.

This commitment by the World Bank to increase its education funding for poor countries comes on the heels of a report released in June by RESULTS Educational Fund, which found that the World Bank’s education investments have been decreasing in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa’s share of total Bank education financing for the world’s poorest dropped from an average of 44 percent in 2002 to 28 percent in 2010 despite being the region the farthest off-track to reach the education goals.

“While we applaud this announcement of new investments in basic education, the World Bank must ensure that these funds are in the form of grants and go to the countries that need them the most, especially in Africa” stated Joanne Carter, executive director for RESULTS Educational Fund. “And if the Bank wants to help accelerate progress toward universal primary education, they need to frontload this funding over three years and not trickle it out over five, as the Bank has suggested. The world’s poorest kids cannot and should not have to wait. Let’s make this money count now.”

Given decreasing aid to education and shrinking domestic revenues, this announcement from the Bank is a welcome signal that it is recommitting to basic education in the poorest countries. Okonjo-Iweala made the announcement during the Millennium Development Goal Summit at an event organized by the Global Campaign for Education stating, “with our new commitment, the World Bank is redoubling our efforts to help poor countries reach the education MDGs.”

Yet, with 72 million children still without access to education, and a global education funding gap equal to $16 billion, the additional funding from the World Bank of $150 million per year over the next five years represents less than 1/100 of the total global need. In Africa alone, one out of every three children is missing a primary education, and Africa faces an annual financing gap of $10 billion for education.

“While certainly a step in the right direction, these funds will not come close to resourcing universal primary education,” continued Carter. “The US and other donors should view the Bank’s investment as a wake up call and step up to commit the resources needed to achieve Education for All. There’s nothing more effective we can do to deliver on all of the MDGs. ”

To read RESULTS Educational Fund’s report, World Bank Financing for Education: Less or More for the Poor in IDA 16?, please visit www.results.org/publications/reports/