As part of the Partnership Day of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Financing Conference (Dakar, 1-2 February 2018), the Education Systems’ Strengthening Task Team of the Regional Coordination Group on SDG4-ED2030 (RCG4) organized a panel on “Financing Education in West and Central Africa”. The Directors of the Education Commission and Education Cannot Wait, together with the Head of UNESCO’s IIEP-Pole de Dakar and the UNICEF Regional Education Adviser, shared insights on education financing in the region within development and humanitarian contexts, and discussed future prospects in light of SDG4-ED2030.
Whereas States in West and Central Africa (WCA) are making important budgetary efforts towards the improvement of their education systems, reaching on average 24.5% of recurrent public expenditure on education, serious funding gaps are still looming and improvements in efficient spending and equitable allocation are necessary. External aid for education in WCA has been declining in the sub-region, down to 0.51% of GDP in 2015. These funding gaps translate into an increasing share of education expenditure borne by households – close to 50% in some countries – and imperil the provision of equitable access and relevant learning outcomes for all.
Particularly challenging in WCA is the financing of education in humanitarian contexts, despite education being lifesaving, restoring a sense of normality and security for children and youth, and providing a key entry point for other sectors providing humanitarian responses such as protection, health, or nutrition. Evidence shows that education is not prioritized in humanitarian appeals and is the most underfunded sector in humanitarian response, with WCA presenting the worst situation including several protracted crises. Although volumes of education financing in humanitarian situations have been increasing, they are still significantly below needs.
After presenting the challenges faced by the region, the panelists discussed the way forward, proposing some concrete avenues for reflection based on recommendations from the Education Commission Report and the Education 2030 Framework for Action among others. As the primary responsibility for education provision rests with national governments, it will be crucial not only to mobilize increased domestic resources but to improve their effectiveness and efficiency. Ensuring an equitable distribution of these resources to benefit first and foremost the most at risk of not learning is equally critical.
Other recommendations included developing innovative funding mechanisms, for example through Public Private Partnership in TVET and Higher education, or a Multilateral Development Bank (MDB) investment mechanism for education. Also identified as critical is the need to increase international financing and enhance its effectiveness through harmonization, better coordination and building new alliances, while supporting the capacity of countries to disburse funds. With regard to humanitarian contexts, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) was created to respond innovatively to financing gaps. The Fund will increase its focus on WCA in the coming years not only by bringing in increased resources (directly or as a result of advocacy), but also by promoting a different way of doing education in emergencies, with increased coordination, joint programming and better accountability.
These fruitful and timely discussions will feed into current reflections on education financing as part of the Education Systems’ Strengthening Task Team’s activities towards the integration of SDG4 into national education planning.
Coordination & further information: Lily Neyestani-Hailu, Chair of the Regional Education Systems’ Strengthening Task Team (ESST)