51 million more kids are going to school in sub-Saharan Africa since 1999

Many countries that have experienced a surge in primary school enrollment have not been able to make adequate investments in quality, such as recruiting and training teachers, expanding classrooms and purchasing materials. Sub-Saharan Africa faces the most pressing need for teachers, with 1.1 million more needed in order to reach the goal of universal primary education (UPE) by 2015.

In a dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, there are more than 50 students for every one trained teacher. As a result of deficiencies like these, learning outcomes across the developing world remain low and many children go through primary school without gaining a minimum level of literacy and math skills.

Moreover, in countries where classrooms are crowded, supplies are scarce and the opportunities to move on to secondary school limited, many children drop out before graduating. Primary completion is especially poor in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 70% of children who enter first grade go on to graduate.

In addition to debt relief, donors have acknowledged that they have a vital ongoing role to play in supporting governments who commit to the goal of expanding access to education. At the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000, donors and developing countries set forth the goals of Education for All (EFA) and established 2015 as a target date for achieving Universal Primary Education. They also made a commitment: if developing countries committed the political and financial resources to providing free and compulsory primary education by 2015 and created credible and achievable education plans, donors would provide the technical know-how and extra funding needed to make it happen. The agreement was reaffirmed at three subsequent G8 summits, including the 2008 summit in Hokkaido.

These agreements gave rise to the first-ever global compact on education in 2002. Formerly known as the Fast Track Initiative, the Global Partnership for Education is a partnership between donors and developing countries to accelerate progress toward a quality primary education for all. The Global Partnership coordinates increased bilateral and multilateral funding for countries whose education plans have been technically vetted and endorsed by a team of policy experts and donor countries. Partner countries made some notable progress towards universal primary education in the past few years. Between 2002 and 2009, 19 million more children were enrolled in school in Global Partnership countries worldwide. Despite these encouraging results, the Global Partnership faces persistent funding shortfalls. Donor leadership in education is needed for the Global Partnership to finance its multilateral fund, encourage bilateral support for education, and provide predictable funding for education plans in partner countries over the next three years.