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On Tuesday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus and the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson joined together to present the G8 with one simple request: send every child to school.

In an open letter to the leaders of the G8 countries, the group asked for the G8 to commit to launching a Global Fund for Education. The proposal comes from a pledge made by President Obama himself.

The letter reads:

We are heartened by the commitment of the United States President, Barack Obama, to provide a contribution of at least $2 billion dollars to a Global Fund for Education which would help to eliminate the global education deficit by 2015. Such a bold and ambitious plan should be endorsed by other members of the G8 through a public commitment to such an initiative, which must be launched before the end of the year with full funding. A Global Fund for Education would ensure that the funding shortfall is no longer the main impediment to progress on basic education, and moreover that those investments have the greatest impact on access to and quality of education.

Putting every child in school seems like a tall order, but history has shown that remarkable progress is possible with a combination of dedicated government investment and international support. Ethiopia, for example, was able to double its enrollment rates between 1999 and 2007, leading to a total of 3.3 million more children in school. Increased government spending on education, incentives for girls to enroll and the construction of schools in rural areas all contributed to this impressive progress. Across Africa, stories like this have resulted in 34 million more children in school since 1999.

A Global Fund for Education could help replicate successes like Ethiopia’s by helping to galvanize new momentum toward basic education and reverse the declining investment the sector by international donors. This is more vital than ever given the current global financial climate. In many countries, expenditure on sectors like health and education will be one of the first victims of stretched government budgets, and a skilled, educated workforce will be one of the key ingredients to recovery and fueling long-term economic growth.

We’ll be following the G8 closely next week, so we’ll keep you posted on any new education commitments and hopefully, a plan to launch a Global Fund for Education.

-Nora Coghlan

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