On 16 June,1976, around 200 children were shot and killed in the streets of Soweto because they dared to suggest they had the right to an education.
On 16 June, 2014, the fate of 276 girls, who dared to try and go to school in Nigeria, still lies in the hand of their abductors.
It has been 38 years since the tragedy of that day in June 1976, which led to the African Union creating an annual Day of the African Child. Thirty eight years and yet it seems so little has changed. Poverty, violence and discrimination against children across the continent, and around the world, are still preventing millions of girls, and boys, from accessing their right to an education.
Girls continue to be the most affected, with 65 million adolescent girls out of school around the world, and as many as 4 out of 5 girls not even completing primary school in some sub-Saharan African countries. Why? Because governments are still not investing enough money in education and when they are, they are not investing well enough.
More funding needed for basic education
Millions of children - mostly girls - are still not accessing their right to an education
The education community has set an international benchmark for all governments to spend a total of 20% of their national budget on education, with at least half of that to be spent on basic education. Despite increases, such as an average rise of 6% annually since 2000 in sub-Saharan Africa, investment is far from keeping up with the demand for public education.
Official Development Assistance (ODA) allocated to education has fallen 10% between 2010 and 2012. We are in an education financing crisis, with some estimates putting the financing gap at some $26 million each year.
The money that is available needs to be spent in a way that provides sustainable, quality education for all children, including the most marginalised and hard to reach. This is why we are calling on all governments to undertake a gender review of their Education Sector Plans and fund the results, to ensure measures are taken to specifically target girls. At present rates, poor rural girls in sub-Saharan Africa will not all have access to primary education until 2086!
Governments must also listen to the people who know the most about their education experience, children and young people themselves. They must be part of the solution.
Let’s stand up for the children of Africa
This year’s Day of the African Child theme is quality education for all children. The day provides us with an opportunity to stand up and say this is not acceptable, to say it is time for governments to show they care about the education of their children; the future of their countries.
This is why at Plan International we have organised a children’s takeover of the African Union on 16 June. We are supporting children from across the continent to call on their leaders to step up and invest more in education.
We are working on the day with our partners at A World At School, UNICEF, Women Thrive International and many more to support children and young people to run events in over 70 countries around the world to make the same call. This includes calling on donor governments to increase their support for global education. And we are calling on them to act now and to show their investments when they have the opportunity in 10 days’ time.
On 26 June, the Global Partnership for Education hosts its replenishment conference for 2015-2018. There has never been a more urgent need for action.