06/24/2014 11:59 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Bring Back Our Girls and Fund Education Now


Photo: The girls of Chibok.

It's been more than two months since the kidnapping of nearly 300 young girls from their school in Chibok, Nigeria.

Headlines are now shifting from fierce outrage to despair and frustration. "We have lost hope on these girls," said Ibrahim Dawa, an uncle to one kidnapped girl, Margaret Pogu. "We don't believe they are alive."

Over these two months, I've shared shock, outrage, despair and action not only with colleagues and friends -- but also with strangers around the world. Consequently, despite this ongoing tragedy, the rallying of so many millions of people to #bringbackourgirls has meant some moments of inspiration and hope. I've been moved more than once by youth, business leaders, people of faith, and fierce advocates for education from around the world standing up for these girls and for safe schools for all children. It's made it possible to imagine that we will eventually see a future where this type of tragedy is a thing of the past.

But first, the hypocrisy of world leaders on education has to end.

Many global leaders have been sending resources to bring back the girls of Chibok and issuing impassioned statements about the need for safe, quality schools for all children. And yet, over the last few years, some of these same leaders have been scaling back their investments in education in some of the poorest parts of the world. Investments in global education have fallen rapidly -- by more than 10 percent between 2010-2012 -- more than $1.3 billion.

This rapid decrease has serious consequences. Between 2011-2012 aid for education to Mali alone fell by $45 million and to Ethiopia by $23 million. Since 2010, 12 African countries have seen cuts in their aid to basic education of $10 million or more and current aid across the continent is at the same level as in 2008. Though some countries have had the ability to scale-up their own investments, in sub-Saharan Africa -- the region farthest behind -- the number of out of school children has not declined and is potentially on the rise.

At this pace, we'll definitely fall well short of the commitment made in 2000 by world leaders to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. Instead, the last poor girl will complete her primary education in 2086.

That's more than 70 more years to achieve something we knew in 2000 was possible by the end of 2015 -- but for which we are not fighting nearly hard enough.

A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive to their fifth birthday -- and yet we underfund education. If all women in sub-Saharan Africa completed their primary education, maternal mortality would fall by 70 percent -- and yet we underfund education. Almost two in three out-of-school girls in the Arab States and sub-Saharan Africa, are expected never to go to school and yet...

We underfund education.

Who will bring back all those girls and boys (57 million at last count) whose lives and futures will be lost because we chose words over action and investment?

This week the Global Partnership for Education -- a partnership of nearly 60 developing countries, donor governments, international organizations, the private sector, teachers, and civil society organizations -- and one of the largest funders of education in the poorest contexts, will gather world leaders and ask them to pledge resources to support just a fraction of what needs to happen to get all children in school and learning over the next 3 years.

This week has the potential to be a turning point -- an opportunity for leaders to recommit to the right to education.

The world has rallied for the girls of Chibok. President Obama has noted that the kidnapping of these girls 'may be the event that helps to mobilize the entire international community to finally do something against [Boko Haram].'

This should also be the moment we mobilize the entire international community to begin to invest as necessary to finally get all children everywhere access to a quality education.

Around the world, those speaking out for the girls of Chibok will keep up the pressure until we finish the job for all children. Once the pledges for the Global Partnership for Education are in this week, it will be clear which of our leaders is ready to begin to mobilize with us.