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COVID-19 has created enormous gaps in education — UN

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UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed has observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a surge in political awareness of the enormous gaps in education.

In his video message for the inception meeting of the Working Group on the reform of the global education cooperation mechanism, held Tuesday, Mohammed said the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause deep disruption in societies and economies.

"But, it has also brought a surge in political awareness of the enormous gaps in education, opened our eyes to latest technologies and new possibilities, and brought the global education community together — through UNESCO’s Education Coalition, the Secretary-General’s Policy Brief, the Save our Future Campaign and the extraordinary Global Education Meeting," he said. 

"We must build on this in 2021.  Now is the time to deliver.  To do so, we need a frank assessment of where we stand right now.  Bill Gates recently said that global education is today where global health was 30 years ago."

Mohammed said there was no denying that global and national support and action on addressing education challenges was nowhere near where it needed to be,  a funding gap of some $200 billion per year for low- and middle-income countries.  

He said there was a teacher shortage of some 69 million and also a fundamental problem with quality, with more than half of 10‑year-olds in low- and middle-income countries not learning to read a simple text.  

Mohammed added that the other challenge involved a fragmented ecosystem of partners — United Nations, international financial institutions, donors, national Governments — that has not yet become more than the sum of its parts.

"In this regard, I am encouraged to see that this review is aiming high.  It can help clarify roles and responsibilities; bridge the gap between policy, politics and financing; support changes in practice, implementation or funding decisions; and facilitate better delivery on the ground, leveraging the reformed United Nations development system," Mohammed said. 

He added, "Let us draw on the expertise of all stakeholders and build stronger, more diverse partnerships, breaking down silos and fostering a spirit of solidarity and efficient cooperation."

The Secretary-General reiterated that education is the greatest equalizer of them all — a key to unlocking peace and prosperity and to strengthening the social contract.  

"2020 saw us regain some momentum.  The replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education together with a strong push to reimagine education in 2021 can allow us to go even further. And so, too, can the work this group is starting today.  

"We must stay focused on keeping the promise we made to each and every learner in 2015.  You can count on my unwavering support to deliver on the 2030 Agenda and Education for future generations," he added.

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