LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday pledged $3 million to support the strategic plan of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) for the next five years.
The announcement came during a global education summit in London on Thursday, co-hosted by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Saudi Arabia will always be a leader in providing support to everything that would achieve development, prosperity and peace for the people of the world,” said Saudi Education Minister Hamad Al-Asheikh, speaking on behalf of the crown prince.
The Kingdom has always attached great importance to education at local, regional and international levels, he said, adding this is evidenced by the inclusion of education as a main issue on the agenda of the Kingdom’s G20 presidency in 2020, and the fact that education is a major component of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
“Moreover, Saudi Arabia is the biggest donor to regional financial organizations such as the Islamic Development Bank, the OPEC Fund for International Development, and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa,” which he said support several countries around the world by financing a variety of projects and initiatives.
Al-Asheikh called for international cooperation in efforts to help low-income countries through support for initiatives and programs designed to improve the economics of education and enhance educational systems in beneficiary countries, especially in light of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning.
The most prominent themes of the speech of HRH the Crown Prince at the #Global_Education_Summit and Financing the Partnership for Education 2021-2025, delivered on his behalf by His Excellency #Minister_of_Education Dr. Hamad Al Sheikh pic.twitter.com/XT1bNoJXY9
— Saudi Ministry of Education (@tc_mohe) July 29, 2021
He said the GPE aims to improve access to equitable, inclusive education, bridge educational and digital gaps and address all forms of educational inequality, especially in low-income countries. This is in line with the fourth of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.
The UAE pledged $100 million during the summit, Kuwait gave $30 million and Dubai Cares donated $2.5 million, while the Islamic Development Bank said it would provide $200 million in concessional loans. A total of $4 billion was raised from donors out of a target of at least $5 billion needed by the GPE for the next five years.
During the previous summit, in 2018, the UAE was the first country in the region to make a $100 million pledge to the GPE. Reem Al-Hashimi, the Emirati minister of state for international cooperation and director general of Dubai World Expo 2020, said educational systems must adapt to the new dynamics created by the pandemic, and a lot has already been learned about how to solve some of the greatest challenges this involves.
“Together we can continue to stand in solidarity to ensure that education and learning are at the center of human development and investment, for a sustainable, dignified and prosperous future for all,” he said.
GPE chairwoman Julia Gillard, a former Australian prime minister, said the organization has developed a strong and growing partnership with the Middle East and Gulf states since the previous summit, and is looking to taking further steps forward this year.
The money pledged will help to support the GPE’s work in almost 90 countries. It is used primarily to help low-income developing countries implement quality educational plans. This is done through the provision of grants or co-financing arrangements, like the one offered by the Islamic Development Bank, Gillard told Arab News.
“The role of Gulf countries is twofold: One, they have got rich experience to point to as to how they have developed, strengthened and improved the quality of their own education systems, and there is much admiration for what has been achieved in many countries,” she said.
This reflects a core aim of the organization, she added, which is to help nations learn from each other’s successful experiences.
WATCH: Highlights of the Global Education Summit in London today.
— Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (@FCDOGovUK) July 29, 2021
The second role of Gulf nations, she said, is to contribute financially to the work of the GPE. About half of the work it does is in conflict zones, including Yemen and Syria, and it makes a great effort to ensure some level of educational provision is maintained despite ongoing violence.
Gillard said she met the Saudi foreign minister on Wednesday ahead of the summit.
“He explained to me just how broad and deep the reform agenda (in Saudi Arabia) is for schooling, with a particular focus on the education of women but also a focus on the increasing use of digital technology, increasing the number of days of schooling, through to looking to increase quality and inclusion,” she said. “So, I was very pleased to hear of the reports of the determination to make real progress.”
In April, the Islamic Development Bank hosted in Jeddah the Middle East launch of the GPE’s Case for Investment, at which Arab institutions showcased their engagement in education and reaffirmed their commitments globally. A proposal was endorsed for $400 million in concessional loans from the Arab Coordination Group to leverage $100 million in grants from the GPE.
The bank’s president, Bandar Hajjar, said during Thursday’s summit that the resources have been pledged and mobilized.
“This demonstrated that Arab institutions are taking their rightful position on the global stage on education financing, and reaffirms their commitment to supporting education as they have traditionally done over several decades, albeit without such publicity,” he told Arab News.
“The GPE is eager to engage with sovereign governments and Arab funds to explore further collaboration and mobilize new and additional resources for education.
“Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE today pledged to the GPE fund, thereby increasing the number of Gulf countries (to do so) from one at the last replenishment to three this time around.”