UK, Kenya to host post-Covid education fundraising summit

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Britain and Kenya said on Sunday they would co-host a summit next year to raise funds for children's schooling in poorer countries, warning that the coronavirus pandemic risked depriving many millions of an education.

The summit is scheduled to take place in Britain in mid-2021 under the UK's presidency of the G7 club of developed nations, and will be co-chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

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Johnson said the goal was to raise at least $5 billion for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), an initiative launched in 2002 which counts the singer Rihanna as a global ambassador.

"I urge the global community to come together, dig deep and ensure we fund their vital work to give every child the chance at an education," the British leader said in a statement.

He said that due to school closures during the pandemic, some 1.3 billion children including 650 million girls have lost out on months of education, and many may never return because of the economic havoc caused by Covid-19.

"It is a toll of wasted potential and missed opportunity that is a tragedy not just for those children, but for each and every one of us," Johnson said.

$5 billion over five years

Kenyatta said the GPE had been a "key partner" in helping Kenya invest in education, especially for girls.

"We must use the opportunity of GPE's financing conference to make ambitious pledges to invest in quality education so our children and young people have the skills and knowledge they need to seize the opportunities of the 21st century," he said.

The GPE has helped get 160 million more children into school and doubled the enrolment of girls in the countries where it works, Kenyatta noted.

If countries pledge another $5 billion over five years, that would add 175 million extra children to school rolls in 87 lower-income countries, he said.

That would in turn "lift 18 million people out of poverty, and protect two million girls from early marriage".

The summit's timing will depend on the progress of the global fight against Covid-19. This year, all international gatherings have gone virtual, but leaders, including Johnson, have talked up prospects for a vaccine by mid-2021.

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