Since 2015, the UK has supported 15.6 million children to gain a decent education. Sadly, due to covid-19, 1.6 billion learners were out of education at the peak of school closures, and an estimated 8 million girls are at risk of not returning. As one of our key priorities, we are working with countries directly and supporting the efforts of the Global Partnership for Education, Education Cannot Wait, UNICEF and the UNHCR to get girls back to school.
Britain’s contribution to ensuring girls’ education is one of the most important and proudest parts of our entire work in international development. How will the Minister ensure that the Global Partnership for Education conference is a success, and that countries around the world continue to step up to the plate on this most essential agenda?
My right hon. Friend makes a really important point. I know of his continued interest in education, particularly girls’ education. I assure him that we have established regular senior engagement with the Global Partnership for Education and our Kenyan co-hosts to ensure a successful replenishment that delivers major funding for girls’ education. We will secure significant pledges through bilateral engagement and in global forums from both traditional donors and new partners, and through domestic and global networks we will build attention to and expectation around this important replenishment.
The Minister is aware that girls can only benefit from education if we tackle child marriage, female genital mutilation and all gender-based violence. NGOs report that funding for GBV programmes are not keeping up with the rise in cases due to covid-19. In October, the United Nations Population Fund stated that
“funding for GBV prevention and response remains unacceptably low.”
Is the UK going to further increase UK official development assistance for GBV programmes to combat the secondary impacts of covid-19 on women and girls? Is the money ring-fenced? And will the Minister be challenging the Chancellor’s attack on foreign aid, which will undermine all this work?
The hon. Lady may attempt to draw me into the debate on aid, but she knows that I am not going to speculate on that. She emphasises the importance of girls’ education. The UK is a world leader in our education expertise and our development spend. As I said, since 2015—[Interruption.] Opposition Front Benchers may mutter, but let us be absolutely clear: the UK has supported 15.6 million children to gain a decent education, and 8 million of those are girls. Our country direct programme for research and funding to organisations such as the Global Partnership for Education and Education Cannot Wait makes the UK a global leader in promoting girls’ education.