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Five things you need to know this week about global education (October 16, 2020)

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Summit to raise funds for education in poorest countries

The United Kingdom and Kenya will co-host the fourth Global Partnership for Education (GPE) replenishment conference next year to lead action to educate children in the poorest countries.

The coronavirus pandemic has worsened the education crisis, with 1.3 billion children forced out of classrooms at the height of school closures. There are fears that many children, particularly girls, will never return to education.

The summit will raise funds for GPE's work in supporting education for 175 million children in 87 developing countries over the next five years. The UK, where the conference will be held, is GPE's biggest donor.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "I'll be using the UK's upcoming presidency of the G7 to keep education firmly on the international agenda. In the year ahead, let's all come together as a global community, raise our hands for education and back up our good intentions with the cold, hard cash that will let the GPE continue its vital work.

"If we educate one child we can change one life. If we educate tens of millions of children, we can change the world."

A GPE partner since 2005, Kenya has broken down gender barriers to get as many girls as boys enrolling in primary school. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said: “An educated population is a country’s most valuable resource. GPE has been a key partner in helping us invest in innovative solutions to get all our children, especially girls, learning."

GPE Board Chair Julia Gillard said: “We’re launching our most ambitious and urgent campaign yet. We must seize this opportunity to make sure that no child is left behind.”

GPE aims to raise at least $5 billion for its campaign. Since its creation in 2002, it has helped to get 160 million children into school and doubled girls’ enrolment in the countries where it works.

Kenya starts to reopen classes

Kenyan schoolchildren in grades four, eight and 12 returned to class on Monday, ending months of classroom closures.

The three levels are all preparing for standardised exams that were postponed from November to March. The government will decide later whether all students can return, said Education Minister George Magoha.

More than 17 million Kenyan students have missed six months of school. Marilyn Hoar, UNICEF's education chief in Kenya, said: "We are seeing large numbers of reported violence against children, child marriage, child pregnancy and child labour."

Some European countries are suspending school classes to tackle rising cases. In the Czech Republic, primary schools will close and move to distance learning until November 1. Azerbaijan will suspend some school classes, as will Slovenia and parts of Italy and Poland.

Almost all LGBT+ students suffer abuse at school

Almost all (just under 99%) LGBT+ students aged 13 to 21 in the United States have heard offensive remarks about their sexuality or gender identity, researchers have revealed.

And 92% said the comments had made them feel "distressed", according to the 2019 National School Climate Survey, which surveyed 16,700 LGBT+ students.

"At my school it's very taboo for teachers especially to talk about LGBT issues," said Aiden Cloud, a 17-year-old student at a small, conservative private school in Nashville, Tennessee. "Even though there are a lot of queer students at my school - just as there are at any school - there's a very big lack of visibility. It feels very isolating."

Theirworld's The Key - our comprehensive information toolkit for education advocates - has a section on Education and the LGBTQ+ Community. It features key challenges, talking points, statistics and opinions.

180m more girls in school in last 25 years

A UNESCO report released for International Day of the Girl shows that 180 million more girls have enrolled in primary and secondary education since 1995.

It revealed the global enrolment rate for girls increased from 73% to 89%, with the biggest improvements seen in sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and especially in India. Significant progress has been made in primary education enrolment in 23 countries including Bhutan, Djibouti and Nepal.

But girls are still more likely to suffer exclusion than boys and this is being made worse by the pandemic, says the publication A New Generation from the Global Education Monitoring Report. The legacy of past discrimination means women still account for almost two-thirds of illiterate adults.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said: "Though we are happy to report the progress achieved in girls’ and women’s education through the continued efforts of the international community, this publication also shows we are still failing the most disadvantaged - three-quarters of all primary-age children who may never set foot in school are girls."

Plan to demolish Palestinian school

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said it is deeply concerned by the Israeli military’s planned demolition of a European Union-funded Palestinian primary school in the West Bank.

The school serves 50 students from the Ras at-Tin herding community who otherwise would have to walk five kilometres to another school.

According to the Education Cluster that coordinates the humanitarian education response, Israel has partially or fully demolished three schools in the West Bank this year - with 52 other schools under threat of demolition.

“These are some of the most vulnerable children, whose life is already extremely hard, and Israel as the occupying power has a duty to ensure that they get their education and basic services,” said NRC Regional Director Carsten Hansen.