Dakar: French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday promised a major boost in foreign aid for education in developing nations, at a conference joined by megastar Rihanna that aimed at putting millions of children back in school.
Macron co-hosted the event organised by the Global Partnership for Education with Senegalese President Macky Sall, while Rihanna attended as the organisation’s global ambassador.
The French leader told delegates that countries where the world had witnessed “democracy being rolled back”, were also where “girls were being pushed out of school.”
He promised 200 million euros ($249 million) for the partnership’s activities.
The pledge represents a massive increase on the 17 million euros pledged at the last conference in 2014. It brings France closer to Britain, which contributes $430 million, and the European Union, which gives $400 million.
Macron spoke with Rihanna on the sidelines of the event after she challenged him to contribute more to the project in a tweet on Thursday.
It is not the first time the young French leader and the singer of “Umbrella” fame have met: she visited the Elysee Palace in July after tweeting him on the same issue.
The Dakar conference, which brings together governments and the private sector, aims to raise $3.1 billion (2.5 billion euros) over the coming three years to support education for 870 million children around the world.
The French presidency said the partnership was “well on the way” to reaching this goal on Friday afternoon.
– Children’s futures at stake –
Some 264 million school-age children and youths are living without any education owing to poverty, conflict and social barriers including bias against girls, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
“This is one of the, if not the, largest gatherings of its kind to really demonstrate political will, financial investment, the urgency of the education crisis,” Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education told AFP.
“We are here to raise money; we are here to build political will; we are here to draw attention to the urgency of the problem,” she added.
Literacy in sub-Saharan Africa hovers around 65 percent, according to UNESCO, the UN’s culture and education agency, and girls lose out disproportionately.
“People feel education is not that important because you are not losing lives”, Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore told AFP on Friday.
“But education must be seen with the same urgency,” she added. Without it, “you lose a child’s future”. – AFP