2020 UNESCO Global Education meeting

Extraordinary Session on Education post-covid-19, co-hosted by the Governments of Ghana, Norway, the UK and UNESCO.  Speech by PM Erna Solberg.

Excellences, ladies and gentlemen.

Dear friends,

We all know that education is the most powerful investment we can make in our future. Now, COVID-19 is putting our commitment to the test.

In Norway, as in countries all over the world, we are experiencing how devastating the pandemic is for people’s health, our economies and societies. We must combat the pandemic in order for society and schools to return to normal.

But more than returning to normal, education holds the key to unlocking sustainable development and building back better.

We know that education reduces poverty and exploitation.

We know that education increases productivity and leads to higher earnings. We know that a child whose mother can read is far more likely to live a healthy life.

Malala told us that “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world”.

To me this means that education is the key to freedom and progress for all, including for girls all over the world.

During the pandemic 1.6 billion students have been directly affected by lock-downs and closed schools. School closures have stripped many children of the opportunity to learn, a safe space and even healthy meals. For girls, the probability of early marriage and early pregnancies have increased.

It is likely that many learners will never return to school. I fear that the pandemic will cause permanent setbacks for education and gender equality. This would lead to permanent loss in learning and trillions lost in earnings.

We can therefore safely say that financing of education should not be regarded as an expenditure, but as the best investment societies can make.

Two elements are important for rapid recovery: financing and political commitment

To achieve the education SDG, countries must invest a higher share of national resources in education. In many cases, the right to education will remain an empty promise unless education spending increases.

We need to mobilize more international financing for global education.

And, we need to assure that all investments are used effectively.

The times ahead will be a test of our ability to deliver on political commitments and cooperation.

It will also be a time of opportunity: Opportunity to address the learning crisis. Opportunity to test new innovative tools. Opportunity to strengthen synergies between health and education to ensure that even the most marginalized children survive and thrive.

We need effective cooperation at the global and national levels, to seize the opportunities.

I support the Global Education Meetings’ declaration and its clear propositions to fast track progress on SDG 4.

All children, and, I should stress, all girls, must return to school. This is vital for rebuilding economies and societies, and for the freedom of our children.

This is our responsibility.

Thank you