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Funding maternal health, but not at the cost of education

Canada is one of the most educated countries in the world, but we are not doing enough to help educate the world. While we sit near the top of education rankings – the OECD notes that we have the highest percentage of bachelor's degree holders – we have cut nearly $180-million in funding since 2010 from aid to global education (a 34.4 per cent reduction, the highest drop in the OECD). And with millions of children who are not in school, or no longer receiving our support, it is more than disappointing for Canada – it is shameful for a country as educated and rich as we are.

For 57 million children around the world that are not in school, and 250 million not receiving elementary reading and math skills, they are not getting even an iota of what I have. And, Canada may no longer give them the same chance to receive it.

Earlier this month, the Global Partnership for Education hosted its Second Replenishment Pledging Conference in Brussels. In total, developed countries pledged $2.1-billion in funding. Canada's current contribution: "Canada is not in a position to announce its official pledge for the GPE's 2015-18 replenishment period today, we look forward to doing so soon." Soon? Does that mean tomorrow? Next week?

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Conversely, what is remarkable is the unprecedented commitment from developing countries to education. It is a clear response to the effectiveness of the 'partnership' in the Global Partnership for Education.

There is money, and there is leadership, just apparently not in education. Canada has historically shown immense leadership in global aid, and recently, especially around Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH). Recently, Canada hosted a major global summit and committed $3.5-billion over five years towards the initiative. But isn't this a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul?

We know that education is necessary for healthy and productive lives, especially in places where it barely exists. And educating young girls and mothers is one of the best ways to enhance the health of a mother and a child. According to the Campaign for Education, if all girls completed primary education, maternal deaths would decrease by 66 per cent, saving 189,000 lives annually. Investment in education for girls also reduces the instances of child marriage by 14 per cent, delays the birth of the first child, and results in fewer and healthier births overall. Around the world, with an exploding population of over 7 billion, not having an education is condemning a child to a poorer life, perhaps no better or even worse than their parents.

Canada can do more, and has done more in the past for global education. 'Soon' is not enough for a sincere, strong commitment to funding education everywhere. As a young Canadian who cannot imagine life without my education, I urge my fellow citizens to demand that our leaders give all children access to these opportunities by renewing our commitment to global education by funding it, not by offering empty words. We've been taught better.

Jaxson Khan is a Canadian Education Champion with the Global Partnership for Education.

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