RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund (REF) commit to scaling up their school fee abolition advocacy campaign to press for increased U.S. and multilateral resources for basic education and the elimination of school fees, and to ensure the most effective use of these resources for maximum impact. Specifically REF will work to: 1) increase U.S. financial commitment for the elimination of school fees and universal access to primary education, particularly to support countries with national education plans to eliminate school fees. This will include encouraging a focus on explicitly linking U.S. investments to the World Bank's Fast Track Initiative (FTI). REF will also continue efforts to help ensure that funding has maximum impact on education access for girls, orphans and other vulnerable children; 2) work with international network and other allies to expand REF's advocacy with the World Bank to press for increased World Bank investment in primary education; 3) inform advocacy in the U.S. and towards the World Bank. REF will utilize best practices, lessons learned, and advocacy opportunities created by the UNICEF/World Bank School Fee Abolition Initiative (SFAI) and the World Bank FTI to help direct U.S. and World Bank spending and policy to ensure maximum impact. REF will also work to develop user-friendly materials on the School Fee Abolition Initiative (SFAI) that will enable decision-makers and the organizations' grassroots to more fully understand and advocate for this critical initiative.
In November 2004, in an ABC PrimeTime interview with the late Peter Jennings, former president Bill Clinton was asked who in the world he would most like to meet. Clinton remarked, 'I would like to meet the new President of Kenya because he abolished school fees for poor children and a million extra children showed up at school.' As President Clinton articulated, the abolition of school fees in just one country was, 'likely to affect more lives positively than almost anything any other political leader will do this year.'
When primary school fees were eliminated in Kenya in January of 2003, 1.3 million children entered school for the first time-a 22 percent increase. Throughout the world, more than 100 million of the most vulnerable children, AIDS orphans, the poor, and especially girls, are denied access to educational opportunities that can give them hope for the future. One of the greatest barriers for many children, especially in Africa, is the continued charging of school fees.
RESULTS Educational Fund is working to educate U.S. communities, the media, and members of Congress to generate the public political will to abolish school fees worldwide. REF will continue to urge that the U.S. prioritize the abolition of school fees and provide the U.S. fair share of the necessary resources to support for countries to offer a free basic primary education to millions more children. Millennium Development Goal #2, ensuring that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling, cannot be reached without the abolition of school fees.
The abolition of school fees is also directly linked to Millennium Development Goal # 3, to promote gender equality and empower women. In particular, MDG #3 seeks to 'eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and at all levels of education no later than 2015.' Where school fees exist however, poor families are forced to make tough choices and typically choose to send boys to school before girls. When Kenya eliminated public primary school fees in 2003, gender disparities in primary education all but disappeared.
The abolition of school fees is also linked to Millennium Development Goal #6, which calls on the world to 'halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. School fees are cited as the biggest reason that AIDS orphans are not adopted; families simply cannot afford the out-of-pocket cash costs for these fees, which can amount to nearly one-third of the income of poorer families. In addition, many women and girls are forced into sex for cash transactions to pay their own fees or the fees of their children or siblings. This puts these women and girls further at risk for HIV/AIDS and other diseases, as well as other types of abuse and exploitation, proving that financial barriers to education are not only financially costly, but can be deadly as well.
Education is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of AIDS and has been called a 'social vaccine.' In Zambia, HIV infection rates declined by half for educated women but remained the same for uneducated women. In Uganda, girls with primary education had HIV prevalence rates less than half of girls with no education, and girls with secondary education were infected at only one-quarter the rate of those without schooling.
At the country level, abolishing school fees and providing education for all will require the political will to remove school fees and offer free universal primary education as well as a reprioritization of resources. In addition, bilateral donor countries and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) should institute proactive policies opposing the exclusion of any children from the classroom. To support these policies and provide incentives to countries, bilateral donors and IFIs should commit to increased and more strategic allocation of resources to support countries with bold national education plans for universal primary education.
RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund's mission is to end hunger and poverty. It is clear that the number one development tool is education, particularly of girls, and that school fees are one of the largest barriers to getting all children, a seat in the classroom. The abolition of fees is an extremely powerful and leveraged action, because it can work to catalyze quantum leaps in nationwide education sector reform. Removing school fees creates the demand for more teachers, more supplies, and more classrooms. In short, it can spur the mobilization of internal and external resources to serve millions of girls, orphans, and other vulnerable children and shift the burden of paying for primary school from vulnerable children and poor families. REF asserts that the alternative, which is waiting for inadequate streams of funding, gradual scale-up, and the deepening of this regressive rationing system, is unacceptable.
The first milestones include the following. With education and action by REF's grassroots activists, and broader efforts as part of the Global Action for Children Coalition, the Assistance for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Act (Orphans Act) became law at the end of 2005. The Orphans Act is widely heralded as the first comprehensive response to the global orphans' crisis in part because it features the elimination of school fees prominently as a key piece of any holistic response. As the Orphans Act implementation plan is being developed, REF has helped in the creation of civil society recommendations to help reinforce this and other key points.
In 2005 and 2006, with education and support of REF and allies, Congress, provided $15 million in funding for a pilot project to leverage the elimination of school fees in one or two countries.