One Billion Voices

The Global Campaign for Education (GCE)

Johannesburg (ZAF), February 2021 - The One Billion Voices Campaign, led by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), was launched virtually on 25 January 2021. The launch featured a keynote address by GCE President Refat Sabbah; screening of the One Billion Voices Campaign film; regional panel discussions on the impact of COVID-19 on education; and regional plans to finance education.

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 1.5 billion learners had their education stopped or interrupted. Furthermore, education systems continue to face a devastating crisis: the challenges around public financing and the ever-increasing pressure on resources for public services are resulting in lower prioritisation of education. While some learners have returned to school, the COVID-19 pandemic deepened digital exclusion of many especially vulnerable communities, including children with disabilities.

The world faces a tipping point at which a seismic reversal in the education progress has begun and that is having devastating effects on many other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Furthermore, the World Bank projects a potential 10% cut in education budgets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only must these rollbacks on education financing be stopped but more and better financing for education must be secured and secured now!

Grant Kasowanjete, GCE Global Coordinator, explained, "At a time like this, it has become increasingly urgent and important for governments to involve civil society organizations in the drawing up of education budgets in order for them to provide inputs and comments. The overall strategic intent is for governments to live up to the commitment they have made to their citizens on domestic financing within the 2030 Framework to Action by  allocating at least 4% to 6% of gross domestic product (GDP) to education and/or at least 15% to 20% of public expenditure to education".

Refat Sabbah, GCE President, added, "All GCE members around the world, INGOs, regional networks and national education coalitions, parents, guardians, teachers, and learners should rally behind the One Billion Voices Campaign. GCE reaffirms its commitment to continue campaigning for publicly funded, equitable, and inclusive free quality education for all, including the need to improve and closely monitor domestic and international education financing mechanisms. This includes a call for strong publicly funded education systems that meet the internationally agreed education financing benchmarks, championing tax justice as a critical instrument to financing public education and effective response to the increased commercialisation of education, and the development of so called innovative financing mechanisms".


GCE calls on the national governments to

  • increase state funding for education to 20% of public expenditure
  • increase their tax base in order to increase resources, working toward a minimum tax-to-GDP ratio of 20%
  • provide free quality education for all and end the trend toward the privatisation and commercialisation of education


GCE calls on the national governments and donors to

  • improve the quality of teaching through adequate recruitment, remuneration, and continued teacher training
  • ensure inclusive educational systems and institutions
  • listen and respond to the voices of those affected. Space must be allowed for individuals and civil society to speak up.

GCE calls on donors to

  • enable urgent debt cancellation for the least developed countries and debt alleviation for middle and upper-middle income countries
  • continue to work toward the goal of 0.7% overseas aid, with 20% of this spent on education