School is a magical place, but for most children in South Sudan, it’s just a dream. Even before the current conflict, there were more than one million children out of school, with a further 400,000 children losing out on an education due to the fighting. The world’s newest country now has the highest proportion of out-of-school children globally.

Nearly one in every three schools in conflict-affected areas has been destroyed, damaged, occupied or closed. Across the country, only 36 per cent of functioning schools have access to water and only 49 per cent have toilets. Children often have long and dangerous journeys to attend classes. Other barriers like early marriage, educational costs, overcrowded classrooms, and untrained teachers are keeping kids out of school.

The ideas and concepts behind the Education Cannot Wait Fund were explored at country level in South Sudan to better understand how the Fund would work on the ground. These findings have determined the shape, approach and functions of the Fund.

Meet Eunice and Nelson, two South Sudanese teenagers sharing the obstacles to education and hopes for the future. Share their stories and raise awareness about the lack of opportunities for so many in South Sudan.



World leaders have gathered in Istanbul to make a global plan to work together to make sure children affected by war or natural disasters get the help they need when things go wrong. There are lots of items on the agenda. But there’s one thing they are discussing that we should be celebrating together: making sure education gets delivered even after an emergency.

A few years ago, there’s a good chance that education wouldn’t have been on their radar. After disaster strikes, school can seem like a luxury, or even just horribly irrelevant.

But the education experts, NGOs, campaigners, businesses, teachers and youth that have mobilised together know differently: that education keeps children safe and gives them and their families hope for the future, even at the darkest times. A huge, people-powered diverse movement has come together behind education in emergencies and the new Education Cannot Wait Fund with A World at School convening more than 100 private sector partners, 500 global youth ambassadors and hundreds of NGOs, faith communities and other networks heavily involved in everything from consultations, public awareness to campaigning.

Last year this network of organisations collected the biggest ever petition on education taken to the Oslo Summit and the UNGA with more than 10 million names. These were young people and grassroots organisations in Pakistan, Nigeria, the DRC, Syria and around the world all calling for funding for education in emergencies. In advance of today’s Summit young people from around the world have shared a new powerful message calling for safe schools.

The high profile given to education at the first ever World Humanitarian Summit is the result of years of campaigning and consultations including the support for the original announcement of the platform agreed at meetings in Korea at the World Education Forum, the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings in both 2015 and 2016, and the Norwegian Government hosted Education Summit in Oslo in 2015.

Like most successful campaigns, we’re breaking through because it’s been a huge team effort. We’ve had backing from high profile people as diverse as Desmond Tutu, UN Special Envoy Gordon Brown and Shakira. Child rights champions such as Anthony Lake at UNICEF have led the charge to bridge the gap between emergencies and development, and the Norwegian Government has been a firmly committed partner in this effort.

Today’s announcement of a new fund for education in emergencies called Education Cannot Wait is a major campaign milestone and its focus reflects the expertise of hundreds of diverse stakeholders. Over the past year the International Network for education in emergencies (INEE) has led two phases of detailed global consultations across civil society starting in early 2015 in advance of the Oslo Education Summit where more than 500 people and organisations participated in the global consultation process from 53 countries. The Overseas Development Institute has shared crucial research, which has been poured over by experts to find the best solution to the challenge. Representatives from civil society working on education around the world, including Save the Children, Norwegian Refugee Council, War Child, and other key organisations have been important stakeholders in this process.

The official launch of the new fund means that the power to change the lives of millions of children and youth now lies in the hands of a small group of international leaders attending the Summit. The people with the heavyweight financial clout needed to make that happen and ensure the target is met, raising almost $4 billion to reach 13.6 million children within five years. Its time for action. You can track their commitments here. Education Cannot Wait.

Author: Ben Hewitt (@ibenhewitt) is Director of Campaigns for children’s charity Theirworld. In 2013 Theirworld founded the global campaign movement A World at School, bringing together civil society, academic networks, faiths, large and small NGOs, youth, business and international organisations to campaign for every child to secure their right to a quality education. Find out more at


Crises disrupt some of the most protective and supportive environments for children and young people – places where they live and learn.

The world’s first fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises has committed to delivering quality education to all children and youth in the toughest of circumstances. In principle, the fund upholds their right to education, and in practice it presents a compelling Case for Investment for reaching the most vulnerable.

Case For Investment

The fund has identified 75 million children and youth aged 3-18 in 35 countries who are in urgent need of educational support. Dedicated action to reach and teach these children and youth will transform their lives, and the future of their communities. Education is a unique investment – delivering returns that last a lifetime for individuals, and positive benefits that form the bedrock of peaceful and prosperous nations. Education goes beyond saving lives – it allows communities to determine the shape of their futures.

The situation

The magnitude, frequency and severity of crises are all increasing- unprecedented levels of crises demand an unprecedented response. Business as usual will not suffice. Humanitarian, development and security needs can no longer be treated separately.


Protracted crises present complex challenges – worldwide, people now spend on average 17 years displaced. For those affected by crises, this disruption can last their entire childhood – denying them their chance to live full lives and develop to the best of their ability. While children and youth are uniquely vulnerable to crisis, the inadequate humanitarian response fails to account for these unique needs.

Despite a desperate need to keep children in school and learning in times of emergencies, in 2015 only 1.4 per cent of humanitarian aid went towards education. Against this backdrop, affected populations consistently cite education as the top priority for children and families in the aftermath of a crisis. Education Cannot Wait: a fund for education in emergencies aims to deliver on this priority for children and their families.

The solution

The fund is a collaborative solution – an innovative, complementary and long-needed change that will allow the global community to respond quickly to children and youth in emergencies.  Working with partners in both the public and private sector, the fund will increase the number of children and youth reached and the quality of the education they receive.

The benefits of investing

Affected populations cite the intrinsic value of education and the added benefits in terms of protection, resilience, recovery, stability and livelihoods. Investment in education is the most effective means of restoring social and human capital, stimulating economic growth and buffering societies against future shocks.

The inaugural World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, and the political momentum generated by the universal agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals, present a critical moment to re-energize advocacy for education in emergencies.

Political momentum and global consciousness to reach the most vulnerable children must extend to those in the most complex and fragile places. Conflict and crises severely limit whether children and youth have a fair chance to learn and lead a productive, peaceful and fulfilling life. Denying them their right to education during a crisis further deprives them and their community of their ability to recover and rebuild. The fund will provide children and young people with the opportunity to thrive, the tools to succeed and the skills to drive social and economic stability.