Sarah Brown speaks with ECW Director about Safe Schools

In the most recent episode of her podcast ‘Better Angels’, Sarah Brown invited Yasmine Sherif to join her in discussing the topic of Safe Schools and the work of ECW in creating safe learning environment for the world’s most vulnerable children and young people.

Yasmine was also joined by Nigerian lawyer Zannah Mustapha, who helped to secure the release of dozens of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, former Theirworld GYA and active campaigner Courage Nyamhunga, and activist and campaigner Sylvia Kayko.

ECW announces $2 million for UNRWA in Gaza

Education Cannot Wait has announced critical First Emergency Response funding for UNRWA’s operations in Gaza in 2018, allocating a total of $2,067,518.

Drawing from ECW’s contingency funds, the announcement comes in response to UNRWA’s dire financial situation at the end of 2017 which is threatening school closures and continuity of education for children and young people living in Gaza.

UNRWA is currently facing a shortfall of $8.85 million for education needs in Gaza (out of a total $16 million shortfall in the UNRWA education sector overall).

With ECW’s contribution, UNRWA can prevent 271, 900 students, or 83% of 6-15 years old Palestinian refugee children, from having their education disrupted in the coming 12 months.

In Gaza, UNRWA provides universal access to basic education to the largest number of students of any education service provider. Student numbers in UNRWA schools in Gaza are continuing to increase year-on-year by around 3.4%  which is primarily driven by rapid rates of population growth in the Gaza Strip. 

While ECW seeks to address the current emergency needs to sustain quality education for the next year, it will further galvanise support and drive concerted efforts to find more sustainable solutions to UNRWA’s continuing funding shortage, working with partners across the board to find collective solutions.

Press Statement: An Estimated 70 Million Children Will Be Trapped in Humanitarian Emergencies in 2018

For Immediate Release 13 December 2017

Global education is receiving less than half of needed funding, holding hostage the futures of millions of children

Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, speaking at the United Nation headquarters in New York said:

New evidence shows that the numbers of children trapped in humanitarian crises have reached an estimated 70 million, are expected to rise further in 2018 and the funding gap will grow, subjecting even more children to oppression and exploitation – forced marriage, child labour, and sexual trafficking – in the absence of opportunity and education.

I am calling today for a doubling of funding for humanitarian aid in education – more resources for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and the Education Cannot Wait fund (ECW) – and because there is no way we can deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals without a major shift in education funding, a new International Finance Facility dedicated to raising funds for education.

I have reviewed the data showing that almost 32 million of the estimated 70 million children trapped in humanitarian crises are currently forcibly displaced: 20 million children forced out of their homes within their own country plus more than 11 million refugees exiled from their countries. Child refugee numbers are rising not least because of three countries accounting for nearly half of refugees: Syria (with more than 2.6 million exiled), Afghanistan (more than 1.2 million), and South Sudan (over 900,000).

Of the 70 million children altogether, around 30 million have experienced violence or abuse.  Children in conflict-affected countries are half as likely to complete lower-secondary school. And to take one example, reports show that over one-third of girls displaced from Syria were married before the age 18 – more than a three-fold increase in recent years.

While education has received more funding than ever in 2017 – over $700 million in funding for humanitarian emergencies and for refugees –  the total remains low at just 3%.

Despite these startling trends, only three appeals this year received the full funding amount requested for education with 29 other crises receiving less than half of the funding needed. Today there are nine virtually forgotten education crises where less than 10% of the humanitarian funding for education was made available.  These include the humanitarian appeals for Afghanistan (1.9%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (8%), Ethiopia (5.2%), Republic of Congo (0%), Dominica (7.3%), Madagascar (0%), Peru (9%), Bangladesh (6%) and Cuba (7%).

Most recently, we have appeals for Bangladesh for Rohingya refugees, for the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and urgent needs from South Sudanese refugees flowing into Uganda.

We will start the year with 21 humanitarian response plans, four regional refugee response plans (Burundi, Nigeria, South Sudan and Syria) and five additional humanitarian appeals (Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Mauritania and Senegal).

But we cannot say these humanitarian challenges have come as a surprise. Nineteen crises have been running for five years or more, and three for nearly 20 years (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Somalia). Yet in the DRC, for example, we reach only 8% of the 760,000 children in need. In Sudan, the humanitarian appeal for education stands at 1 in 10 children being supported. And in Somalia, less than half of education needs are met.

Today I want to show how in 2018 we can implement a promise of humanitarian aid that is comprehensive; based on a holistic assessment of needs and that includes education and in particular the needs of girls – and through education, their protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Before I make general conclusions let me emphasize how the urgent needs we have to address are being tackled:


The response to the plight of Rohingya refugees has scaled up significantly since August, but children’s needs remain neglected.  In August 2017, around 33,000 registered Rohingya refugees lived in two camps officially recognized by the Government of Bangladesh. Today, more than 600,000 people have fled to the country.

But while almost 60% of these refugees are children, we have only met 5% of the education needs – providing opportunity for 1 in 20 children. The Education Cannot Wait Fund has announced a catalytic investment to help get plans in place and target 30,000 refugee children, including 8,000 pre-school children.

Yasmine Sherif of Education Cannot Wait, and Kevin Watkins of Save the Children UK are working together and are in discussions with the government of Bangladesh. Kevin Watkins will visit later this month.  The Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by Kofi Annan, requires us to offer equality of treatment to Rohingya children inside Myanmar.


While it is a great achievement that 1 million children affected by the Syria crisis are enrolled in formal or non-formal education programs in the region, we need to cater to all of the 5.4 million Syrians who have been forced to flee their homes. As of earlier this year, there were nearly 1.7 million registered school-age refugee children in five host countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.  Nearly 60% are benefiting from education because of the measures taken by the international community, in partnership with the host countries. Yet 740,000 Syrian refugee children remain out of school in the region.

  • Turkey hosts 850,000refugee children, with approximately 550,000 in school.
  • Lebanon hosts 488,000 with approximately 220,000 benefiting from the “double-shift” school model.

The Inter-Agency Appeal has received about half of the overall $841 million in education funding requested. Unless we can now ensure multi-year, predictable support, the lost generation for Syrian youth will start to look like the lost century for Syrian youth.  Our aim is to ensure donor countries, which have made promises of aid, deliver on this promise.

East Africa 

It is estimated that 1.9 million South Sudanese people are internally displaced and 7.6 million are in need of humanitarian aid. There are now more than 2.1 million South Sudanese refugees, mostly women and children, who have fled to the neighboring countries of Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

As UN Special Envoy, I have been in touch with the Windle Trust International who has reported that South Sudan has the lowest secondary enrolment rates in the world – just 5% of young people go on to join secondary schools.  Even worse, 5% is an average – for girls and in some states the percentage will be less than half that figure.  A staggering 95% never get the chance to complete their basic education.  Unless there is a concerted and sustained program of collective action, there is no likelihood of significant positive change in the next five years.

By the end of the year Uganda will host almost 1.5 million refugees. Out of these, an estimated one million are fleeing insecurity and violence in South Sudan.  The remaining 500,000 are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. And almost half of all in need are children under 18.

We have been working with Her Excellency Janet Museveni, First Lady of Uganda and Minister of Education on a response.  A report prepared by Save the Children and launched during the Solidarity Summit showed that $132 million is needed to meet the basic education needs of children living in those areas. Education Cannot Wait, the Global Partnership for Education, Save The Children, the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and UNHCR have led a joint mission and are working on a collective response.

Palestine Refugees

One organisation stands on the front-line: UNRWA, the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees. Every single day, its 22,000 school principals, teachers and education specialists ensure the right to education of half a million Palestinian boys and girls in preserved areas.

And they do that in Aleppo, Homs or Damascus, in Syria, they do it in Jenin, Hebron and East Jerusalem, they do throughout Gaza, Lebanon and Jordan as well. They run 700 schools, where boys and girls learn Arabic, English, math, science, and engage passionately in a unique Human Rights training.

UNRWA is the single largest provider of education services for refugees across the entire UN system.

But today as they prepare for 2018 needs, they are still short of securing the ones for 2017. UNRWA will require US$ 444 million for 2018 – but it is still struggling to make up the US$ 61 million shortfall for 2017 which puts the continuation of education for 500,000 young people at risk in the region.

Progress and Way Forward

We will do everything to advance GPE’s replenishment effort in February of next year in support of Julia Gillard and Alice Albright’ endeavours.

I would also like to commend UNICEF, under the pioneering leadership for seven years of Anthony Lake, for the priority the organisation has placed on education in emergencies.  This issue is rapidly becoming UNICEF’s single-biggest challenge and priority, comprising over a third (39%) of UNICEF’s $1.1 billion education budget.

I am pleased to announce the Education Cannot Wait fund, under the leadership of Yasmine Sherif, is making significant contributions to improving education in emergency situations.

One year only after ECW’s establishment, 13 countries have been selected to benefit from special funding support. ECW is currently working to promote access to quality education for 3.7 million children – of which 1.6 million are girls – and support 20,000 teachers in Syria, Yemen, Chad, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Peru, Bangladesh, Madagascar, Nepal, Uganda, Somalia and Ukraine. Resilience multi-year programs are also being developed in Uganda and Lebanon.


Editor’s Notes

  • The estimated 70 million children who will be trapped in humanitarian situations in 2018 is a projection from the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, based on UNOCHA’s Global Humanitarian Overview which highlighted 135.7 million people in need. The number of children in emergencies varies.  Approximately 48% of Syrian refugees are under the age of 18 whereas nearly 60% of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children.
  • Data on the financing of 2017 humanitarian appeals can be found at:
  • Data on displacement comes from the UNHCR annual Global Trends study:
  • The Syria data was provided by Theirworld, based on UNCHR data, SETA estimates in Turkey and data from MOHE in Lebanon.
  • For additional citations for data used in this statement, please contact

About Education Cannot Wait

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is the first global movement and fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises.  It was established during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to help reposition education as a priority on the humanitarian agenda, usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground and foster additional funding to ensure that every crisis-affected child and young person is in school and learning. Based on the recognition that continuous access to quality learning is a priority for children and families affected by conflicts, natural disasters and displacement and that no organisation can do it alone, ECW comes as a ground-breaking initiative bringing together public and private partners eager to work together differently and mobilise the funding required to deploy immediate and sustainable programmes tailor-made to the educational needs of these children.

Don’t Challenge the Humanity of 75 Million Children in Conflicts and Disasters

Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait 

On the commemoration of the Human Rights Day on 10 December, let us remember the 75 million children whose humanity is challenged in crisis-affected countries around the globe. These children have a face, an identity and a name. Farida in Afghanistan, Akello in Uganda, Sara in Gaza and Aida in Ethiopia, are among the 75 million young people who dream of an education, but whose dream still lies in waiting enveloped by fear and uncertainty.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Farida, Akello, Sara and Aida are among the millions of children who have fled their homes amidst armed conflicts, and whose family-members and friends have been taken away from them by deadly rockets or armed militia. They dream of going to school, of becoming doctors and nurses, teachers and engineers, lawyers and entrepreneurs. Deep beneath their dream to learn, to develop and to change their lives dwells another one: to change the world.

Children and youth suffering brutal wars and massive disasters have their childhood ripped apart. Education helps them stitch their life together. It gives them the tool, to paraphrase Nelson Mandela, to transform their own despair into a powerful force of change. The ripple effects will one day reach the rest of us, positively and productively. Without the tool of quality education in their most formative years, the reverse will fall upon us and this should be no surprise.

Children in conflict affected countries are 30% less likely to to complete primary school, and half as likely to complete lower-secondary school. For those who manage to access schools, quality is at stake and learning problems are enormous, such as overcrowded classrooms, sub-standard teaching, gender-based violence, and military attacks on schools, teachers and students. Over 30 million refugee and internally displaced children around the world endure an average of 10-20 years in displacement. Their lack of quality education prevents them from graduating from their suffering.

On the commemoration of the Human Rights Day, let us remember the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Let us remember why it was created on the heels of World War II: a determined, compassionate and enlightened response to the immense and unspeakable suffering brought upon the world. The Human Rights Declaration of 10 December 1948 was created for Farida, Akello, Sara and Aida, who represent millions of children and young people experiencing the scourge of war, still.

As Mandela also said: “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” Enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to education is a basic human right. Without quality education – especially for the millions of young people who suffer armed conflicts in their most formative years – we cannot prevent conflict, restore the rule of law, establish good governance, ensure health care, address climate change and lay the building blocks for productive and peaceful societies. It does not take much research to see the correlation.

Against this background, Education Cannot Wait – a global fund and movement for education in emergencies and protracted crisis – was created at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 for the 75 million children who are struggling to access education through the losses of war and disasters. Because their education cannot wait, we work to reach every child affected by crisis. Together with humanitarian and development partners, UN Member states and host-governments, private sector and civil society, refugees and affected communities, we are determined to translate the right to education in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into reality.

On the commemoration of the Human Rights Day and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 2017, nearly 70 years later, let us remember the right to quality education for 75 million children in conflict and crisis. Let us not challenge their humanity and put our own in question.

Original article posted on Huffington Post on 10 December 2017.

Germany joins the ‘Education Cannot Wait’ movement with a €16 Million investment

Germany has announced €16 Million for the Education Cannot Wait fund (ECW), becoming one of the largest donors to the world’s first dedicated fund for education in emergencies.

Expanding on Germany’s commitment to education in crisis and conflict situations, German Development Minister Gerd Müller said, “Education is the key to the development of each person. We must prevent a situation in which generations of children in crisis countries grow up without education, traumatized by violence and without opportunities for a better future. Education creates opportunities and gives people hope – and every child has a right to education.

Renowned for its comprehensive approach in education, Germany’s programs are focused on the provision of quality basic education, higher education and technical and vocational skills. The country has put a spotlight on education for refugees in recent years with a view to preventing a “lost generation”.

‘Education is the cornerstone of development, gender-equality, peace and security. The return on investment is unrivalled in terms of human capital, stability and prosperity for societies affected by conflict and disasters,’ said Ms Yasmine Sherif, the Director of Education Cannot Wait. ‘Germany’s generous support will help us to deliver safe, free and quality learning in some of the most complex environments. No matter what the circumstances – children’s education is a basic human right and simply cannot wait.’

Germany’s decision to invest in ECW was based on the fund’s innovative approaches. ECW’s pooled fund offers clear advantages in terms of catalytic effect, fast disbursement, flexibility, localization and capacity building. The fund is focused on bridging the divide between acute emergency response and longer-term education system strengthening, which Germany and other donors acknowledge as a crucial factor for stabilization and peace-building. Most importantly, by delivering education interventions that go beyond a short-term focus in crisis settings, ECW and its partners lay the foundation for sustainable development out of crisis. Germany is strongly committed to supporting sustainable pathways out of crises and provides support to ECW from a funding line dedicated specifically to programs that aim to bridge the divide between humanitarian and development interventions. By bringing together both humanitarian and development actors, ECW is generating unprecedented levels of coordination, within existing coordination structures. ECW was established to enable those actors and mechanisms to do more of what they currently do well, facilitate collaboration and joint programming, while mobilizing and disbursing additional resources.

“That is why we are working to see to it that children in crisis regions do not only receive food and shelter but also schooling – as quickly as possible. Children must be able to continue their studies, even after they have been displaced”, said Minister Müller.