Flood affected children in Chimanimani. © UNICEF Zimbabwe/2019/Mukwazhi
Flood affected children in Chimanimani. © UNICEF Zimbabwe/2019/Mukwazhi


30 April 2019, New York – As part of its ongoing commitment to support children whose lives have been ripped apart by Cyclone Idai, Education Cannot Wait approved a US$1 million grant that will help quickly restore education services for 55,000 children in Zimbabwe, including 27,000 girls.

The 12-month grant will establish safe learning spaces, provide teachers and students with learning materials, and train educators to provide the psychosocial support required to help children recover and rebuild after the catastrophic floods and destruction that affected some 270,000 people in the country, including 129,600 children.

According to recent reports, 139 schools have been impacted by the cyclone, affecting 90,000 students. The displacement of people also underscores the widespread disruption of learning, with some teachers and children being temporarily housed in collective centres or camp like settings. Loss of life, injury, disappearance of family members, and the trauma and distress associated with the uncertainty and risk that goes with an emergency like this, is impacting the ability to re-establish learning as a normal part of community activity. Even where communities are able to return to their homes when water subsides, the levels of trauma and distress are preventing the resumption of classes.

Evidence shows that children who are out of school for prolonged periods of time after a disaster are increasingly less likely to ever return to the classroom. For girls, there is an increased risk of this prolonged absence leading to early marriage.  In the chaos caused by a natural disaster of this magnitude, children are always at greater risk of exploitation, including sexual abuse and trafficking. Older girls are also more likely to be held back from school to help with chores in an emergency situation.

The new investment will help get children back in safe learning environments as soon as possible. It will be implemented by UNICEF (US$113,000 grant), CARE (US$100,000 grant), Plan International (US$225,000 grant), Save the Children (US$281,000 grant) and World Vision (US$281,000 grant).

By coordinating the response through the existing Education Cluster in Zimbabwe, the investment links with broader aid coordination structures. According to the Cluster, to date, close to US$1.5 million has been received for the education humanitarian response in Zimbabwe, with a US$6.6 million gap remaining.

Education Cannot Wait and its partners have committed a total of US$14 million to the educational response in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe further to devastation caused by  Cyclone Idai.


“I want to serve and save the lives of my people.” – Janet. Photo War Child Canada.


War Child Canada shares the story of Janet, who lost her father to war in South Sudan. With support from a Education Cannot Wait First Emergency Response in Uganda, Janet is finding new hope for the future.

Special Contribution from War Child Canada

When war reaches children like Janet, they are forced to ‘grow up’ quickly. For Janet, that moment came in 2015 when her father was killed during the war in South Sudan. She was 12 at the time.

The following year, she fled to Uganda with her mother – a harrowing and dangerous journey for anyone to take, especially for a young teenager.

When she finally arrived in Uganda, she was relieved to feel safer but she faced new problems. Her mother was ill, they had no income and she was worried about how she and her mother would survive. She was in a different country and she didn’t know anyone apart from those who had fled with her.

Like many girls her age faced with similar pressures, Janet decided that the quickest and most effective way to pull herself and her mother out of extreme poverty was to get married.

“I decided to get married at the end of 2016,” she told us. “I now have a baby boy who is seven months old. However, when the man [her husband] started mistreating me, I escaped and fled home.”

She was free from the abuse but she now found herself in an even more precarious situation: back where she started, but with a baby to look after as well.

One day, Janet’s mother attended a community meeting organized by War Child Canada through the Education Cannot Wait First Emergency Response. The meeting was to bring awareness to the community about War Child’s Accelerated Education Programme. After the meeting, Janet’s mother went to her daughter and encouraged her to resume her education.

Janet didn’t need much convincing—the programme was free so she could see no reason not to grasp this golden opportunity.

Since Janet enrolled in the programme, school has become her second home.

“When I was accepted by the programme, I felt so good and was the happiest girl!”

Even her young son is not a barrier to her education. The programme recognizes that young mothers are just as deserving of an education as anyone else. When she shows up to school with her son on her back, she is greeted with a warm welcome rather than a raised brow.

“Mothers like me are treated with respect, by both learners and teachers.”

For Janet, War Child’s Accelerated Education Programme does more than provide her with education and an opportunity to pursue skilled work. While at school, she can connect with other girls her age who can really identify with everything Janet’s been through.

She tells us that she likes going to school because “I have my friends my age who have similar problems to me. This has given me an opportunity to share experiences with them and I feel very comfortable.”

Janet encourages War Child to continue to raise awareness among the community about the importance of education, especially for girls.

“Girls are often seen as a source of wealth,” she says. “They are often married when they are still school children.”

When asked what she will do with her education, Janet responded: “I want to become a nurse after finishing school. I want to serve and save the lives of my people.”

Janet is a shining example of what kind of impact can be made when we invest in girls who have experienced the brutality of war. She is a community leader in the making and we are humbled by her hard work and determination to make a better life for herself, her family, and her community.

Learn More

  • Education Cannot Wait provided a US$3.3 million First Emergency Response allocation in 2017 to several partners in Uganda in order to respond to urgent education needs connected with the refugee crisis.
  • To reach all the refugee children living in the country, Education Cannot Wait facilitated the development of a 3.5-year Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda, contributing US$11 million in seed funding to support the launch of the plan. The comprehensive plan looks to raise a total of US$389 million in total contributions to reach more than 560,000 refugee and host community children and youth. Girls and children with disabilities will be especially targeted in the response.
  • Children of Hope
  • Connecting People with Technology in Partnership with HP

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.


 © UNICEF Moçambique/2019/Javier Rodriguez
An estimated 1.9 million people have been affected in Mozambique by cyclone Idai, of whom 1 million are children. © UNICEF Moçambique/2019/Javier Rodriguez


23 April 2019, New York – Just five weeks after Cyclone Idai hit the coast of Southern Africa, Education Cannot Wait, a global fund for education in emergencies, has approved US$5 million for immediate relief in Mozambique to get children back in school.

Recent estimates from the Government of Mozambique indicate that 3,504 classrooms were either destroyed or damaged in Mozambique, disrupting the education of more than 335,000 girls and boys.

Working with the Government of Mozambique in a coordinated response with international and national NGOs, UN Agencies, civil society and donors, the ECW investment will reach the most vulnerable children in Mozambique and keep girls safe from the heightened risk of gender-based violence that frequently occurs in emergencies.

The ECW response will reach 75,000 children, including 36,000 girls. Over 1,900 education personnel will receive specialized training to ensure children have the psychosocial support they need to resume their lives and deal with the trauma of seeing family members die, losing their homes in the floods or being displaced, and living in dangerous and unsafe conditions in temporary shelters.

The 12-month ECW investment will be implemented by Save the Children in partnership with CARE (US$1.7 million grant), World Vision (US$1.2 million grant), Food for the Hungry (US$550,00 grant), AVSI (US$700,000 grant), and Plan International (US$700,000 grant).

In getting children back in safe learning environments, implementing partners will establish temporary learning spaces, provide roofing for classrooms, and provide children and communities with life-saving information on hygiene to reduce the spread of disease.

ECW is working with partners to prepare an additional investment in Mozambique, as well as in neighboring Malawi and Zimbabwe, where the cyclone also caused serious damage.

Education Cannot Wait and its partners have committed a total of US$14 million to the educational response in the three countries to reach approximately half a million children in all.

The fast-acting response was made possible with the generous support of ECW’s donor partners, including DFID, Dubai Cares, and the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, who announced supplemental support to Education Cannot Wait’s US$7 million grant on the margins of the World Bank/IMF Spring Meeting.


Madge Thomas, Senior Director of Global Policy of Global Citizen, Yasmine Sherif, Director Education Cannot Wait, and Jana Babatunde-Bey, President and CEO of the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation.FUNDS RAISED THROUGH SMITH’S OMAZE CAMPAIGN WHERE HE BUNGEE JUMPED OVER GRAND CANYON

11 April 2019, Washington – Today during the World Bank Spring Meetings, Jana Babatunde-Bey, President and CEO of the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation and Madge Thomas, Senior Director of Global Policy, of international advocacy organization Global Citizen presented Education Cannot Wait with a check to support children whose education has been disrupted by conflict and crisis. The Fund aims to mobilize resources to deliver urgent educational support to 75 million children and young people affected by the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Will Smith, globally renowned actor and a high-profile advocate for education, is among those supporting Education Cannot Wait in its efforts to raise US $1.8 billion by 2021 to support education programmes for close to 9 million children and youth living in crisis settings. Last year, in partnership with Omaze, a platform which democratizes traditional auction-giving by offering people the chance to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience for as little as $10, Smith bungee jumped from a helicopter over the Grand Canyon on his fiftieth birthday to raise funds for Education Cannot Wait.

Will’s historic jump raised $746,000 from donors from 166 countries, and helped mobilize millions more through a unique partnership that brought together Global Citizen, Omaze and the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation to help empower vulnerable children across the globe.

The resources mobilized through Global Citizen and the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation will support Education Cannot Wait’s ongoing actions to provide education to children living through some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises. This includes relief efforts to ensure children affected by Cyclone Itai – which destroyed parts of Mozambique and Southern Africa in late March – do not suffer from interruptions in their schooling. In addition, the relief efforts will include ongoing efforts to provide urgent access to education services to the hundreds of thousands of children fleeing the crisis in Venezuela and seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

Over the next three years, Education Cannot Wait will launch multi-year educational response programmes in 25 crisis countries that are struggling with long-lasting complex crisis to help reduce needs and build resilience. These priority countries include Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria.

Global Citizen recently led a field mission to Peru, which has taken in over 650,000 Venezuelan refugees – the second highest intake in the region, and met with Peruvian families who benefited from a previous Education Cannot Wait grant, as well as families arriving from Venezuela in search of hope, normalcy and a better future and regular schooling for their children.

“We need more people like Will Smith to take up the cause of education in crisis and fill the US$8.5 billion funding gap. He is truly driven by a sense of humanity. Providing education for the 75 million children and youth that lack access to reliable education worldwide is the way to go to serve our shared humanity. For boys and girls subjected to utmost inhumanity, such as sexual violence, kidnapping, forced recruitment to become child soldiers, and children living with the scars of violence and conflict, education is the only hope they have left,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait. “Education is one of the best investments we can make to empower the next generation to raise out of poverty and protect themselves from exploitation and extremism. Investing in them today means investing in peace, justice and prosperity tomorrow.”


Notes to editors

Will Smith has long been a champion for education. Will Smith: The Jump, a YouTube Original special, produced by Smith’s Westbrook Studios, provided global visibility to a crisis that affects millions of children worldwide, and profiled global efforts to provide universal, equitable and accessible education for all by 2030 as outlined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

At the 2018 Global Citizen Festival in New York’s Central Park,, Yasmine Sherif, Education Cannot Wait Director, underscored that global advocacy efforts – and the visibility created through the Global Citizen partnership and millions of fans who tuned in to see Smith’s “The Jump” and called on their governments to support the organisation.

Their calls encouraged $70 million in new commitments to Education Cannot Wait during the 2018 UN General Assembly from several donors, including Norway, the Netherlands and Dubai Cares. The Government of Denmark announced its new funding to Education Cannot Wait at the Global Citizen Festival, with a new US$46 million contribution – making Denmark the single largest government donor to Education Cannot Wait’s history. Minister for International Development for Denmark, Ulla Tørnæs, saluted both Will Smith’s bravery and deceased former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s belief in the power of education when committing the new funding.

“Thank you Will Smith! I admire your bravery and share your passion for this cause…Kofi Annan was right. Education is the foundation on which free, liberal, democratic societies are built….We need to act. And Denmark does act. Next year Denmark will… reserve US$46 million for our good friends at Education Cannot Wait,” Tornaes said.

At the Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100 in South Africa, additional funds were pledged by the leaders of Germany and Canada taking the total raised in 2018 to $124M.  Minister of Education for South Sudan, Deng Deng Hoc Yai said: “Someone who understands the importance of education is Will Smith, a true champion for children’s rights, who bravely bungee-jumped over the Grand Canyon in September raising over US$750,000 for the Education Cannot Wait initiative, to help countries like mine provide education in emergencies. I appreciate Will Smith for his support! Absolutely, education cannot wait.”

About Global Citizen

Since the first Global Citizen Festival in New York in 2012, Global Citizen has grown into one of the largest, most visible platforms for young people around the world calling on world leaders to honor their responsibilities in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and ending extreme poverty by 2030.

Global Citizens have generated commitments and policy announcements from leaders valued at over $37.9 billion that are set to affect the lives of more than 2.25 billion people. This year alone Global Citizens have secured 29 commitments totaling over $2.9 billion that are set to affect the lives of more than 501 million people by 2030.

With less than 2% of all humanitarian aid allocated to education, Global Citizen will continue to support Education Cannot Wait and other education finance initiatives to raise millions of dollars in funds from governments, businesses and individuals to fill the gap and leave no child behind.

For press enquiries and to schedule an interview, contact: Mr Andrew Kirk  +1 347 712 1877

About Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

ECW is a global fund launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to deliver education in conflict and crisis settings. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes.


ECW’s Secretariat is hosted by UNICEF in its Headquarters in New York.

Additional information is available at

For press enquiries and to schedule an interview, contact:

Ms. Anouk Desgroseilliers,, +1 917 640-6820

About the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation:

The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation (WJSFF) is a non-profit organization that sits at the convergence of philanthropy, media and social impact. WJSFF is an incubator and accelerator that ignites the next generation of big ideas, cutting-edge artists, thought leaders, change-makers and social innovators. Together with grantees and partners, WJSFF invests in organizations and initiatives that empower traditionally overlooked communities and affect real change. For more information, please visit

About Omaze:

Omaze is an online fundraising platform that makes giving fun and easy by offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences in support of critical causes. Our campaigns connect influencers, nonprofits and donors to create lasting impact, and have raised funds and awareness for over 350 charities with donations from over 180 countries. For more information, please visit




Peter Tabichi, a science teacher in Kenya whose outstanding dedication to his students earned him the prestigious 2019 Global Teacher Prize is appointed as the first “Champion for Children in Conflicts and Crisis” for Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in crisis.

Photo originally published on the Varkay Foundation website.
Peter Tabichi donates 80 per cent of his income to the poor. Photo originally published on the Varkay Foundation website.

It gives me great pleasure to work together with like-minded people such as Peter Tabichi to ensure that nobody is left behind in achieving our goal of universal and equitable education.’ – Gordon Brown

11 April, New York – Peter Tabichi, a science teacher in Kenya whose outstanding dedication to his students earned him the prestigious 2019 Global Teacher Prize is appointed as the first “Champion for Children in Conflicts and Crisis” for Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in crisis.

Tabichi will champion the cause of Education Cannot Wait and 75 million children whose education is disrupted by conflicts and natural disasters. With travels to the world’s most crisis-affected children and planned engagements at the 2019 United Nations General Assembly and other high-level events, Tabichi’s inspiring story and powerful voice will help raise the urgency on the world stage to invest in the future of girls and boys left behind in crisis.

Tabichi was awarded the US$1 million Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize last month in Dubai, with actor Hugh Jackman and Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum joining him on stage to celebrate the teacher’s tireless efforts to bring quality education to poor children in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

“The award is a testament to Mr. Tabichi’s dedication to the education of the children of Pwani and inspiration to all involved in teaching and in learning,” said Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group. “It gives me great pleasure to work together with like-minded people such as Mr. Tabichi to ensure that nobody is left behind in achieving our goal of universal and equitable education.”

Tabichi’s school in Kenya has just one computer and a student-teacher ratio of 58 to 1. In all 95 per cent of Tabichi’s students come from poor families, almost a third are orphans or have only one parent, and many go without food at home. Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common.

Nurturing the talents of these students, Tabichi expanded the school’s Science Club, mentoring his students to win first prize in the national science fair for an invention they built to allow blind and deaf people to measure objects. The students have also been honored by the Royal Society of Chemistry for an experiment that harnessed local plant life to generate energy.

Enrollment has doubled in the past three years at Tabichi’s school, and in 2018, 26 graduates went on to studies at the University.

“The students I teach see true hardships every day, from poverty to drought and hunger. But I also see in them raw talent and great creativity, hard work, a determination to defy the odds, and be the best they can be. Every child, everywhere in the world deserves the chance to fulfil their full potential,” said Tabichi. “It is heart-breaking to know that 75 million children around the world see their educational chances disrupted by conflict and natural disasters. Education Cannot Wait is doing vital work to make sure these children are not left behind. It will be my great honour to help them ensure children whose lives have been blighted by war and catastrophe are given their birth right: a decent education.”

Teachers in crisis settings are today’s world unsung heroes. Day after day, they strive to preserve a sense of normalcy and hope for the millions of children and youth whose future is at stake. Some are killed or injured in performing their duties. Some go without a salary for months or years. The majority face extremely challenging working conditions: insecurity, widespread violence and psychological trauma, overcrowded classes, lack of the most basic infrastructure and teaching materials, epidemics and gender-based violence. What’s more, many are volunteers who sometimes have never been trained to perform their function but who are committed and choose to devote their life to making a difference for children.

“Every day a child is out of education is not just a tragedy for the child, it is a tragedy for the world they will inherit. To tackle the education crisis, most severe in those places plagued by conflict and natural disaster, it is vital that we learn from teachers like Peter Tabichi, who are working on the front line to give young people born into the most challenging circumstances the skills they need to face the future with confidence,” said Vikas Pota, Chairman of the Varkey Foundation.

Through its investments, Education Cannot Wait relieves the hardship of teachers in crisis settings by providing them with the support they require to fulfil their role as a fundamental cornerstone of quality learning outcomes for children and youth. This entails providing training opportunities for teachers – with a special attention to ensuring females are equally represented in the teaching force – teaching materials, monetary incentives, school infrastructure upgrades, safe teaching and learning environments, and psychosocial services for children.

“We are honored to have Peter Tabichi as our Champion for Children in Conflicts and Crises. He is a profound visionary and a scholar, and he embodies the values of Education Cannot Wait. We feel privileged to partner with Mr. Tabichi because he represents the essence of education and its transformative power. His sense of service is inspiring and his pioneering achievements are a beacon of hope for the young generation of children, their teachers and, indeed, all of us,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.


About the Varkey Foundation

The Varkey Foundation believes every child deserves a vibrant, stimulating learning environment that awakens and supports their full potential. We believe nothing is more important to achieving this than the passion and quality of teachers. We founded the Global Teacher Prize to shine a spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world and we continue to play a leading role in influencing education debates on the status of teachers around the world.



On 1 April 2019 in Mozambique, Leonora Jose, 12, and her friend Olga Romao, 11 poses for a portrait in a classroom that has no roof at the Escola Primeria de Ndunda de Ndunda, in Manga, Beira. Mozambique. The school was badly damaged during Cyclone Idai and resumed activities in some of the classrooms on 27 March 2019. Tropical cyclone Idai, carrying heavy rains and winds of up to 170km/h (106mp/h) made landfall at the port of Beira, Mozambique’s fourth largest city, on Thursday 14 March 2019, leaving the 500,000 residents without power and communications lines down. As at 1 pril 2019, at least 140,784 people have been displaced from Cyclone Idai and the severe flooding. Most of the displaced are hosted in 161 transit centers set up in Sofala, Manica, Zambezia and Tete provinces. As of 31 March, 517 cholera cases and one death have been reported, including 246 cases on 31 March alone with 211 cases from one bairo. Eleven cholera treatment centres (CTC) have been set up (seven are already functional) to address cholera in Sofala. UNICEF supported the Health provincial directorate to install the CTC in Macurungo and Ponta Gea in Beira city, providing five tents, cholera beds and medicines to treat at least 6,000 people. UNICEF has procured and shipped 884,953 doses of Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) that will arrive in Beira on 01 April to support the OCV vaccination campaign expected to start on 3 April. With support of UNICEF and DFID, the water supply system in Beira resumed its operations on 22 March providing water to about 300,000 people. UNICEF has been supporting the FIPAG-water supply operator with fuel – 9,000 liters of fuel per day, and the provision of chemicals for water treatment. Water supply systems for Sussundenga and Nhamatanda small towns have also been re-established.
On 1 April 2019 in Mozambique, Leonora Jose, 12, and her friend Olga Romao, 11, pose for a portrait in a classroom that has no roof at the Escola Primeria de Ndunda de Ndunda, in Manga, Beira. Mozambique. The school was badly damaged during Cyclone Idai and resumed activities in some of the classrooms on 27 March 2019. Photo: Cyclone Idai, Mozambique, © UNICEF/UN0294994/DE WET


11 April 2019, Washington – Education Cannot Wait, the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID) and Dubai Cares announced today new commitments of up to US$14 million in funds to support educational responses in the wake of the devastation from Cyclone Idai, which caused widespread destruction and displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Out of the total allocation, the Education Cannot Wait Global Trust Fund is providing US$7 million from its emergency reserve, DFID is providing up to US$5.2 million (4 million pounds) and Dubai Cares is providing US$2 million against the emergency education response facilitated by Education Cannot Wait and coordinated by the Education Cluster.

The funds will help restore education services for an estimated total of 500,000 children and youth.

With entire communities uprooted, missing or deceased caregivers, and schools destroyed or being used as temporary shelters, children across the cyclone-affected countries have had their education disrupted and are instead grappling with trauma. They are also vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and gender-based violence, and face the risk of cholera, among other scourges.

In Mozambique alone, the disaster has affected 1.8 million people and destroyed over 3,300 classrooms, leaving 263,000 children out-of-school. In Zimbabwe, close to 150 schools have been impacted, affecting an estimated 60,000 children. In Malawi, an estimated 200 schools have been impacted.

“We have all seen images of the terrible suffering and devastation caused by Cyclone Idai. The UK has, from the start, led the way in supporting the victims of this destruction and the fresh funding I am announcing will provide further help where it is most needed, right now,” said DFID’s Secretary of State, Penny Mordaunt.

Matthew Rycroft, DFID Permanent Secretary, shared DFID's commitments at the Education Cannot Wait High Level Steering Group meeting today on the margins of the World Bank Spring Meeting (Photo Elias Bahaa/ECW)
Matthew Rycroft, DFID Permanent Secretary, shared DFID’s commitments at the Education Cannot Wait High Level Steering Group meeting today on the margins of the World Bank Spring Meeting (Photo Bahaa Elias/ECW)

The First Emergency Responses in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe will focus on supporting needs assessments, establishing temporary learning spaces, providing learning materials, supporting communities to get children back to school, giving teachers the tools, training and support they need to provide psycho-social support for the children in their care, and supporting governments to build back better.

“The loss of life, destruction and suffering that has resulted from Cyclone Idai is heartbreaking. Children, the most vulnerable victims of any disaster, are at the moment facing tremendous distress and uncertainty. Our partnership with Education Cannot Wait, allows us to quickly respond to this emergency and help reestablish access to education,” said Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares.

Dubai Cares (1)s
Dubai Cares CEO Tariq Al Gurg at the Education Cannot Wait High Level Steering Group (Photo Bahaa Elias/ECW)

Funds will be allocated against the emergency appeals launched by the governments of the affected-countries with the support of United Nations agencies and NGOs providing relief on the ground.

“A sudden and unexpected natural disaster of this magnitude causes immense human suffering. It demands an immediate response. For a child or adolescent, the losses are especially devastating,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Unless education services are given priority, the suffering will be prolonged and cause deeper disruption and trauma in their lives. I am deeply grateful to DFID and Dubai Cares for setting a shining example: they moved swiftly together with ECW to provide a coordinated and speedy response in partnership with Ministries of Education, the affected communities, the Education Cluster, UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations to reduce suffering and restore hope when these children and youth need it the most.”



Photo by Khalil Adwan


10 April 2019, New York – Education Cannot Wait announces a US$11.7 million seed funding allocation to support the launch of a ground-breaking multi-year educational response programme aiming to reach 320,000 children in the State of Palestine.

Developed in coordination with the Ministry of Education of the Palestinian Authority and a broad-based partnership of UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations, the three-year programme aims to mobilize US$34.8 million in total finance from additional donors.

“Children and youth in the West Bank and Gaza face significant levels of violence in their daily life. Education is a life-line for them. We must invest in their education and their schools as safe spaces where they can learn, thrive and be empowered to realize their potentials. Their potentials are great, indeed,” says the Director of Education Cannot Wait, Yasmine Sherif.

The programme will target some of the most vulnerable and at-risk children and youth in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with special attention given to marginalized groups such as girls, children with disabilities, and vulnerable communities.

The programme will implement integrated initiatives to develop the capacity of teachers and schools, improve safety of learning environments, offer protection to children and teachers and integrate life-skills to improve the quality of education.

One of the things that children have said to me over and over again in Palestine, is that they wish school were a place where they felt safe – a place where they could immerse themselves in learning, where they could be with their friends and not have to worry about the politics that surround them,” says Jamie McGoldrick, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories. “The seed funding provided by the Education Cannot Wait initiative is, perhaps, an excellent first step towards making this very reasonable wish a reality.”      

Although the net enrolment in basic education in Palestine is over 95 per cent, access to pre-primary education and secondary education is lagging. The net enrolment rate in secondary schools is only 60.8 per cent (52.4 per cent boys and 69.5 per cent girls). Children with disabilities are even further behind, with only 5 out of 10 children aged 6-17 enrolled in school.

In 2017 alone, there were 169 incidents of education-related violations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Demolition and stop-work orders are affecting schools and pushing children away from formal education. Some students must walk 10 kilometres or more to get to and from school, putting their safety at risk. With parents worried to send their daughters to school, girls are particularly at risk.

The new multi-year response programme was designed in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, the UN Country Team, development partners and NGOs.

It aligns with the over-arching framework for humanitarian and development education interventions in Palestine through the government’s Education Sector Strategic Plan 2017-2022, as well as the Joint Advocacy and Protection Strategy, the UNRWA Mid-Term Strategy, and the Humanitarian Response Plan.

This new US$11.7 million catalytic grant builds on the achievements of a $3 million First Emergency Response allocation from Education Cannot Wait which reached over 250,000  children (including 135,000 girls) and was implemented through the UNRWA.





Teacher Samah Sawaf with her students at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
Teacher Samah Sawaf with her students at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B”.© 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan



Special Contribution By Mona Abu-Sharekh, UNWRA Visibility Officer

Samah Sawaf is a 42-year-old teacher for second grade students at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B,” in Gaza City. Her ten years of experience working at schools supported through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) provided her with a good understanding of the specific educational and psychosocial needs of students living in challenging contexts such as Gaza.

“Before settling in Gaza, I worked as an education facilitator in Canada and as a teacher in Kuwait. I often compare these different learning environments and I wonder how these young students manage to study and focus in such an unstable setting where they constantly hear about tragic human stories? This strongly affects their confidence in the future and, thus, their capacity to learn and study,” Samah says.


Palestine refugee students at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
Palestine refugee students at Mamounia Elementary Co-Ed School “B”.© 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan


Gaza is a 40-kilometer-long coastal enclave and home to approximately 1.4 million Palestine refugees, or two-thirds of the overall population. Due to years of a long-standing blockade and political unrest, most of the people are struggling to survive. To make things worse, Gaza is seeing increased poverty levels, high unemployment, a deteriorating economy, and scarcity of energy and drinkable water.

Amid these difficult living conditions, education plays a crucial role in supporting children’s development and self-esteem and gives them hope for the future.

Having contributed to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees, UNRWA looks to education as a key element to protect the children of Gaza. The Agency provides basic education to more than 279,000 students in 274 schools in Gaza. UNRWA is the main provider of primary education to Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip.

At the heart of the UNRWA education programme is a strong commitment to provide quality, inclusive and equitable education for Palestine refugees, despite the difficult contexts in which they live. This strategic outcome seeks to build on the achievements to date of the UNRWA education reform with a focus on embedding, enriching and sustaining the achievements.

In 2011, UNRWA embarked on a systemic Agency-wide education reform process which sought to strengthen the UNRWA education system in order to support each and every child towards realising their full potential.

Supported by its education in emergencies response, UNRWA has continued to deliver education in times of crisis through the introduction of innovations such as student self-learning through the dedicated UNRWA  YouTube channel and an interactive learning website to develop numeracy and literacy skills.

As children in Gaza grow up in challenging conditions, frequently surrounded by poverty and violence, UNRWA-supported schools provide them with a safe place to learn and play.

Palestine refugee students are using support kits at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
Palestine refugee students are using support kits at Mamounia Elementary Co-Ed School “B”. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan


“As the classrooms are overcrowded, the main difficulty is to offer space for every student to express himself or herself. I have a class of 42 students and the lesson lasts for 45 minutes which allows less than one minute for every child to share his or her ideas.  This makes it difficult for teachers to be inclusive and to ensure that no student feels neglected,” Samah said.

Despite these difficult working conditions, Samah does her best to provide her students with an enabling learning environment.

“When my students enter the classroom, I want them to know that they are in a safe place. If the child feels comfortable in the classroom, he or she will be more confident to participate and thus will be better integrated. I also think teaching students in a participative and interactive manner is more interesting and enhances students’ motivation and achievements.  This is why I acknowledge the usefulness and importance of the education tools that we received last year from Education Cannot Wait,” Samah said.

Over the past few years and through the UNRWA education reform, Samah and all the UNRWA teachers have been supported in implementing student-centred, active teaching and learning strategies.

Palestine refugee students are using support kits at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
A young Palestine refugee student, plays with a giant die, part of the support kit at Mamounia Elementary Co-Ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan


Education Cannot Wait (ECW) contributed to safeguarding the right of UNRWA school-aged children to complete quality, equitable and inclusive basic education through different interventions including support to teachers, provision of literacy and numeracy support kits, fans and school furniture, school maintenance and training on non-violence for education of staff and members of school parliaments.

The learning support materials purchased through the ECW investment have helped to enhance the learning process and provided a means for interaction and diverse teaching methodologies, strengthening students’ engagement and motivation. In times of crisis, it is even more key to develop the skills and competencies of children and help them achieve their full potential.

“The education tools we received as part of this investment, notably the Arabic alphabet printed cards, the portable theatres, the abacuses, the numeracy games and conversation plates, had a great impact on students’ motivation and involvement in the lessons. I noticed that these tools facilitate the learning process as students can visualize the abstract ideas and thus better memorize the information. Lessons are definitely more attractive when we use interactive tools and games as a way of learning,” Samah said.

Not only the teachers but also the students did notice the positive effect of these new tools. As in any education in emergencies response, student participation was an important part of the Education Cannot Wait-based investment. Empowering students is key to enhancing students’ own well-being and that of their peers and to creating an environment that is conducive to learning. Student engagement also helps to place students in a better position to deal with negative emotions and cope with the difficult living circumstances in Gaza.

“My class is much more colourful than before; we also do many more works in groups with these new tools, thanks to which I made new friends. For a long time I thought that studying was hard and boring but now, I discovered that it can be fun too, especially when we use the theatre item!”  said one of the school’s students, Mohammed Buhaisi.  

Mayar Mahfouz, a second-grade student says the new furniture has improved her learning environment. “I like when visitors come to the classroom and get impressed by how nice it is. It makes me feel proud and happy. Our classroom is so nice and so well equipped now that I want to preserve it and to spend more time in it.”


Teacher Areej Shaafout with her students at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
UNRWA teacher Areej Shaafout with her students at Mamounia Elementary Co-Ed chool “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

Areej Shaafout, another teacher from Al Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B,” explains how the literacy learning support kits offer a solution to deal with the issue of overcrowded classrooms while enhancing literacy teaching: “I teach students in grade 1 and 2 to read and write and this requires patience and focus. The support kits catch students’ attention and help them to concentrate for a longer time as it gives them an opportunity to play instead of merely listening. I am happy to say that now, all of my 42 students can write and read!”

The Education Cannot Wait investment was key in providing targeted support to the overall UNRWA education programme and its education-in-emergencies approach. By building on the UNRWA education programme, the investment’s activities were embedded in the existing system, ensuring a maximized and long-term impact beyond 2018. However, for UNRWA to be able to sustain the delivery of education and consolidate existing efforts, commitment from donors to provide adequate and predictable funding is key.

© 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
A young Palestine refugee student engages with visual aids that are part of the support kits at Mamounia Elementary Co-Ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan


Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.



Yasmine Sherif and Dr. Waleed Al-Wohaib Director of Islamic Solidarity Fund, signed the Global Education Declaration this week in Morocco


5 April 2019, Morocco – There are around 28 million out-of-school children in Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). That’s more than the total population of Australia.

To address this growing challenge, Education Cannot Wait – a global fund for education in emergencies that seeks to mobilize US$1.8 billion by 2021 to reach 8.9 million children living in the midst of war, disaster and crisis – signed an agreement this week with the Islamic Development Bank and a wide range of stakeholders for a Global Education Coalition for Enrolling and Retaining 28 million out-of-school children in OIC member countries by 2021.

The declaration was signed at the 44th Annual Meeting of the IsDB Group, and provides a pathway to reach the Sustainable Development Goal for universal and equitable education (SDG4).

Signatories of the declaration include the Islamic Development Bank, Islamic Solidarity Fund, Education Above All, Education Cannot Wait, Save the Children, GPE, SPARK and others.

The declaration builds on momentum to address the growing needs of many OIC member states that are struggling to meet the needs of growing populations in the midst of poverty, natural disasters, and local and regional protracted crises.

“Prioritizing education in OIC countries is becoming more and more urgent, especially in countries where escalating crises are threatening the stability of an entire region,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “There is an urgent need to enhance the quality and inclusion in education, and to reopen thousands of schools in OIC countries like Afghanistan, Niger, Syria, Yemen, and many others.”

Several OIC countries are also affected by large-scale refugee crises and internally displaced populations that require urgent action.

Education Cannot Wait, along with a broad coalition of international actors, UN agencies, civil society, on-the-ground implementing agencies, national governments, the private sector, donors and financial institutions such as the Islamic Development Bank are building and supporting both first emergency responses and multi-year resilience programmes for several OIC countries, including Palestine, Bangladesh (Rohingya crisis), Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, Syria and Yemen.

There 75 million children in urgent need of educational support in crisis settings worldwide. Approximately 60 per cent of the education humanitarian caseload in 2018 (31 million children) were living in 19 crisis-affected OIC member countries.

Through its US$153 million investment portfolio, Education Cannot Wait is already reaching 1.4 million of the most marginalized children and youth in crisis settings, including 10 OIC countries.



A young boy at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, where nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees are living. UN Photo/Sahem Rababah
A young boy at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, where nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees are living. UN Photo/Sahem Rababah


Special Contribution By Nancy Kanwal, Global Education Cluster

Protection is a universal responsibility all humanitarian actors must work towards. Reaching this goal will require equitable education for every girl and boy on this planet – even those living in crisis; complemented by more tailored, child protection services for children who need them.

This was a central message at the 2019 Global Education Cluster (GEC) Annual Partners Meeting that brought together over 130 education in emergencies coordination staff, ministries of education, colleagues from the child protection sector and other key partners.

“Education in emergencies is a life-saving and life-sustaining intervention, having access to safe learning places helps children and young people heal from the trauma and duress inflicted by humanitarian emergencies,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, a global fund hosted by UNICEF that seeks to mobilize US$1.8 billion in resources by 2021 to improve educational opportunities for children living in crisis.

Education delivered in a protective environment alleviates suffering, heals trauma, provides a sense of normalcy and structure for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by conflict or disaster. Protecting education from attacks is essential to support the psychological and physical well-being of children and youth in humanitarian emergencies.

“We, as the education sector, must work better with child protection actors to identify and tackle other barriers and vulnerabilities preventing children from accessing a protective education. This entails looking beyond schools and facilities,” said Maria Agnese Giordano, Global Education Cluster Coordinator.

With this clear linkage in mind, discussion between education and child protection practitioners and partners resulted in recommendations for improved collaboration on joint needs analysis, planning and review, implementation, and the reporting and monitoring of attacks on education for the Cluster to take forward.

“The Humanitarian Needs Overview and Humanitarian Response Plans are blueprints guiding our response. It is imperative we use child protection data to inform education planning and response outlined in these documents,” said Anthony Nolan, Global Education Cluster Coordinator.

As Panos Moumtzis, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria crisis highlighted in his address, education is an issue going beyond a single organization or actor – meeting education needs requires collective efforts. Coordination among education in emergencies responders and child protection counterparts is integral to meeting education needs in a protective and efficient manner to reduce duplication and ensure even more children and youth are supported.

Cognizant of the critical role of coordination, Education Cannot Wait reiterated their support to empower the Global Education Cluster in fulfilling its mandate to ensure an efficient, predictable and accountable education response to meet growing education needs of children and young people living in humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises.

Education Cannot Wait and the Global Education Cluster have strengthened their partnership over the last two years. One key output has been collaboration to provide in-country support for the Multi-Year Resilience Programme development process. Education Cannot Wait is working with partners from across the human-development spectrum to develop multi-year educational responses for 25 priority countries, which it will roll out by 2021.

As part of its work to identify and scale up best-practices and innovation in the education in emergencies sector,  Education Cannot Wait is also supporting the Global Partners Project. This initiative brings together the Global Education Cluster, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) in working with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) to develop an evidence base and recommendations to strengthen joint planning, response and coordination in education interventions.

The Global Education Cluster 2019 Annual Meeting  was held from the 27 to 29 March in Amman, Jordan, following a two-day retreat for Global Education Cluster coordination staff.

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