PROTECTING EDUCATION FROM ATTACK: SCOPE, IMPACT AND RESPONSE

The Permanent Missions of Norway, Argentina, Nigeria, Qatar, Spain, and Uruguay, together with the Global Coalition to Protection Education from Attack (GCPEA), have the honour to invite you to a virtual event to examine the latest data on attacks on education and to mark the Fifth Anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration.

Opening remarks
H.E. Ms. Ine Eriksen Søreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway
H.E. Ms. ​Arancha González Laya, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Spain

Speakers
Ms. Virginia Gamba, Under-Secretary-General Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
Mr. Bruno Stagno Ugarte, Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy, Human Rights Watch
Ms. Marika Tsolakis, Lead Researcher, GCPEA
Mr. Mohamed Zaher Al-Bakour, Lecturer, Aleppo University, Syria

Moderator
Ms. Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait

The event will highlight the global scope and impact of attacks on education by presenting findings from the upcoming 2020 edition of GCPEA’s flagship report, Education under Attack. In conflicts around the world, students and educators are deliberately and indiscriminately killed, injured, recruited, raped, and abducted at, and on the way to education institutions. Schools and universities are bombed and burned and used for military purposes. In addition to the loss of life, these attacks impede education, impacting long-term economic and social development.

Education Under Attack is the most comprehensive and rigorous source of data and analysis on attacks on education and military use of schools and universities. The series serves as the primary source for reporting on indicator 4.a.3 on attacks on students, education personnel, and educational institutions, which monitors progress in implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4, Quality Education. The fifth edition will outline incidents of attacks on education and military use of educational facilities in 37 conflict-affected countries that suffer these attacks systematically between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2019.

This event will also mark the Fifth Anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration, an intergovernmental political commitment to better protect education during armed conflict. To date, 103 states have endorsed the Declaration, representing more than half of all UN member states. Many states have already taken a critical action in implementing the Safe Schools Declaration, as documented by GCPEA in Practical Impact of the Safe Schools Declaration, saving lives and better ensuring the right to education for all in places affected by conflict.

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT EXPANDS ITS EDUCATION IN EMERGENCY COVID-19 RESPONSE TO INCLUDE 3.9 MILLION CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN CAMEROON

US$1.5 million grant in Cameroon brings total ECW COVID-19 First Emergency Response to US$24.5 million across 27 countries and emergency contexts

20 May 2020, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announces a US$1.5 million allocation to support the education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Cameroon. The new funding brings ECW’s total response to the pandemic to US$24.5 million across 27 countries and emergency contexts, through its first emergency response window.

The new funding will ensure access and continuity of children’s learning in crisis-affected areas in Cameroon, reaching 3.9 million children, of whom 2.2 million are girls, as well as 8,600 teachers, 60 per cent of whom are women.

Funds are allocated to UNESCO (US$1 million) and UNICEF (US$500,000) in country. The grantees will implement the investment in collaboration with and support of the Education Cluster, the Government of Cameroon and civil society organizations.

The funding will support a range of educational activities, including scaling up an existing ECW investment that provides a hybrid learning platform with internet connectivity solutions, and radio access for non-formal and formal education and providing children the opportunity to sit for exams. It will also support life-saving risk-mitigation measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which builds upon the UNICEF, WHO and IFRC Safe-Schools’ Protocols for the Reopening of Schools.

To date, ECW’s total emergency funding for COVID-19 education in emergency responses across 27 crisis-affected countries/emergency contexts has been allocated to a total of 57 grantees comprising UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations. These implementing agencies are coordinating their efforts together with host-governments and other partners to deliver lifesaving and life-sustaining education in emergency responses with speed and agility.

Grants duration varies between six to 12 months and focus on ensuring continuous access to education, including distance, online and radio learning; information campaigns, risk communications and community engagement in local languages, including psychosocial and mental health support; and water and sanitation facility upgrades in schools and learning centers as a first line of defense.

Donors are stepping up to fill ECW’s recent global appeal for US$50 million in immediate funding to support the education in emergency response to the global pandemic. Notably, the Lego Foundation recently announced US$15 million in funding for ECW, and the UK has provided £5 million in additional funding.

Updated analysis from UNESCO indicates that 1.2 billion learners are currently affected by the pandemic, with 154 current country-wide closures. For the 75 million children and youth already impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement, natural disasters and protracted crises, COVID-19 and its ongoing economic and social impacts amplifies risks for girls and boys already pushed aside.

Additional information on ECW COVID-19 emergency grants per country/crisis (updated 20 May 2020):

ECW First Emergency Response grants announced on 2 April (learn more here)

  • Afghanistan: Total of $1.25 million allocated. Grantees: UNICEF ($1.25 million)
  • Bangladesh: Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: BRAC ($900,000), Save the Children ($600,000)
  • Brazil: Total of $250,000 million allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($250,000)
  • Burkina Faso: Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: EDUCO ($300,000), Plan International ($500,000), Save the Children ($250,000), UNICEF ($300,000), UNHCR ($150,000)
  • Colombia: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($1 million)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: AVSI ($340,000), Save the Children ($140,000), UNESCO ($520,000), War Child Canada ($500,000)
  • Ethiopia: Total of $1million allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($500,000), UNICEF ($500,000)
  • Palestine: Total of $850,000 allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($400,000), UNICEF ($450,000)  
  • Somalia – Federal Government of Somalia and Member States: Total of $800,000 allocated. Grantee: ADRA ($800,000)
  • Somalia – Puntland: Total of $650,000 allocated. Grantee: Save the Children ($650,000)
  • Somalia – Somaliland: Total of $700,000 allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($700,000)
  • Syria: Total of $500,000 allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($500,000)
  • Uganda: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($525,000), UNHCR ($475,000)
  • Venezuela: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($1 million)
  • Zimbabwe: Total of $500,000 allocated. Grantees: Plan International ($75,000), Save the Children ($175,000), UNICEF ($175,000), World Vision ($75,000)
  • Regional Response for Palestine Refugees: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantee: UNRWA ($1 million)

ECW First Emergency Response grants announced on 3 April (learn more here)

  • Central African Republic (CAR): Total of $1 million allocated. Grantees: Jesuit Refugee Service ($75,000), Norwegian Refugee Council ($175,000), UNICEF ($750,000)
  • Chad: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantees: Consortium Humanity International & Cooperazione Internazionale-COOPI ($300,000), UNHCR ($400,000), WFP ($300,000)
  • Ecuador: Total of $550,000 allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($550,000)
  • Malawi: Total of $325,000 allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($125,000), UNICEF ($200,000)
  • Mali: Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: UNICEF ($750,000), UNHCR ($750,000)
  • Mozambique: Total of $325,000 allocated. Grantees: Plan International ($100,000), UNICEF ($150,000), World Vision International ($75,000)
  • Niger: Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: Plan International ($225,000), Save the Children ($225,000), UNICEF ($450,000), WFP ($375,000), World Vision International ($225,000)
  • Nigeria: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantees: Plan International ($125,000), Save the Children ($125,000), Street Child ($125,000), UNICEF ($625,000)
  • Peru: Total of $300,000 allocated. Grantee: RET International ($300,000)
  • Yemen: Total of $500,000 allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($500,000)

ECW First Emergency Response grant announced on 20 May

  • Cameroon: Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: UNESCO ($1,500,000), UNICEF ($500,000)

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT: HELPING CHILDREN AND YOUTH DESPERATE TO LEARN IN ‘A CRISIS UPON EXISTING CRISES’

View Original on Global Heroes

Around the world, 75 million vulnerable, school-aged children and youth are already missing out on their education because they are caught in armed conflicts, forced displacement, natural and climate-change-induced disasters, and other protracted crises. These girls and boys are now doubly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic: ‘A Crisis Upon Existing Crises’. What we consider to be essential is not always attainable – many of these children are in desperate need of educational assistance.

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the global fund for education in emergencies, established in 2016 by international humanitarian and development aid actors – is working to change that. ECW strives to make education a top priority on humanitarian and development agendas and to ensure that education is accessible to all crisis-affected children and youth. In times of emergency, the importance of education is often spoken of, yet, the funding rarely reflects the urgency or the necessity.

Education Cannot Wait is revamping the way education is delivered in times of emergency and is working to ensure more funding is directed to education in emergencies; already it has mobilized well over half a billion dollars to do so in just three years, with a target of mobilizing US$1.8 billion by 2021.

“The list of threats continues to grow, with COVID-19 now taking up a sizeable spot. Girls and boys enduring armed conflicts, disasters, forced displacement, and other crises are now at extreme risk with the additional hardship of the global pandemic. There is no end in sight to how much these young souls have to suffer, and they must be our absolute top priority,” says Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait Director.

“With an additional $50 million, Education Cannot Wait and our partners can continue to scale-up life-saving and life-sustaining education services which not only provide hope and opportunity but also help to protect the health and wellbeing of these young people at a time when they need it the most. Through Education Cannot Wait’s COVID-19 response, these children and youth have a greater chance of continuing their education through remote learning, access support for their mental health in a difficult time like this, and be given a chance to protect their health,” explains Sherif.

ECW brings governments, humanitarian actors and development efforts together to create a faster and more collaborative response to educating girls and boys impacted by crises. Most importantly, with its UN and NGO partners around the world, this innovative global fund strives to provide these children and youth with quality education that is safe, free, inclusive and accessible – and the ECW team is working around the clock to make this a reality for every single girl and boy by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG4 on quality education!

In times of crisis, governments and aid organizations often strive to provide affected populations with urgent basic necessities, like food, water, and shelter. Education is usually a lower, add-on priority on the list, with only 2 to 4 percent of humanitarian funding allocated to ensuring education remains accessible.

Less often considered is that children who are forced out of school by emergencies – particularly girls, but boys as well – are more exposed to risks of violence, exploitation, child labor, trafficking, child marriage, and recruitment by armed groups. Without a stable education, they lose their chance, and indeed their human right, to fulfill their potential and they often find these risks make it difficult to ever return to school when it reopens. Education is not only important for all children and youth to guide them to a better future but is also crucial for families struggling to keep their children safe and for societies to build a peaceful life.

During the recent ‘One World: Together at Home’ global broadcast special, which featured artists like Lady Gaga, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and Celine Dion, the CEO of the LEGO Foundation, John Goodwin, announced their new US$15 million funding contribution towards Education Cannot Wait’s COVID-19 emergency response.

“Research shows that while learning through play is vital for children’s psychological, emotional and cognitive health and development, it also hones the resilience they need to overcome adversity and build their futures, which is needed now more than ever given the crisis we’re currently up against,” Goodwin said in his announcement.

The LEGO Foundation contribution was preceded a few days earlier by a US$6.26 million contribution to ECW from DFID-UK. These two recent contributions bring Education Cannot Wait US$21.26 million closer to its urgent US$50 million appeal to public and private sector donors to replenish its emergency funds reserve to immediately deploy essential education services for crisis-affected children and youth facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, just as education cannot wait, neither can emergency funding for ECW, so it can help crisis-affected children and youth desperate to learn in some of the world’s toughest war zones and emergency contexts. To learn more, please follow @EduCannotWait on Twitter and visit their website at: educationcannotwait.org

OVERCOMING LIFE’S HARDSHIPS IN SYRIA

Hamzeh, 15, Douma, East Ghouta. All photos © UNICEF/Syria/2020/Malas

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, UNICEF’s Curriculum B and inclusive school rehabilitation are supporting children with disabilities in accessing quality educational opportunities

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Sandra Awad and Tarek Jacob, UNICEF. View Original.

“I feel very lonely at times,” stuttered Hamzeh, 15, who lost his three brothers as well as other family members and friends, to the conflict in Syria. “I miss the days when the whole family gathered in the yard of our old house.”

Despite losing their home, the family never left their city, remaining in the Syrian town of Douma in East Ghouta, even throughout five harsh years of siege between 2013 and 2018.

Born with paralysis in his lower body and poor verbal articulation capabilities, Hamzeh’s ability to talk further deteriorated during the besiegement in East Ghouta, particularly after he witnessed the death of his siblings.

Back in 2013, a shell hit the family’s home causing the death of his brothers and forcing Hamzeh and his parents out of the house. They took shelter in a small room on land his father owned in Douma. Because of ongoing violence, Hamzeh had to also drop out of school in the second grade.

For years, his determination to resume learning kept Hamzeh hopeful.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy; but being in school would give meaning to my life,” he said.

In 2018, as violence subsided in East Ghouta, he went back to school and has been catching up on his education with the help of UNICEF’s Curriculum B programme. This accelerated learning programme combines two academic years in one and allows children who missed out on periods of learning to catch up with their peers in half the required time.

“I pushed my son to continue his studies after his father’s death, and I do the same with Hamzeh and my other students. I believe that education is a solution for the hardships we have been through,” said Inaam, Hamzeh’s teacher.

First grade students attending an Arabic class in January 2020 in a school rehabilitated by UNICEF.

“Two years ago, the school building was severely damaged. Stone and metal parts could fall at any moment. Students and staff could get hurt,” said Inaam. “Hamzeh’s mother was worried about his accessibility and movement inside the building, but eventually his insistence convinced his parent to send him to school.”

“I was delighted to see the spacious bathroom and try the special pathway to class, constructed for children in wheelchairs like me,” said Hamzeh about UNICEF’s school rehabilitation works that were concluded in his school at the beginning of 2020. “Classes looked grim before, but now they’re colourful and much more pleasant.”

The rehabilitation works included painting classrooms, corridors and entrances, replacing and repairing damaged doors, windows and ceilings, as well as improving playgrounds and installing playground equipment, while ensuring an inclusive environment to support accessibility for children with physical disabilities. This rehabilitation also provided access to safe drinking water and inclusive sanitation and hygiene facilities by doing needed repairs and construction of the facilities.

In rural Damascus, with thanks to generous contributions from Japan, Educate A Child, the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF), Education Cannot Wait, Norway and France, since 2019, UNICEF has been able to reach 36,000 children through its school rehabilitation. Approximately 2,000 children have been reached with the Curriculum B programme thanks to support from Educate A Child.

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.


The rehabilitation provided access to safe drinking water and inclusive sanitation and hygiene facilities by doing needed repairs and construction of the facilities, much needed support for when children return to school from the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNESCO and Education Cannot Wait provide the Ministry of Education and Higher Education with online learning material for teachers and students

 

UNESCO Beirut / MOE&HE Lebanon / ECW Press Release

 
UNESCO and Education Cannot Wait provide the Ministry of Education and Higher Education with online learning material for teachers and students

 





12 May 2020, Beirut, Lebanon (UNESCO/Ministry of Education and Higher Education/ECW) – The COVID-19 pandemic has translated into a major education crisis. In Lebanon, 1.2 million children are affected by school closures and have seen their learning routines disrupted. While Lebanon has switched to distance teaching and learning to mitigate the effects of this disruption, challenges related to preparedness, infrastructure and capacity, as well as the digital gaps, have put additional strains on students, parents, teachers, and the educational authorities.

In this context, and in the framework of their educational response to the COVID-19 crisis, UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States (UNESCO Beirut) and Education Cannot Wait (ECW) quickly joined efforts to support the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in developing inclusive distance learning solutions to ensure that learning never stops.

As one of the tracks of the Ministry of Education’s strategy to respond to the COVID-19 crisis focuses on developing online learning as an alternative to school closures, UNESCO Beirut and ECW, with generous support from the French government, provided the Ministry with online learning material and digital resources to be used by teachers and students in Lebanon. 297 video lessons, covering Math, Science, and French classes, were provided by Reseau CANOPE, and are available on the online platform launched by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education for the COVID-19 response.

Minister of Education Dr Tarek Majzoub said: “We are happy to partner with UNESCO and ECW to facilitate inclusive learning opportunities for children during this period of sudden and unprecedented educational disruption. Special thanks to the French Government for its generous contribution that made this important initiative happen”, while adding: “This collective action will help build a more resilient system to develop more open and flexible approaches to reach all our children in Lebanon and to promote the values of citizenship, coexistence, and dialogue”.

This cooperation comes within the framework of UNESCO’s project “Supporting francophone teaching and learning in Lebanon”, funded by ECW with the support of the French government, and launched in November 2018. The project aims to promote the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in French for vulnerable Lebanese and non-Lebanese students enrolled in public schools, and is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

UNESCO’s Regional Director for Education in the Arab States, Dr Hamed al Hamami, said: “From school closures, to isolation, to a persistent sense of anxiety, the effects of this pandemic are greatly impacting children and youth. Despite the crisis, learning should never stop. This is why UNESCO is committed to supporting the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in developing remote learning solutions and ensuring inclusion and equity for all learners, so that no one is left behind. Our cooperation with the Ministry will not only help ensure continuity of education but can also contribute to building a more resilient education system for the future, through providing teachers and students with new learning material and resources ”.

Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, stated: “Lebanon deserves all our support and cooperation. UNESCO has years of experience in modeling, testing, and sharing some of the world’s most innovative learning solutions, and their ideas are now available for nations like Lebanon amidst this crisis. The admirable efforts of the Lebanese Ministry of Education to enable online learning  brings  equity and access to education for vulnerable children, including refugee and displaced girls and boys. This is how we empower these children to improve their learning, while unlocking the amazing potential for innovation. Our appreciation and gratitude to the Government of France for making this possible.”   

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Additional Resources


Notes to Editors:
Information on the Education Cannot Wait Global Fund and its investment modalities are available at: www.educationcannotwait.org 
 

About Education Cannot Wait (ECW)
ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth 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. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. The Fund is administered under UNICEF’s financial, human resources and administrative rules and regulations, while operations are run by the Fund’s own independent governance structure.
Please follow on Twitter: @EduCannotWait   @UNESCO  @YasmineSherif1 
Additional information available at: www.educationcannotwait.org  www.unesco.org 
For press inquiries:
Anouk Desgroseilliers, adesgroseilliers@un-ecw.org, +1-917-640-6820
Kent Page, kpage@unicef.org, +1-917-302-1735
For other inquiries: info@un-ecw.org

 
 

Coordinating Education in Crises

We are delighted to announce the launch of the Overseas Development Institute’s (ODI) suite of reports on strengthening coordinated education planning and response among humanitarians, and with development actors. Independently researched and produced by ODI, the reports were commissioned in partnership by the Global Education Cluster (GEC), the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, with funding from the Education Cannot Wait global fund for education in emergencies (ECW).

Education is a powerful tool and a source of hope for children and youth affected by humanitarian emergencies, providing knowledge, skills, and competencies for a better future. Yet over 75 million children currently have their education disrupted by humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises – a situation further compounded by the current COVID-19 pandemic. With this in mind, generous support from ECW enabled the GEC, INEE and UNHCR to come together to strengthen joint planning, coordination and response, with the ultimate goal of supporting the education of children and youth living in emergencies and protracted crises contexts.

ODI was commissioned to undertake independent research to develop this evidence base, comprising of an analytical framework, 6 country case studies covering Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Bangladesh, Chad and Syria, and a synthesis report which outlines recommendations for action from key stakeholders and actors across diverse contexts.

Read the full suite of reports here (English only): https://www.odi.org/projects/2954-coordinating-education-crises

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Individual reports can be downloaded at the following links:

THE POWER OF EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES: INTERVIEW WITH DENMARK’S MINISTER OF DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION RASMUS PREHN

5 May 2020 – Denmark is Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) third largest donor, with US$79.1 million in contributions to date. In this insightful interview with Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation, Rasmus Prehn, we explore the importance of girls’ education and gender equality, the humanitarian-development nexus, expanded engagement with the private sector, education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic and more. A former high school teacher, with a master’s degree in social science, Minister Prehn has been a member of Danish Parliament since 2005, and was named Minister for Development Cooperation on June 27, 2019. Minister Prehn is the former chairman of the Danish Research, Education and Further Education Committee, a tireless advocate for education in emergencies, and a true champion for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG4: inclusive and equitable, quality education for all.

Denmark is a strong political advocate of education and girls’ education in emergencies and crisis countries. How do you see investments in education in crisis countries bringing transformative change for the overall development agenda?

RP: Education holds a huge potential for transformation. Both in respect to giving children the tools they need for a sustainable future and in respect to transforming society as we know it into a place where girls and boys, women and men, have equal rights and opportunities. An educated girl can significantly increase her income as compared to girls with no education. Her future children will have a much higher chance of surviving the first five years of their lives.

Girls living in emergency contexts are of particular risk of being out of school. They are also at higher risk of sexual- and gender-based violence, including teenage pregnancies and child marriage. Their sexual and reproductive health and rights are often under pressure during times of crisis. Supporting education is also a way to address these risks, as education provides a foundation for increased gender equality and for the protection of the rights of women and girls.

Denmark’s investments in education in crises have a two-fold aim: 1) to ensure continuity of learning for children so that they have the tools for a better future 2) to re-define gender and social norms and raise girls and boys to be equal citizens with equal rights and opportunities.

Since Education Cannot Wait became operational in 2017, Denmark has also become one of Education Cannot Wait’s biggest strategic donor partners and has made major investments in Education Cannot Wait over the past years. What are the key incentives for investing in this relatively new global fund?

RP: Denmark is very committed to work more effectively across the humanitarian-development nexus to ensure more sustainable education outcomes in areas affected by conflict and protracted crisis. This was a key incentive for Danish support to ECW right from the start and for the large contributions that have placed Denmark among the largest donors to ECW.

For the same reason, a key priority for Denmark is that ECW focuses on its mandate to bridge the humanitarian-development nexus to secure long-term education impact. This is only more relevant in light of COVID-19, which has led to the close down of schools in more than 190 countries worldwide. When responding to the COVID-19 crisis, there was a need for immediate action to enable continued learning and address protection risks linked to children being out of school, while also supporting resilient education systems.

In response to COVID-19, and as the LEGO Foundation – the philanthropic arm of a Danish world class private sector company – increased its support to Education Cannot Wait – you also decided to frontload financing for Education Cannot Wait. This is a wonderful way for governments and private sector to provide matching support. How would you describe this model example of engaging private sector?

RP: Denmark firmly believes in partnerships and collaboration to solve the challenges faced in the world today. We need to work together at all levels to make sure we leave no one behind. Collaboration across the public and private sector is one important way of ensuring progress towards common goals. We recognize and much appreciate the role and support of the LEGO Foundation towards education in emergencies. The Danish Government and the LEGO Foundation are currently strengthening collaboration in the area of education. Through close strategic dialogue and coordinated actions such as the matching support, the aim of the collaboration is to ensure synergies towards common goals and the realization of SDG4. We hope that this can set an example for enhanced private and public sector collaboration also in other sectors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a global impact upon all areas of virtually everyone’s life. What does Denmark see as the top three priorities moving forward to achieve SDG4 (quality, inclusive education), particularly for crisis-affected children and youth already impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement and natural disasters – and now doubly hit by COVID-19?

RP: For Denmark, quality and inclusive education is key for learning outcomes. At the same time, both quality and inclusiveness in education are impacted by the context in which children are learning. When the surrounding world is unsafe and uncertain, a pre-condition for children to learn is to ensure a protective environment. Therefore one key priority is a holistic cross-sectoral response that includes access to health care, psychosocial support and protection measures as part of education efforts.

COVID-19 has indeed added a double concern to education in emergencies. A concern that only further stresses the need to develop resilient education systems that are able to deliver quality education in crisis contexts. Be it pandemics, natural disasters or wars. A significant element is to ensure that we reach those furthest behind by using innovative and context-specific methods for distance learning. It is also important that we consider that education quality is not only about the number of children accessing education or learning outcomes, but also about teaching methods, curriculum and the social environment in schools between students and teachers, and students and their peers.

A particular concern for Denmark are the consequences that the school closures caused by COVID-19 have for both girls’ and women’s rights. We know that education is one key element to prevent social and gender norms that drive harmful practices. Where pre-COVID-19 projections showed that a decline in harmful practices could be reached, post-COVID-19 projections show that more girls will be exposed to female genital mutilation and child marriage. Therefore, quality education and establishing inclusive conditions for girls in schools through addressing harmful social and gender norms is a key priority for Denmark and also is the reason why we are part of the ECW gender reference group. The classroom reflects the surrounding society and the reverse is also true.  We must work at all levels to create inclusive conditions for girls’ access to school.

As a Member of Parliament, you have been the Chairman of the Committee on Research, Education and Further Education. What does education represent for you on a more personal level? How does this influence you in your work as a policymaker? 

RP: I could not be a bigger champion of education and skills development: this is the key to create the hope for a better future. I have immense respect for the potential offered by education at all levels to change norms in a positive way. This is why I have been preoccupied with education since my early youth. I have myself worked as a high school teacher for 8 years. I have also been a teacher in the Danish folk high schools (“højskoler”), which is an education institution invented in the 1830s with the aim to help people qualify as active members of society with the means to change the political situation and meet across social borders.

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