With United Kingdom support, the education in emergency response to ongoing crises compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic will be scaled up in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger

29 July 2020, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today US$13 million in new funding to scale up the education in emergency response in the Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Approximately 247,000 crisis-affected children and youth (of which over 55 per cent are girls), will be able to access quality education through the new funding.

“With this new funding, ECW’s total First Emergency Response investments in just the past four months alone now span 33 countries and crisis-affected contexts, with a record amount of US$60.1 million allocated by ECW for vulnerable children and youth in crisis-affected countries ranging from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Colombia, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, South Sudan, Uganda, Yemen, Zimbabwe and many more,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.

The First Emergency Response investments in the Sahel were made possible with a frontloaded £10.5 million contribution from the United Kingdom. The new round of grants scale up ECW’s investments in the Sahel announced in July 2019 and in December 2019.

Interventions will improve access to learning in protective environments and reduce school dropouts in Burkina-Faso, Mali and Niger, responding to pre-existing crises and to the compounding effect of COVID-19. To build inclusive and equitable quality education, as outlined in Sustainable Development Goal 4, grants target the most vulnerable populations impacted by forced displacement, including girls and children with disabilities. Investments will reach children and youth across age-groups and education levels: 13 per cent in pre-primary, 66 per cent in primary and 21 per cent in secondary education.

“Attacks on children and youth, and violence across the Central Sahel in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger continue to surge and close to 5 million children are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Girls and boys displaced by violence, who are living in precarious conditions, exposed to high-levels of malnutrition, food insecurity and with limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities are facing heightened risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Yasmine Sherif, ECW Director. “For the vulnerable children and youth of the Sahel, education is a beacon of hope, of safety and their only opportunity to build a better future.”

Despite ECW’s expanded response, there remains an approximate US$94 million funding gap for the education response across these three countries. To help fill the gap, and to expand its support for children and youth impacted by COVID-19 in other crisis-affected countries, ECW urgently appeals for US$310 million in additional funding, and calls on donors, the private sector and other key partners to support enhanced resource mobilization in response to the education crisis in the Sahel.

Information on Grants per Country:

  • In Burkina Faso, an estimated 544,000 school-aged children have been affected by the ongoing violence. The new ECW US$4 million grants allocation will support inclusive access to quality education, continuity of education for displaced children and youth, expanded COVID-19 response – including distance-learning – and school feeding programmes. The grants aim to reach over 51,600 children (60 per cent of whom are girls) and close to 1,200 teachers (60 per cent of whom are women). The investments will be delivered by EDUCO (US$800,000), Enfants du Monde (US$1 million), UNICEF (US$1.4 million) and the World Food Programme (US$800,000).
  • In Mali, as of March 2020, over 1,200 schools were closed as a result of ongoing attacks on learning facilities and insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic – and the ensuing closure of all schools in the country – has exacerbated pre-existing humanitarian needs, with an estimated 1.4 million children in need of urgent support in the education sector. The new ECW US$5 million grants allocation will support inclusive access to quality education, continuity of education for displaced children and youth, expanded COVID-19 response – including distance-learning – as well as the reopening of schools in a safe and protective learning environment. The investments will be delivered by Humanity and Inclusion (US$870,000), Plan International (US$599,000), Save the Children (US$1 million), UNICEF (US$1.6 million) and World Vision International (US$926,000).
  • In Niger, more than 2.6 million children and youth are out of school, according to analysis from 2018. COVID-19, displacements connected with attacks by armed groups on the borders with Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, and an increase in climate-changed-induced natural disasters such as floods and droughts are putting even more girls and boys at risk. Schools lack adequate water, hygiene and sanitation facilities. Targeted abductions and attacks on schools are keeping even more students from attending school. The US$4 million ECW investment will focus on inclusive access to safe and protective learning environments, psychosocial support for internally displaced, refugee and host community children and youth, vocational training courses to support out-of-school adolescents, and targeted support for girls. The investments will be delivered by COOPI (US$709,000), Save the Children ($850,000), UNICEF ($1.15 million), WFP (US$687,000) and World Vision (US$600,000).

Notes to Editors:

For more information on ECW’s support in the Sahel:

  • Education Cannot Wait approves US$6 million first emergency response Sahel (July 2019)
  • Education Cannot Wait expands first emergency response in Sahelian nations of Mali and Niger (December 2019)

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.

On Twitter, please follow:  @EduCannotWait  @YasmineSherif1   @KentPage  
Additional information available at:

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Education Cannot Wait announced today an additional US$19 million in education in emergency response funding to the COVID-19 pandemic across 10 crisis-affected countries. With this new funding, ECW’s total COVID-19 response now spans 33 countries and crisis-affected contexts, with US$43.5 million in funding approved so far.

ECW’s First Emergency Response allocations focus on refugee, internally displaced and host community children and youth

22 July 2020, New York ­– Education Cannot Wait announced today an additional US$19 million in education in emergency response funding to the COVID-19 pandemic across 10 crisis-affected countries. With this new funding, ECW’s total COVID-19 response now spans 33 countries and crisis-affected contexts, with US$43.5 million in funding approved so far.

“The time has come for decisive and game-changing measures to ensure that every refugee child accesses a quality education. Education Cannot Wait is taking such measures and we must scale up our support for this effort,” said the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group. 

This new funding will be delivered in partnership with national governments, UN agencies and a significant number of civil society organizations in Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

These First Emergency Response (FER) grants focus on refugee, internally displaced and host community children and youth: 876,392 in total, of whom 461,706 are girls and 405,886 are boys. In all, 25 grantees will implement the second phase of ECW’s COVID-19 education in emergency response. In the majority of countries, this response is being coordinated by respective governments and UNHCR.

“Children and youth displaced by armed conflicts and climate-induced disasters are especially at risk and doubly affected by COVID-19. This investment is dedicated to them, but much more needs to be done. We call on partners to contribute substantive financial resources for those left furthest behind as a result of brutal conflicts and punishing crises,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. 

68 per cent of the children and youth targeted through the investments are refugees, with 32 per cent being internally displaced and host community children and youth. With continuity of education disrupted by the global pandemic, ECW’s education in emergency response covers the entire 3-18 years of age spectrum with a holistic package of support. 23 per cent of the beneficiaries are at the secondary level to ensure their learning can continue. At the other end of the age-spectrum, 19 per cent of the beneficiaries will benefit from holistic early childhood development activities. In addition to access to learning, the investments include child protection, mental health and psychosocial support services, as well as expanded access to life-saving water and sanitation services.

These new grants build on the rapid response by ECW and its partners to the global pandemic, which has pushed well over a billion children out of school and is having broad, negative social and economic impacts globally. Before the pandemic, 75 million children and youth impacted by emergencies and protracted crises did not have access to the safety, hope and opportunity of an education. The pandemic now puts even more children and youth at risk, and ECW and its partners have issued an urgent global appeal to mobilize US$310 million to reach vulnerable girls and boys most at risk of being left behind.

ECW Second Tranche COVID-19 First Emergency Response

  • Bangladesh: US$600,000 allocated. Grantees: Norwegian Refugee Council ($300,000), Plan International ($300,000)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: US$2.3 million allocated. Grantees: AVSI with AIDES ($900,000), Terre Sans Frontières (TSF), with Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne-Dungu ($1.4 million)
  • Ethiopia: US$2.8 million allocated. Grantees: UNHCR ($1.86 million), Plan International ($440,000), Save the Children ($500,000)
  • Iraq: US$2.3 million allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($580,000), People in Need ($430,000), Public Aid Organization ($430,000), Intersos ($430,000), Norwegian Refugee Council ($430,000)
  • Kenya: US$2.3 million allocated. Grantees: UNHCR ($1.84 million), Save the Children ($460,000)
  • Lebanon: US$2.8 million allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($715,000), AVSI ($695,000), NRC ($695,000), IRC ($695,000)
  • Libya: US$1.5 million allocated. Grantees: UNICEF ($750,000), Norwegian Refugee Council ($750,000)
  • South Sudan: US$2.32 million allocated. Grantees: Lutheran World Federation ($1.5 million), World Vision International ($345,000), Across ($487,000)
  • Tanzania: US$1.5 million allocated. Grantee: International Rescue Committee ($1.5 million)
  • Zambia: US$600,000 allocated. Grantee: UNHCR ($600,000)


Notes to Editors:

  • ECW First Emergency Response grants announced on 2 April (learn more here)
  • ECW First Emergency Response grants announced on 20 May (learn more here)


With funding from Education Cannot Wait, UNHCR is helping refugee children get back to the safety and protection of learning through the Government of Uganda’s Education Response Plan

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, UNHCR is helping refugee children get back to the safety and protection of learning through the Government of Uganda’s Education Response Plan

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Tukundane Yonna and Gerald Musoke, UNHCR

In Adjumani district in northern Uganda – home to more than 214,000 refugees – David Malou Nyankot, a refugee from South Sudan, is the best student in his class. David came to Uganda alone in June 2016 following clashes between warring forces in his home village in Jonglei State.

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, Uganda’s Education Response Plan (ERP) is providing hundreds of thousands of refugee children like David with the safety, protection, hope and opportunity of education.

The primary gross enrolment ratio for refugee children has improved by 22 per cent in Uganda – from 53 per cent in 2017 to 75 per cent in 2019 (reaching 71.4 per cent for girls) – according to ECW’s upcoming 2019 Annual Report.

In 2019, David scored an aggregate 4 on his Primary Leaving Examinations, the highest mark you can achieve.

Hope arises

“I had totally lost any hopes of ever joining school again,” says David.

Although David fled alone, he was later united with his uncle who had arrived in Adjumani two years earlier. When David started back in school at Ayilo 1A Primary School the following year, he had to repeat Primary 5.

“My uncle had enough problems at home; he could hardly buy me even a book. I remember walking to school barefooted for a full year,” David says.

The Education Response Plan was launched in September 2018 with financial support from ECW and other partners. It seeks to find a long-term solution for the half-a-million refugee children that are out of school in Uganda. In delivering on the plan’s overall targets, UNHCR and its partner Windle Trust provided exercise books, pens, and other scholastic materials to David and other refugee students like him.

“The teachers in my new school were great. We were over 250 students in my class, but I insisted on using this opportunity to study hard,” David says.

With this expanded support, David is now one of the three top refugee pupils that sat for same exams in 2019.

Top of the class

Mayen Abraham Bol and Deng Awan Deng, both age 15, scored a remarkable aggregate 5 and 6 all in division one.

Abraham fled South Sudan in August 2016 with his younger sister after a violent conflict in his village. They later joined his maternal aunt who had already arrived in Adjumani’s Nyumanzi refugee settlement a year earlier.

“I had completely lost hope. I had no mother, no father, no brother, not any one of my close relatives when I fled,” says Deng.

Awan Deng arrived in Uganda in November 2014 following the brutal conflict in South Sudan.

“When the fighting begun, I was at school. I did not have any opportunity to go back home. I followed the direction in which most of the people were running,” Deng says.

On arrival at Nyumanzi refugee settlement in Adjumani, Deng was placed under foster care, but was later reunited with his aunt who came in a separate convoy.

When he joined school at Nyumanzi II Primary School in 2015, Deng was made to repeat Primary 3 despite having almost completed it back home in South Sudan. He studied here up to Primary 5 before joining Mummy’s Care School in Adjumani Town.

While David, Abraham and Deng were in their Primary 5, Uganda launched the Education Response Plan, paving the way for UNHCR and partners to provide essential learning materials, build new classrooms and repair existing ones to make schools safer and more accessible.

Continuing their learning

Supported by the new education plan, at the end of their Primary 6 district promotional examinations, David and Deng were the best students in the entire district. This earned them an all-expenses-paid scholarship in Mummy’s Care Primary School, a top boarding school in Adjumani Town from where they excelled in their final examinations.

Over 45,000 refugee and host community children in Adjumani go to the 32 primary schools in the refugee settlements of the district. Twelve of these schools are government aided while the rest were established by the communities. Under the ERP, all these schools receive support from UNHCR and partners.

Speaking at a recognition ceremony for best performers, Robert Dima, Adjumani District Education Officer said, “It is our responsibility to support refugee children to achieve their full potential in life. They are simply our brothers from across the border.”

General performance of schools in refugee hosting districts had improved with the implementation of the ERP. Temporary classroom structures have been replaced with permanent buildings and the number of teachers has increased.

With COVID-19 pandemic, schools are currently closed indefinitely. For many refugees like David, Abraham and Deng, who had been admitted at St. Mary’s College School in central Uganda on a partial scholarship, this is a big blow to their dreams. But they are waiting patiently for their return to school and for a future filled with new opportunities.

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.


Statement by Baroness Sugg at the UN High Level Political Forum event on accelerating action on the SDGs

Statement by Baroness Sugg at the UN High Level Political Forum event on accelerating action on the SDGs


During the COVID-19 crisis, lockdowns and other social-distancing rules have forced schools worldwide to shut their doors, locking out a peak of 1.6 billion children. Unless the international community acts now, the consequences for this generation – especially its poorest members – will be severe and long-lasting.
View original on Project Syndicate

13 July 2020 –The oft-repeated idea that COVID-19 is “the great equalizer” is a myth. There is no equality of suffering or equality of sacrifice during a pandemic that is disproportionately hurting the poorest and most vulnerable.

And while the health emergency has disproportionately harmed the elderly poor, the unprecedented education crisis caused by the pandemic is now hurting the poorest children hardest and creating a generation that will lose out on learning. Lockdowns and other social-distancing rules have forced schools all over the world to shut their doors, affecting a peak of nearly 1.6 billion children. But while wealthier children have had access to alternatives, such as online learning, the poorest do not. The world’s least-advantaged children – for whom education offers the only escape route from poverty – have thus fallen further behind, placing the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030 even further out of reach.

Even before the pandemic, the world was falling short of this goal. Globally, nearly 260 million children were out of school, and 400 million dropped out after the age of 11. In some regions, such as rural Sub-Saharan Africa, few girls were completing secondary school, not least because of widespread child marriage. Nearly 50 countries have no laws banning child marriage, and many more fail to enforce their bans. As a result, about 12 million school-age girls are forcibly married off each year.

When schools reopen, there is a good chance that many poor children will never return. Poverty is the biggest reason why children don’t attend school, and the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis will far outlast lockdowns, especially for the poorest people.

The likely result is that more children will be pushed into the ranks of the 152 million school-age children forced to work, as 14 countries still have not ratified the International Labor Organization’s minimum-age convention. And even more girls will be forced into early marriage. When the West African Ebola epidemic that started in 2014 closed schools in Sierra Leone, the number of 15-19-year-old-girls who were pregnant or already mothers nearly doubled, rising from 30% to 65%. Most of these girls never returned to school.

With the right policies in place, economies will start to recover, jobs will slowly be restored, and social-protection policies will ease the poverty of the unemployed. But there is little protection against the effects of a foregone education, which can last a lifetime.

As it stands, more than half the world’s children – nearly 900 million boys and girls – are unable to read a simple text by age 10. That is 900 million children who do not receive the knowledge and skills needed to improve their economic lot as adults. If we do nothing to help “Generation COVID” make up for lost time, that figure could easily approach one billion or more. When schools in Kashmir closed for 14 weeks in the aftermath of the devastating 2005 earthquake, the most affected children lost the equivalent of 1.5 years of learning.

As the recently published UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report advises us, children who have fallen behind need the kind of catch-up programs that in Latin America have increased educational attainment by up to 18 months since the 1990s. But the needed support will cost money. Unless we bridge the gap in education funding, SDG4 will remain out of reach.

UNESCO estimates that before the COVID-19 crisis, 50 countries were failing to spend the recommended minimum of 4% of national income, or 15% of the public budget, on education. Inadequate funding from governments and donors has meant that many of the 30 million refugee and forcibly displaced children age out of education without ever setting foot in a classroom, despite the efforts of Education Cannot Wait and other groups.

Now, the pandemic is set to squeeze education budgets even further. As slower or negative growth undermines tax revenues, less money will be available for public services. When allocating limited funds, urgent lifesaving expenditure on health and social safety nets will take precedence, leaving education underfunded.

Likewise, intensifying fiscal pressure in developed countries will result in reductions in international development aid, including for education, which is already losing out to other priorities in the allocation of bilateral and multilateral aid. The World Bank now estimates that, over the next year, overall education spending in low- and middle-income countries could be $100-150 billion lower than previously planned.

This funding crisis will not resolve itself. The quickest way to free up resources for education is through . The 76 poorest countries must pay $106 billion in debt-service costs over the next two years. Creditors should forgive these payments, with a requirement that the money is reallocated to education, as well as health.

At the same time, multilateral financial institutions and regional development banks must increase their resources. The International Monetary Fund should issue $1.2 trillion in Special Drawing Rights (its global reserve asset), and channel these resources toward the countries that need them most.

The World Bank, for its part, should unlock more support by replenishing the International Development Association (or borrowing on the strength of it) for low-income countries, and by using guarantees and grants from willing aid donors, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which stand ready to unlock billions in extra finance for education in lower-middle-income countries through the International Finance Facility for Education.

In the next few days, both NGOs and all international education organizations will begin “back to school” campaigns. Save Our Future, a new campaign launching in late July, advocates building back better, rather than restoring the pre-pandemic status quo. That means updating classrooms and transforming curricula, implementing effective technologies, and helping teachers offer personalized instruction. Making schools safer (over 620 million children lack basic sanitation services at their schools, which particularly affects girls) and ensuring school meals (a lifeline for 370 million boys and girls) would also ease the effects of poverty and improve educational outcomes. Save the Children will add to this pressure with its own grassroots campaign focused on debt relief to pay for education.

But investing in schools is only part of the solution. In Sierra Leone, support networks for girls halved the dropout rate during the Ebola crisis. In Latin American, African, and Asian countries, conditional cash transfers have boosted school attendance. The latest Global Education Monitoring Report advocates implementing similar programs today.Generation COVID has already suffered immensely. It is time for the international community to give children the opportunities they deserve. Even when faced with momentous challenges, we remain committed to making ours the first generation in history in which every child is in school and learning. Both national governments and the international community must now step up collective efforts to achieve that goal.

About the Authors

Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, is United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity and Education Cannot Wait High Level Steering Group.


We must not leave young refugees by the wayside, urged UNESCO, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Education Cannot Wait as they urged more support in favour of young refugees’ education during an online debate today, moderated by UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, on how best to provide them with improved learning during and after the pandemic.

New York, 13 July 2020 – We must not leave young refugees by the wayside, urged UNESCO, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Education Cannot Wait as they urged more support in favour of young refugees’ education during an online debate today, moderated by UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, on how best to provide them with improved learning during and after the pandemic.

“Mobilizing for refugees is extremely urgent at a time when they are particularly vulnerable to the Covid-19 crisis and its aftermath,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, as she opened the meeting. “The Covid-19 crisis is jeopardizing everything we have done for the education of refugees and migrants, their integration and chances of self-realization. We must strengthen our action in favour of the most vulnerable in order to guarantee them this fundamental right.”

“The Global Compact on Refugees rests on an important foundation: responding to crises of forced displacement needs to bring together governments, civil society, networks like Education Cannot Wait, businesses like Vodaphone and above all, refugees,” said the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

“ECW sees that all too often, refugee children and youth – among the most vulnerable people in the world – are left out of COVID-19 responses. It is important that ECW’s responses reach those left furthest behind. For this reason, we dedicated our newest round of education in emergency funding for COVID-19 to support refugee children and youth, especially girls,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “We are also looking at distance learning to open up access to education for forcibly displaced children and youth.”

The roundtable was attended by young refugee students and graduates, the ministers of Education of Cameroon, Kenya and Pakistan, and representatives of the Global Coalition for Education established under the auspices of UNESCO. The debate was moderated by the United Nations Special Envoy, actor Angelina Jolie, a displaced persons’ advocate of long standing.

Introducing the discussion, Canada’s Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, said, “As the world is still dealing with the devastating impacts from the pandemic, we must ensure that displaced and refugee youth can continue to learn. Every child deserves a quality education in an environment that is safe and inclusive.”

Concluding the meeting, the United Kingdom’s Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Sugg, stressed that “Education must be prioritized in the global recovery from coronavirus. This epidemic is not just a health crisis, it is an education crisis, especially for refugee children. Without school and an education, they will be unable to rebuild their lives and achieve their full potential.”

Speakers warned that the pandemic risked jeopardizing the progress made in education in recent years, especially for young girls, at least 20% of whom are at risk of not resuming the studies they had to interrupt during school closures, according to a UNHCR estimate. However, a number of governments are planning to include refugees in post-pandemic response measures, such as distance education, in line with their commitments under the Global Compact on Refugees.

The event was co-sponsored by Canada, the United Kingdom and the global Education Cannot Wait fund, which channelled its second COVID emergency allocation to refugees. 



Coalition éducation / Yasmine Sherif, Director, ECW

Alors que la pandémie de Covid-19 continue de se répandre à travers le monde, mettant en péril l’éducation de 1,18 milliard d’apprenants dans 191 pays[1], certains sont encore plus durement touchés que les autres. Ce sont les 75 millions d’enfants et de jeunes, dont 39 millions de filles, déjà marginalisés par les conflits armés, les déplacements forcés et les catastrophes naturelles avant la crise – et dont le nombre continue à augmenter.

Au-delà de mettre en péril la continuité de l’éducation, la fermeture des écoles augmente les risques d’abus et d’exploitation, y-compris le travail des enfants, les mariages forcés et les violences basées sur le genre. Elle risque également d’avoir de graves conséquences psychosociales sur les enfants, en particulier sur les plus vulnérables, dont les filles et les personnes handicapées. C’est aujourd’hui l’avenir de toute une génération qui est remis en question.

Face à un défi d’une telle ampleur, seule une mobilisation conjointe et une réponse coordonnée peuvent faire la différence. Education Cannot Wait inscrit ainsi sa réponse d’urgence dans le cadre de l’appel humanitaire du système des Nations Unies et participe depuis le début de la crise au groupe de coordination mondiale pour l’éducation mené par l’UNESCO. Mais, pour réussir, ce sont tous les acteurs, y-compris les gouvernements et les organisations de la société civile, qui doivent se rassembler dans un esprit d’humanité et de multilatéralisme et mobiliser les ressources financières nécessaires pour assurer un avenir à 75 millions d’enfants et de jeunes laissés pour compte.

ECW salue ainsi le travail de Coalition Education, une coalition d’organisations françaises de défense du droit à l’éducation, qui a récemment publié un rapport sur l’Aide française a l’éducation. Ce rapport met en valeur le rôle central de l’éducation pour la paix et le développement, en particulier dans les contextes de crise. Une éducation de qualité est aujourd’hui plus que jamais le vecteur central pour accélérer le développement, renforcer la protection des droits humains et permettre à la génération actuelle de vivre une vie de dignité, de productivité et d’opportunité.

La France a été un des premiers partenaires de ECW et partage avec ECW un engagement fort pour l’éducation, et en particulier pour l’éducation des filles. Le soutien de la France aux questions d’éducation dans les pays du Sud est indispensable, à la fois dans le cadre de la réponse au COVID 19, mais aussi pour le renforcement des systèmes éducatifs dans le plus long terme. Le leadership et l’influence de la France sont d’autant plus importants dans les contextes de crise et de fragilité où l’éducation souffre déjà d’un manque de visibilité et d’investissements.

Grâce à l’appui de la France, ECW a piloté des solutions d’apprentissage innovantes dans le cadre du Covid-19, en partenariat avec l’UNESCO et le Ministère de l’éducation du Liban. Cette initiative a permis d’améliorer l’accès à l’éducation pour les enfants vulnérables au Liban, y compris les filles et les garçons réfugiés et déplacés. Mais nous devons aller plus loin. En effet, l’éducation, déjà sous-financée dans les contextes d’urgence et de crise prolongée, risque d’être encore plus mise à mal par la crise du COVID 19, alors que l’aide au développement menace de diminuer dans un contexte de récession économique. Nous devons donc choisir de nous concentrer sur l’espoir plutôt que sur la peur.  

Certaines régions sont plus vulnérables que d’autres. Comme le montre le rapport publié par la Coalition Éducation, la région du Sahel et plus généralement l’Afrique sub-Saharienne comptent par exemple un très grand nombre d’enfants et de jeunes hors de l’école, pour qui l’accès à un environnement d’apprentissage protecteur est synonyme d’espoir d’un avenir meilleur. Ces régions sont au cœur des investissements de ECW, avec plus de 16 millions USD déjà investis dans la région du Sahel (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger), et 15 millions USD supplémentaires qui seront investis en 2020.

ECW compte sur la France en tant que grand partenaire stratégique pour aider les efforts collectifs à réussir dans l’éducation des enfants et des jeunes au Tchad, en République centrafricaine, au Mali, au Burkina Faso et au Niger, pour ne citer que quelques pays qui ont un besoin urgent. De façon plus générale, Education Cannot Wait vise à mobiliser 1,8 milliard de dollars d’ici à 2021 pour atteindre 9 millions d’enfants et de jeunes dans les pays touchés par les crises. Maintenir le droit à l’éducation est essentiel pour prévenir les crises, lutter contre la pauvreté, et réduire les inégalités. C’est la base du développement durable et sans éducation, il n’y aura pas de fondation.

Si nous nous réunissons tous pour atteindre les 75 millions d’enfants et de jeunes les plus marginalisés par les conflits et des déplacements forcés, et désormais doublement touchés par le COVID-19, nous pouvons transformer l’avenir. Dans tous les cas, à l’impossible, nous sommes tenus.



As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world, jeopardizing the education of 1.18 billion learners in 191 countries, some are even more severely affected than others. These are the 75 million children and young people, including 39 million girls, already marginalized by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters – and whose numbers continue to increase.

By Yasmine Sherif, Director, ECW, and Coalition Education

Available in French

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world, jeopardizing the education of 1.18 billion learners in 191 countries, some are even more severely affected than others. These are the 75 million children and young people, including 39 million girls, already marginalized by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters – and whose numbers continue to increase.

Beyond endangering the continuity of education, closing schools increases the risk of abuse and exploitation, including child labor, forced marriage and gender-based violence. It is also likely to have serious psychosocial consequences for children, especially the most vulnerable, including girls and the disabled. Today, the future of an entire generation is in question.

Faced with a challenge of such magnitude, only joint mobilization and a coordinated response can make a difference. Education Cannot Wait has therefore responded to the crisis within the framework of the humanitarian appeal of the United Nations and has participated since the beginning of the crisis in the global coordination group for education led by UNESCO. But to succeed, all actors, including governments and civil society organizations, must come together in a spirit of humanity and multilateralism to mobilize the financial resources required to provide a future to 75 million children and youth left behind.

ECW commends the work of Coalition Education, a coalition of French organizations defending the right to education, which recently published a report on French aid to education. This report highlights the central role of education for peace and development, especially in crisis contexts. Quality education is today more than ever the central vector for accelerating development, strengthening the protection of human rights and enabling the current generation to live a life of dignity, productivity and opportunity.

France was one of ECW’s first partners and shares with ECW a strong commitment to education and gender equality. France’s support to education issues in the global South is essential, both in response to COVID-19, but also for strengthening education systems in the longer term. France’s leadership and influence are even more important in contexts of crisis and fragility where education already suffers from a lack of visibility and investment.

Thanks to the support of France, ECW has piloted in partnership with UNESCO and the Lebanese Ministry of Education innovative learning solutions to respond to COVID-19 to improve access to education for vulnerable children, including refugee and displaced girls and boys, in Lebanon. But we must go further. Education, already underfunded in emergency and protracted crisis contexts, risks being further undermined by the COVID-19 crisis, as development and humanitarian funding may decrease due to economic recession. It needs not be like that if we chose to focus on our hope, rather than our fears.

Some regions are also more vulnerable than others. As highlighted by the report published by Coalition education, the Sahel region and more generally sub-Saharan Africa have a very large number of children and young people out of school, and for these children, access to a protective learning environment means hope for a better future. These regions are at the heart of ECW’s investments, with more than 16 million USD already invested in the Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger) in 2019, and an additional 15 million USD planned for 2020.

Education Cannot Wait looks to France as a great strategic partner to help the collective efforts to succeed in delivering education to children and youth in Chad, Central African Republic, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, just to mention a few countries in urgent need. More broadly, ECW aims to raise $ 1.8 billion by 2021 to reach 9 million children and youth in crisis-affected countries. Maintaining the right to education is essential to prevent crises, fight poverty, and reduce inequality. It is the foundation for sustainable development. Without education, there will be no foundation.

Provided that we all come together to reach the 75 million children and youth left furthest behind in conflicts and forced displacement – now doubly affected by COVID-19 – it is not impossible to transform their lives and that of the world. In any case, we must make the impossible possible.


The Honourable Karina Gould was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Burlington in 2015.

A graduate of McGill University and the University of Oxford, Minister Gould is passionate about public service and international development. Before her election as the Member of Parliament for Burlington, she worked as a trade and investment specialist for the Mexican Trade Commission in Toronto, a consultant for the Migration and Development Program at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., and spent a year volunteering at an orphanage in Mexico.

Minister Gould has deep roots in her hometown of Burlington, Ontario, and is an active member of the community and an advocate for women’s issues and affordable housing. She has volunteered with and actively supports the Iroquoia Bruce Trail Club, the Burlington chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women, the Mississauga Furniture Bank, Halton Women’s Place, and other local organizations.

Minister Gould lives in Burlington with her husband Alberto and son Oliver.

With the birth of Oliver, Minister Gould became the first federal cabinet minister to have a baby while holding office. She is passionate about breaking down barriers for women, youth, and underrepresented groups.

Minister Gould addresses students participating in War Child Canada’s ‘Making Waves: Gender-inclusive radio-based education in the DRC’ project during a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo in January 2020.

ECW. As Canada’s Minister of International Development and as a key member of ECW’s High-Level Steering Group, could you please elaborate on the importance of linking emergency humanitarian response with development to achieve quality education for vulnerable children and youth in countries affected by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters.

Karina Gould. We have heard from children and youth affected by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters, as well as their families, that education is a priority for them. And we know that education in emergencies is an issue that ideally works across humanitarian and development responses.

Working through the humanitarian-development-peace nexus is crucial to ensuring that both immediate and long-term education needs are fulfilled. By working through a nexus approach, we recognize that the immediate response of humanitarian actors is vital to keeping children engaged and protected, while the long-term vision of the development community is critical to maintaining gains towards SDG4 and to strengthen education systems and make them more resilient to crises in the future.

Education is often the first thing that is disrupted and the last thing to be rebuilt during an emergency. Despite the importance of maintaining a system of quality education, especially in protracted humanitarian situations, education is still not sufficiently prioritized for immediate humanitarian funding and development actors need to do more to support resilient national education systems that ensure education is not disrupted. This is why Canada supports organizations like Education Cannot Wait, which is emerging as a leader in demonstrating how education programming can be quickly and efficiently rolled out within the humanitarian-development-peace nexus space.

ECW. Canada is a staunch defender of multilateralism in addressing the world’s challenges and opportunities. With almost 80 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 26 million refugees, Education Cannot Wait will dedicate its First Emergency Response to refugee education in its upcoming COVID-19 response actions this month. How do you see ECW’s progress so far in responding to COVID-19 and how can we strengthen collective efforts to deliver quality education to forcibly displaced populations, who often are left furthest behind?

Karina Gould. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how connected we all are to one another across the globe. At the height of the pandemic, 164 countries had closed their schools, which affected 1.4 billion students worldwide – over 90% of the world’s learners. This is on top of the already marginalized populations such as refugees and internally displaced peoples who did not previously have consistent access to quality education.

In the past months, the world has come together to try to stop the spread of the virus. We shared innovative ideas for how to make education and learning more accessible for those who had their education disrupted, to ensure a continuity of learning for all. These solutions are made more effective and are amplified when we work in partnership, including through our major multilateral institutions like Education Cannot Wait.

I have been impressed with Education Cannot Wait’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the speed with which they responded to the crisis in the first round of COVID-19 funding, and the commitment to focus the second round of funding on education for refugees, particularly adolescent girls. This is a group of children and youth who are often left behind and who are disproportionately affected by education disruptions due to displacement, and now even more so due to COVID-19. It is important that we take this time to strengthen our efforts to ensure these marginalized populations remain a priority in our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These groups must not be forgotten.

We can strengthen our collective efforts to deliver quality education to forcibly displaced populations, who often are left furthest behind, by continuing to work through multilateral organizations like Education Cannot Wait and ensuring strong coordination with other partners on the ground, including other multilateral partners, civil society and local refugee organizations.

In January, I travelled to Congo and the DRC and witnessed firsthand the important work that ECW’s partner organizations like War Child Canada are doing on the ground to support improved access to education for refugees and displaced peoples, especially girls. Their radio program allows adolescent girls and boys to continue with their learning during school closures by transmitting lessons and allowing learners to access teachers through dedicated hotlines. There are even question and answer periods to keep things dynamic and to keep the youth engaged in learning. I have seen how these initiatives are making a difference on the ground, and it is by building on these partnerships that we can maximize our ability to reach the most marginalized children and youth, particularly girls, refugee and displaced children, to ensure they have the opportunities they deserve.

ECW. Education Cannot Wait greatly appreciates Canada’s continued strong support in meeting the educational needs of children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises – including Canada’s new contribution of CAD $5.5 million a few days ago, and the Charlevoix Declaration to strengthen girls’ education in emergencies. ECW is committed to ensuring that 60% of our beneficiaries are girls. As a strong advocate for girls’ education, why is it so important for girls, including refugee and adolescent girls, to have access to education in crisis contexts?

Karina Gould. Girls and adolescent girls face a unique and additional set of challenges that limits their chances of accessing and completing an education. These challenges include poverty, unequal gendered roles in the household and at school, gender-based violence, and school environments and curricula that perpetuate inequalities. In crises contexts, these barriers to girls’ education can be even further entrenched, with girls being 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.

Through the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), Canada recognizes that gender equality is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Access to education is a pathway to achieving this goal. It can significantly reduce poverty, provide for better economic opportunities, and can improve health outcomes such as maternal and child health, protecting women and girls from child, early and forced marriage and providing essential sexual and reproductive health services that can enable women to engage in improved family planning.

Yet access is only part of the solution. We also need to make sure that once the children are in school, that they are learning. Quality teaching and learning, and ensuring that schools are safe places for children, particularly girls, are equally important and require additional efforts and resources, especially during a crisis. Ensuring that teachers are well-trained and equipped to instruct children who have or are living through a crisis; that curricula and learning materials reflect relevant cultural realities and do not perpetuate negative gender norms; and that girls and boys have access to adequate hygiene and WASH facilities are all required in order to keep children engaged and for families to continue to see the value in sending their children, particularly their girls, to school. This is why Canada, as President of the G7 in 2018, championed the Charlevoix Declaration on Quality Education for girls, adolescent girls and women in developing countries to further address these challenges in order to ensure that girls – especially those affected by crisis and conflict – have access to quality education.

I personally believe that it is essential for girls, including refugee and displaced girls, as well as adolescent girls, to have access to education in crisis contexts.

ECW. Prior to becoming Minister of International Development, you were appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions in 2017 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, becoming the youngest female cabinet minister in Canadian history. Congratulations! You are an inspiration and a role model for girls and women around the world. What message and guidance would you like to share with girls who face education challenges – including the COVID-19 pandemic – in achieving their hopes and dreams?

Karina Gould. My message to girls around the world facing education challenges would be this: “You are worth it. I know it is hard and there are a lot of challenges you are facing. But your hopes and dreams are worth fighting for. You have so much to offer the world. You and your voice and your experience matter. The world needs you to keep studying, to keep dreaming, to keep pushing for what you want to see in the world.”

ECW. We’d love to learn a bit more about you on a personal level. Could you tell us what are the three books that have influenced you the most (or that you’d recommend to others to read), and why?  We’d also love to know what kind of music gets you energized and motivated to address the challenges you face as Minister. Finally, is there an inspirational or motivational quote (or two) that you often turn to in life?

One of my favourite quotes is by Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

It was hard to pick just three books, so here are my top four!

To Life by Ruth Minsky Sender

I read this book in grade 7, I was 12 years old. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, this book opened my eyes to the experiences of my own family. It helped me talk to my grandmother and understand what it was like to be a survivor and to have to pick up and restart a life after living through unimaginable trauma and loss. It is an incredible story of loss, tragedy, strength, courage and renewal.

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn

I have always been a feminist. I have always believed in seeking and fighting for equality. But this book woke me up to the distinct disadvantages that women face around the world. Until I read this book I didn’t understand how dangerous giving birth was for the majority of women in the world. I learned so much and it made me want to learn even more. This book put me on a path to fight for women’s rights and women’s health around the world.

What is the What by Dave Eggers

This a fictionalized biography of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan. This book ignited my passion for protecting children from the ravages of war, building a more compassionate world, and fighting for the rights of refugees. It also led me to explore books about Africa written by Africans, which opened up a whole new literary world for me.

Anne of Green Gables Series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Was one of my favourite series as a child, written by a great Canadian author!

ECW. Are there any final comments you would like to share with ECW’s global audience on the importance of refugee children’s education in emergencies, as well as the importance of not only prioritizing education in humanitarian contexts, but also delivering quality education with ‘the fierce urgency of now’, rather than waiting until the crisis is over.

Karina Gould. When schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was quick to mobilize to ensure – to the best of our abilities – that we focused on continuity of learning for out of school children. What I would like to reiterate is that we need to remember the vulnerable populations, including refugees and displaced children, who were not in school before the pandemic and who never had access to quality education. These children deserve the chance to learn, and must not be left behind.


With US$24.5 million in currently committed funds – and more on its way – ECW-financed COVID-19 education in emergency responses are now deployed across 27 countries and emergency contexts. For children and youth in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali and Uganda, these life-saving responses are allowing girls and boys to continue their education through distance learning, protecting lives with enhanced water and sanitation services, and slowing the spread of the virus through community awareness campaigns.

Priscille with her family. Photo © Save the Children


With support from Education Cannot Wait, Save the Children Uganda is distributing home learning kits and extending educational opportunities through innovative radio programmes to provide refugee girls and boys – and host community children and youth – ongoing remote learning opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools are still closed in Uganda – possibly for the remainder of the year. For these vulnerable refugee children and youth, life-saving education and health awareness materials are essential in keeping children safe, extending learning and slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Still, half of the primary school refugee children in Uganda have yet to receive home learning materials, highlighting the need to expand the global education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Imagine… I am in P7 (the seventh and final grade of primary school). As a girl, I am very proud to have reached this class. This virus should stop so that I can sit the Primary Leaving Examination since many girls cannot make it. This makes me happy and keen to complete my studies!” – Priscille, 15, refugee girl Rwamwanja refugee settlement in Western Uganda. Full Story

Grace is finding new hope through the ECW-financed response. Photo © UNICEF


In Burkina Faso, ECW funding is keeping girls and boys safe within the fast-evolving ‘crisis within a crisis’ affecting refugees, especially girls in the Sahel. For girls like Grace, the support provided by ECW partner UNICEF, in coordination with the Government of Burkina Faso, is making a difference. This includes the training and deployment of 15,000 volunteers who provide COVID-19 hygiene and prevention sensitization amongst refugee populations and host communities.

“At school we have to wear the mask, stay at least 1 meter apart, wash hands with water and soap and raise awareness of friends who don’t know how to fight this pandemic.” – Grace, Peniel High School in Tanghin.

Learn more in this BBC French report.

Photo © UNHCR


“UNHCR Mali has now received money from Education Cannot Wait for distance learning, targeting 10,000 refugee and displaced children in Mali. With the money we aim to provide solar radios to refugee children, children who are internally displaced, and those from the host communities. These radios will ensure these refugee, displaced and host community children’s right to education, even in low-tech resource areas of Mali. The Ministry of Education together with teachers are now recording lessons for all levels so that they are ready to be aired on the radios.”- Leandro Salazar, Education Expert, UNHCR Mali.

Preventing the spread of the virus through education in Chad. Photo © JRS.


The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and confinement measures have brought new challenges for educational facilities in both Chad and the Central African Republic. In addition to being central to learning, schools are crucial for raising community awareness to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

With the support of Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) adapted its activities in the Central African Republic (CAR) and in Eastern Chad to ensure continued education, health and hygiene awareness raising and protection for refugee children and youth – already impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement, natural disasters and protracted crises – and now doubly hit by COVID-19.

In Chad, ECW partner JRS is supporting improved water and sanitation services and training education professionals on COVID-19 prevention measures to help them raise awareness within the communities. In Central African Republic, radio programmes are providing psychosocial support and ongoing lessons, with a special focus on refugee girls’ rights to access quality education.

¨We started some initiatives to be in contact with the students. This includes awareness raising activities with their parents and students on COVID-19 prevention measures through WhatsApp groups and home visits.¨ Tadjadine Abdallah Mansour, a secondary teacher at Kounoungou Refugee Camp, Chad.

“For the moment, and until the end of the pandemic, we will continue teaching our students within their areas through home-based learning.¨