Stronger Together: Education in Emergencies & Protracted Crises

12 August 2020 – ‘Stronger collective efforts and collaboration are key to meeting the urgent education needs of children and youth affected by crises’: this is the unifying message from leaders and youth advocates brought together by Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and Devex in a high-level, Global Discussion held online on 12 August,  on the occasion of International Youth Day.

Over 2,550 people from across the world tuned in to watch the ‘Stronger Together: Education in Emergencies & Protracted Crises’ event live, which was chaired by UN Special Envoy for Global Education, the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, hosted by ECW Director Yasmine Sherif, and moderated by Devex Editor-in-Chief, Raj Kumar. The Global Discussion shone a spotlight on the challenges faced by girls and boys caught in humanitarian crises to access education.

The discussion was particularly relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has further compounded barriers and plunged the world into the worst education crisis of our lifetime. Eminent expert speakers from around the world underscored potential solutions to meet these challenges and the progress made in recent years, as evidenced in the new ECW Annual Results Report. They stressed the importance of building on these achievements and ramping up efforts to avoid losing hard won gains to the pandemic.

UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the ECW High Level Steering Group, the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, kicked off the discussion by emphasizing that the world’s most vulnerable crisis-affected children and youth are now doubly hit by COVID-19. While 13 million refugees, 40 million displaced and an overall 75 million girls and boys in conflict and emergency zones already had their education disrupted, with the impact of COVID-19, another 30 million – who were in school before the pandemic – may now never continue their education. ‘It is incumbent upon us to send out a message of hope that, by getting every child who is in a conflict or an emergency zone into school, we can be the first generation in which every child is getting the chance of schooling,’ he said.

UNHCR High Profile Supporter and Syrian Youth Advocate for Refugees Nujeen Mustafa underlined that education is an inherent right and that it is ‘unacceptable and inexcusable’ for millions of children and young people to be denied this right. Recounting her story and the difficulties she faced in accessing learning opportunities as a disabled girl growing up in Syria, she called on policymakers not to see children from conflict zones as ‘a burden or a problem to solve’ but rather as ‘treasures’ who should be valued and provided with the opportunities they deserve.

Norway’s Minister of International Development, Dag Ulstein, stressed that ‘we are in the midst of a crisis that we never thought would come, which makes it even more difficult for the most marginalized ones to access education, especially in areas affected by conflict and crises.’ Minister Ulstein reaffirmed Norway’s commitment to education in emergencies and protracted crises saying ‘no one should be left behind.’ He underlined how Nujeen’s personal story is a testament to why it is so crucial to invest in the most marginalized girls and boys to fulfill their right to education and unlock their full potential.

UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly T. Clements, stated that ‘education is a lifeline for refugee children and youth’ and it is ‘our duty to provide it to them’. She highlighted how COVID-19 is making it even more difficult for refugees to access education, especially for those who lack the necessary connectivity for remote learning solutions or for those who can no longer access the specialized support they need. Clements stressed the urgency of increasing support, in particular for refugee girls, who face heightened risks of child marriages, early pregnancies and sexual violence. 

ECW Director, Yasmine Sherif, presented key highlights of the new ECW 2019 Annual Results Report showing how stronger collaboration and multilateral efforts are key to achieving inclusive, equitable quality education outcomes for children and youth in crises settings. She underscored ECW’s flexibility and lean structure as instrumental to increasing the speed of education emergency responses and the accountability to crisis-affected communities. Sherif also stressed encouraging funding trends with close to $800 million mobilized to date by ECW at both the global level and with ECW-supported country-based programmes, as well as the growing share of global humanitarian funding allocated to education that went from 2.6 per cent in 2015 to 5.1 per cent in 2019. Despite this progress, she said ‘much more remains to be done’ and appealed donors to urgently contribute an additional $310 million to ECW. ‘We are about to enter a new phase where education will be put at the forefront. If we all work together, we jointly can take this to the next level’, she stressed.

‘If my education had waited, I would not be the Minister of Education today in Afghanistan,’ said H.E. Rangina Hamidi. The first female Minister of Education since the post-Taliban era of Afghanistan related how her father’s determination for his girls to be educated led him to seek refuge with his family in the United States. Minister Hamidi stressed that 3.7 million children are out of school today in Afghanistan, 60 per cent of whom are girls. She said the COVID-19 pandemic must be seized as an opportunity to be creative and think beyond the traditional provision of education. ‘If girls cannot attend school and access traditional education, then, we need to take education to girls where they are: in their villages, in their homes,’ she said. Minister Hamidi stressed that Afghanistan has become a leader in community-based education: ‘We have successful results that show that when you take education to their communities, girls do get educated’. 

UNHCR DAFI Scholar and Youth Advocate for Refugees, Deborah Kalumbi, recounted her story as a refugee girl forced to flee her home in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo for Zambia, and the challenges she faced in accessing education in a different language in a new country. Education helped me embrace and accept my new life,’ she stressed. She also highlighted how important education is to protect refugees, in particular refugee girls who face increased risks of child marriage and early pregnancies if they are out-of-school.   

UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta H. Fore, stressed that ‘education is the foundation of all humanitarian and development responses’ and must the addressed as a continuum from the first day of an emergency through to recovery and longer-term development. She underscored five areas that must be prioritized to ensure girls in emergencies and protracted crises can have a better access to education: affordability of education, access to distance learning, community mobilization and mentoring, protection and youth participation. ‘Education is the greatest asset we can give to a young people,’ she said. Fore called on all event participants to join forces to connect every child and young person to learning in the coming years – including through access to distance learning and digital skills – which has the potential to truly ‘change the world.’

Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, Kamal Khera, stressed that ‘Education Cannot Wait has been a leader in demonstrating how education programming can be quickly and efficiently rolled out within the humanitarian, development and peace nexus’. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, she stressed the importance of seizing the opportunity of the reopening of schools to create better and more resilient education systems that provide access to the most marginalized and vulnerable children and youth, including the inclusion of refugees in national education systems.

Theirworld President, Justin Van Fleet, called on world leaders and policymakers to deliver on their commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals. ‘We have the technology and the resources we need, we have all the partners and we know what needs to be done. There is no excuse to not achieve these education goals,’ he stressed.  ‘We know that education is what unlocks the solution to the pandemic: economic growth, jobs for young people, better health, nutrition, and we know that investing in early years is what gives a child the best start in life,’ he said. Van Fleet underscored the importance for young people to hold leaders to account and to keep pushing this agenda. ‘There is no excuse to give up right now,’ he said.

Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary-General, Jan Egeland, wrapped up the discussion stressing the importance of recognizing achievements in the field of education in emergencies and protracted crises in recent years. ‘There has been progress, we need to build on that.’ However, Egeland stated that youth (15-24 years old) have been excluded from this progress and are largely ‘out of education, out of livelihoods and out of hope’ and must urgently be prioritized. He also underscored the massive setback of the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘The crisis is profound, therefore the investment in alternative education, remote education, new technology has to be much bigger,’ he said. Egeland concluded his remarks with a message from children: ‘we need education as much as we need food, it is a question of survival.’


For additional information:

Click here to watch the full recording of the event.

Explore the interactive portal of the ECW 2019 Annual Results Report

Download the full ECW Annual Report and its Executive Summary

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  
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The European Commission (EC) is one of the founders of Education Cannot Wait, which was established at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 and aims at increasing funding and efficiency in delivering quality education to some 75 million children and youth affected by conflicts, natural disasters and forced displacement.  EC plays a major role since in advancing education in the humanitarian-development nexus during crisis. Please elaborate on the EC vision in driving education to achieve humanitarian-development coherence and deliver quality education in situations of crisis, for refugees, for girls, and other stakeholders who are left furthest behind.

The Commissioner Lenarčič: Education is an essential part of EU humanitarian assistance. It is a powerful tool to bring positive changes to individuals and to wider society and bring hope for a better and more sustainable future. Schools also protect children from violence and provide food, water, health care and hygiene supplies. They provide children with safe space and help them cope with traumatic experiences.

We need to remember that half of all out-of-school children live in conflict-affected countries. When a child’s education is disrupted by an emergency, there is a high possibility that they will never return to school. Just over half of refugees of primary school age attend school, and less than a quarter of the equivalent age group is in secondary school. We are deeply committed to bringing those girls and boys back into education and ensure their return to safe and quality learning within three months of their education disruption, so they have the rights and opportunities they deserve.

I am an advocate for greater investment in education, and we have set our own target at 10% of EU’s humanitarian aid budget. We support the education system reform to provide for greater quality and resilience, and capacity building of education actors. The protection of education against attacks is another important objective. Education needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner, we take seriously our global responsibilities and contribute to coordinated multi-stakeholder education actions that create added value and enhance impact.

Commissioner Urpilainen: Beyond the initial emergency response, education is and will remain a top priority for EU development assistance, particularly for children living in fragile contexts.

Strengthening education systems is at the core of our development programmes. We work through long-term partnerships with national governments to expand education services, to re-build infrastructure destroyed by disasters, and to strengthen the resilience of education systems to withstand future shocks. We improve governance systems to ensure that education services are equitably distributed, staff are paid regularly, and finances are managed efficiently.

In 2018, the European Commission produced a Communication on Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises, which sets out our vision of shared responsibility. We use the term ‘nexus’ to describe the shared space of humanitarian, development and political instruments to achieve education for all.  Within the European Commission, and among EU Member States, we have the different tools needed to address these different needs.

1- You jointly visited Burkina Faso earlier this year to assess the ongoing crisis. What were your main takeaways from the trip? What left you feeling hopeful about the work we are doing and the role of education in protracted crisis to achieve peace, stability and sustainable development?

Commissioner Urpilainen:

I was deeply impressed by the resilience of the families I met. Long-term poverty, poor infrastructure and weak social services have prevailed for many years. The current security and forced displacement crisis is worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. These crises risk undermining the education gains made in Burkina Faso in recent years, in terms of access to education and the quality of teaching and learning.

The national education system in Burkina Faso has significant development needs to improve the infrastructure, system management and quality of education. Girls are more likely to be out of school, and some 52% of girls are subject to early marriage.

During the visit I had an opportunity to talk with Burkinabe youth who emphasised the importance of accessibility in vocational education and training (VET). This point was raised also by President Kaboré in our meeting. Skills acquired through quality training help support smooth transition to labour market. In the long term, skilled labour force is a key element of sustainable economic growth and stability.

Commissioner Lenarčič: Unfortunately, hundreds of schools have been closed in Burkina even before COVID-19 pandemic. Many have been under attack, affecting thousands of children and teachers. Out-of-school and vulnerable girls and boys face violence and exploitation, including gender-based sexual violence, child labour and forced recruitment.

Scaling up and improving humanitarian assistance to Burkina Faso has become an imperative. More, better and faster humanitarian aid requires adequate coordination. Only an integrated approach can ensure communities’ security, the ability to meet their needs and aspirations, and to restore trust.

Education is crucial in this respect. To intensify our efforts, we recently decided to support two large multi-annual partnerships to address broad education and protection needs in the Sahel region with the EU’s humanitarian aid budget.

2- What motivates you to be part of the Education Cannot Wait, and as members of the ECW High-Level Steering Group? What do you hope to achieve through supporting this rapidly growing global fund?

Commissioner Urpilainen: I strongly believe in the power of collective action. Education Cannot Wait was formed to mobilise a collective response to urgent needs in education in emergencies, bringing together traditional and new actors. The European Union was part of ECW’s inception, bringing development funding to allow multi-year, predictable support.

From a development perspective, I place great importance in the Multi-Year Resilience Programming window of the fund, which incentivises humanitarian and development actors to come together in joint response.

Commissioner Lenarčič: Following the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, ECW created an impressive dynamic around the importance of education in emergency contexts. It rallied in an unprecedented way donors from around the world to support initiatives to ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality education.

The sense of urgency, strong collective action, enhanced prioritisation and capacity to respond are our shared goals. From the humanitarian perspective, I would like to highlight the First Emergency Response Window. The EU has been strengthening in the past years the work of education clusters and working groups, as well as systematic inclusion of education in the rapid response mechanism. Together, we can continue to be a vocal advocate for the strengthening of clusters, improving coordination, needs assessments and localisation. We can also better identify and develop innovative approaches and build partnerships at the systemic level.

3- How do your different departments, the DG for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid and the DG for International Cooperation and Development, work together strategically and practically to promote quality education in the humanitarian-development nexus for girls, boys and youth caught in protracted crises?

Commissioner Lenarčič: Working across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus is at the core of our efforts. The first step was to develop a joint policy framework, making sure we have clear, shared objectives and goals. This is provided by the 2018 Communication on Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises, in which we jointly commit to four common goals (access to education, quality education, protection of education, coordination and partnerships). The EU Member States also endorsed this policy framework through Council Conclusions in 2018.

At country level, we have joint planning and review processes. EU Delegation staff and ECHO staff sit together at important moments, such as the formulation of the Humanitarian Implementation Plans (HIP), or the annual reviews of Multiannual Indicative Plans (MIP). Processes are often shared, such as monitoring visits, reviews, planning workshops. There is a regular exchange of information.

Our presence in the field is mutually reinforcing, with humanitarian actors operating in contexts where development instruments are not present, e.g. active conflicts or hard to reach areas.

Commissioner Urpilainen: Our EU Delegations have strong credibility with education ministries, based on years of partnership through budget support, technical assistance and policy dialogue. When appropriate, information from our humanitarian teams can be channelled into policy dialogue with national authorities. This is an effective way of influencing policy dialogue and improving coordination among actors, who may be trying to tackle the same issue from different angles.

Within the ‘nexus’ space we operate in different ways according to our mandates, but we share the same goals. We promote equity and equality, especially gender equality. We focus on the poorest and most vulnerable, striving for inclusive education systems. Peace, tolerance, good governance and non-violence are essential values in all education support.

4-What are the EU’s main priorities for education in emergencies and protracted crises in your new strategy for 2021-2027?

Commissioner Lenarčič: The EU’s policy framework for education in emergencies of 2018 will continue to guide our actions and offering children affected by humanitarian crises access to safe, quality, and accredited education.

Yet, we know that COVID-19 has disrupted education for 1.2 billion learners globally and added a new layer of complexity for education in humanitarian settings, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities.

I am deeply concerned about the most vulnerable children, at risk of never returning to school. If even a small percentage do not return to education, this translates into millions of children. We will strive to forge even closer links between child protection and education and promote integrated and comprehensive approaches to children’s needs.

To build up better education systems, we should focus more on the equity and quality aspects. Innovative, digital-based solutions are key but they should be accompanied with adequate attention to connectivity, skills and knowledge of teachers and caregivers, accelerated education programmes to bridge the education gaps, and development of alternative remote learning channels, such as pre-registered offline content or TV/radio-based teaching.

The scale of needs is unprecedented and requires sustained, timely and coordinated financing. Our key commitment to dedicate 10% of EU’s humanitarian aid budget to education remains for the years to come and will guide our policy, advocacy and funding support.

I was struck by the findings of the recently released report “Education under Attack 2020” by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack. Much remains to be done to protect students, educators and personnel and schools from attack. Protection of education will also feature high on my agenda as Commissioner.

Commissioner Urpilainen: The current crisis risks reversing decades of progress towards education for all. We must re-focus attention towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 as education is part of the solution.

I have decided to boost the share of education expenditure in the upcoming EU Development Financing between 2021-2027. As a former teacher, I am convinced that investments in education will bring great returns in terms of human development, poverty eradication and reducing inequalities.

We know how important teachers are. For children caught up in cycles of violence and crisis, a reliable teacher can be the anchor that keeps them on track, helping them find their best future. We will support teachers’ professional development programmes and curriculum reform, so education teachers have the tools needed to provide 21st century skills to children.

Furthermore, qitting in school is not enough. Students need to graduate with strong skills. We are preparing students to live in a new world, to work in jobs that do not exist yet, with technology that has not been invented yet. Strengthening education systems to meet these needs is our main priority over the next seven years.

5- In 2019 and 2020 ECW increased its engagement in the Sahel and the Middle East as two regions in crisis. How do you see ECW making a difference for children’s education, particularly girls in these regions in trouble?

Commissioner Lenarčič: ECW plays a major role in advancing education in the humanitarian-development nexus during crises. ECW has been an important voice, highlighting the dire and worsening situation in the Sahel region and in the Middle East. ECW operates at an impressive speed – we saw this for the COVID-19 First Education Response funding, which reached 26 countries in March.

Furthermore, ECW has a clear targeting – focusing on vulnerable children affected by crises. This combination holds great potential for children in the Sahel and in the Middle East. In these regions, children are affected by multiple crises, often overlapping, and it is the most vulnerable, particularly girls and displaced children, who are left behind. The emphasis that ECW places on girls is much needed, considering for example the huge disparities in gross enrolment rates and literacy levels, e.g. in the Sahel region, girls are on average 17% behind boys.

The weight that ECW has as a donor allows it to push for more integrated actions, understanding that the educational needs of girls and boys cannot find their solutions only in education but require a more holistic view of the multifaceted barriers to education, which is particularly valid for regions like Sahel or the Middle East.

Commissioner Urpilainen: ECW’s plans to start Multi-Year Resilience Programmes throughout the Sahel in 2020 offers much hope. Countries like Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali require medium and long-term planning. The multi-year framework aims to improve coordination and incentivise joint planning and financing.

We are proud to be part of Education Cannot Wait’s drive to improve coordination and joint planning for children affected by crises.

6- The EU/EC plays an instrumental role at the global level and in its partnership with the United Nations, the World Bank and other regional and international and multilateral institutions. How do you see EU/EC’s role in supporting the achievement of all Sustainable Development Goals, not the least Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education, as we face COVID-19 and a continued uncertainty of the future. What can we all do to build back better?

Commissioner Urpilainen: In these extraordinary circumstances, the Sustainable Development Goals and the agenda of ‘leaving no one behind’ are more important than ever.

We need to draw a joint roadmap that considers COVID-19 and we need to harmonise the aid architecture for education. But above all, the education community must come together with a clear message: education is a top priority.  Education for all will enable the achievement of the other SDGs, and it is especially in times of crisis that we realise its power.

People on the move take their education and skills with them, helping them to adapt to and thrive in new settings. Educated people are quicker to take up technology solutions to access information, such as health messages or remote learning programmes. Science and technology offer innovative solutions. We depend more than ever on highly skilled healthcare providers and data analysts. Educated agriculturalists can take up new opportunities in green farming.

Commissioner Lenarčič: Furthermore, we need to use our collective voice to speak to the wider global community, to ensure all decision-makers are convinced of the importance and power of education.

The agenda of building back better requires appropriate consideration to equity and quality, and lessons learnt from diversified strategies to address distance learning, especially in low-income countries and in humanitarian contexts. A people-centred approach that focuses on the most vulnerable groups and on people in vulnerable contexts should remain at the heart of our actions.


ECW Press Release

Amid the worst education crisis of our time caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, ECW’s new Results Report provides evidence on progress made in delivering inclusive, equitable quality education in emergencies and protracted crises
11 August 2020, Geneva/New York – Education Cannot Wait launched its ‘Stronger Together in Crises – Annual Results Report 2019’ today, reaffirming itself as the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises. Since the Fund’s inception in 2016, its investments have reached nearly 3.5 million children and youth in many of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

“Education Cannot Wait works to serve the 75 million children and youth – 39 million of whom are girls – whose education has been disrupted by armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate-change induced disasters and protracted crises. This new Annual Results Report shows ECW advancing from strength to strength, just three years into its operations,” said the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the ECW High-Level Steering Group. “The report comes at an unprecedented time when the global education crisis is exacerbated by COVID-19. The pandemic has swept across the world, threatening decades of hard-won development gains: 90 per cent of the world’s school-age children and youth have had their education disrupted. As an innovative fund, Education Cannot Wait is breaking new ground, but more needs to be done. Financing is absolutely essential.” 
The report provides evidence that ECW’s partnership model is spurring progress in delivering inclusive, equitable quality education for children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises. It shows growing political commitment for the emergency education sector and increased prioritization of education in humanitarian appeals: humanitarian funding for education grew five-fold from 2015 to 2019, with more than US$700 million committed in 2019. The share of funding dedicated to the education sector as part of the total sector-specific humanitarian aid globally also continued to rise, reaching 5.1 per cent in 2019.
To date, ECW has mobilized $662.3 million, including $252.8 million from both public and private donors in 2019. The Fund substantially increased its operations in 2019, disbursing $130.7 million to 75 grantees to support education in emergencies and protracted crises responses in 29 countries. The report shows that ECW is providing the impetus for quicker education responses in the face of sudden-onset crises, and is strengthening coherence between humanitarian and development aid interventions. It also captures encouraging trends in terms of strengthening national and local capacities to respond, as well as improving data, evidence and accountability for the sector. 
ECW-financed education in emergency activities reached 2.6 million crisis-affected children and youth in 2019 alone. The Fund’s focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized children and youth is translating into real results: while girls often face additional barriers to access education in crises settings, nearly half of ECW’s beneficiaries (48 per cent) are girls. In all, 30 per cent of the Fund’s beneficiaries are refugees, 15 per cent are internally displaced children and youth, and 55 per cent are other crises-affected children and youth, including those from host communities.
“ECW champions the inherent human right to an education for children and youth left furthest behind in humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Our undivided focus is on the realities on the ground and the more than 75 million children and youth whose education is disrupted by crises. They demand our attention and action. Where there is commitment, progress has been made. The primary enrolment ratio for refugee children improved from 53 per cent to 75 per cent in Uganda in just two years; and, in Afghanistan, where 60 percent in our investments are girls, out-of-school girls now have the opportunity to return to the safety and protection of an education thanks to the government’s community-based education approaches and the partnership with civil society and UN agencies. Yet, to further scale up what works requires significant, urgent funding.”
Indeed, more remains to be done. Funding appeals for education in emergencies and protracted crises remained significantly underfunded in 2019, with only 43.5 per cent of the required funding secured; and, the gap risks widening further with the compounding effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stress it is exercising onto education and aid budgets worldwide.
“To answer the UN Secretary General’s recent call to avoid a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities, ECW and its partners are working to urgently mobilize an additional US$310 million to support the emergency education response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other ongoing crises. Together with in-country resource mobilization, this will allow us to reach close to 9 million children annually,” Sherif said. 
In just the past four months of 2020, ECW’s total First Emergency Response investments span 33 countries and crisis-affected contexts, with a record amount of US$60.1 million rapidly allocated by ECW for vulnerable children and youth, who are now doubly impacted by COVID-19.
Highlights of Key ECW 2019 Results by Country:

  • Afghanistan: A successful model of community-based education has reached 57 per cent of girls amongst its beneficiaries. An ECW grant to Save the Children and the Afghanistan Consortium for Community-based Education and Learning achieved substantial results in literacy and numeracy. At the beginning of the intervention, only 2 per cent of students were able to read a story and answer related questions correctly; after the intervention, 48 per cent of students were able to read and understand a basic story.
  • Central African Republic: ECW partner, Norwegian Refugee Council, delivered an 8-month accelerated learning programme for 720 conflict-affected children (45 per cent girls). 85 per cent of children who completed the programme were able to re-enter the formal system after receiving the required certification.
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: ECW investments delivered through AVSI, NRC and UNICEF supported reintegration of formerly out-of-school children into formal education, protection for children at school and at home, the provision of psychosocial support, and upgraded school infrastructure and the distribution of learning materials. About 10,000 children attended catch-up courses and took the end-of-cycle exam for primary school, enabling them to re-join the formal education system. Exceeding targets, over 46,000 children have been reached in all, 49 per cent of whom are girls.
  • Ethiopia: Following a US$15 million initial investment grant implemented through by UNICEF, the primary gross enrolment ratio for refugee children rose to 67 per cent, up from 62 per cent in 2018.
  • Nigeria: ECW partner Street Child successfully increased learning levels in reading and mathematics in areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. The grant provided non-formal education for 5,206 children between the ages of 4 and 14 who were either out-of-school or had fallen behind in the formal education system. As a result of the intervention, the percentage of children who were able to recognize letters rose from 1 per cent to 50 per cent. The percentage of students able to read words increased from 9 per cent to 43 per cent.
  • Uganda: Following ECW’s support to the Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities (ERP) through the Fund’s multi-year resilience programme, the primary gross enrolment ratio for refugee children improved by 22 per cent – from 53 per cent in 2017 to 75 per cent in 2019 (reaching 71.4 per cent for girls).
  • Yemen: 1.8 million students in war-torn Yemen were able to sit for their exams with support from Education Cannot Wait and its partners. Through an initiative implemented by UNCEF, 128,000 teachers received cash incentives. 





























Relevant links to the report’s digital portal:


On August 12, 2020, Devex and Education Cannot Wait are hosting a dynamic online event to engage key stakeholders and generate a global conversation showcasing challenges and solutions to deliver a more collaborative and rapid response to the educational needs of children and youth affected by crises, especially.

Wednesday, August 12
10 a.m. ET | 4 p.m. CET
75 million school-aged children and youth are in desperate need of educational support, either in danger of, or already missing out on their education. Communities highlight the importance of education during times of crises, yet education appeals receive less than 2% of humanitarian funding. The right to education is most at risk during emergencies but it is also the exact time when it is needed the most.
On August 12, 2020, Devex and Education Cannot Wait are hosting a dynamic online event to engage key stakeholders and generate a global conversation showcasing challenges and solutions to deliver a more collaborative and rapid response to the educational needs of children and youth affected by crises, especially.
The event will also include the official launch of Education Cannot Wait’s annual report, highlighting important results and lessons learned on how to advance education for the most vulnerable. Together with key experts and high-level stakeholders, we’ll shine a light on the important link between education and peace and development, and showcase solutions to boost access to education for children and adolescents living in crisis-affected countries.

The Speakers

Raj Kumar
President & Editor-in-Chief
Raj Kumar is the Founding President and Editor-in-Chief at Devex, the media platform for the global development community. He is a media leader and former humanitarian council chair for the World Economic Forum and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His work has led him to more than 50 countries, where he has had the honor to meet many of the aid workers and development professionals who make up the Devex community. He is the author of the book “The Business of Changing the World,” a go-to primer on the ideas, people, and technology disrupting the aid industry.
The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown
United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education
Chair of ECW’s High-Level Steering Group
Gordon Brown served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2007 to 2010 and is widely credited with preventing a second Great Depression through his stewardship of the 2009 London G20 summit. He was one of the first leaders during the global crisis to initiate calls for global financial action, while introducing a range of rescue measures in the UK. In April 2009, he hosted the G20 Summit in London where world leaders committed to make an additional $1.1 trillion available to help the world economy through the crisis and restore credit, growth and jobs. They also pledged to strengthen financial supervision and regulation. In addition to his global education work Gordon is a Senior Panel Member at the Kofi Annan Foundation initiative on Electoral Integrity and is a Patron of the Burma Campaign UK. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Patron of the Parliamentary Outreach Trust.
Jan Egeland
Secretary General
Norwegian Refugee Council
Jan Egeland has been the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council since August 2013, a role which oversees the work of the humanitarian organisation in more than 30 countries affected by conflict and disaster. In 2015 he was appointed in a second role by former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, as Special Adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria. Within this position he chaired the humanitarian task force responsible for the safety and protection of Syrian civilians. He stepped down from this role on 1 December 2018. In 2006, Time magazine named Jan Egeland one of the “100 people who shape our world.”
Henrietta H. Fore
Executive Director
Henrietta H. Fore became UNICEF’s seventh Executive Director on 1 January 2018. She has worked to champion economic development, education, health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in a public service, private sector and non-profit leadership career that spans more than four decades. From 2007 to 2009, Ms. Fore served as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Director of United States Foreign Assistance. The first woman to serve in these roles, she was responsible for managing $39.5 billion of U.S. foreign assistance annually, including support to peoples and countries recovering from disaster and building their futures economically, politically and socially.
H.E. Rangina Hamidi
Minister of Education
Rangina Hamidi is the Afghanistan Minister of Education and was born in Kandahar Province. Rangina earned a Bachelors degree in Religious Studies and Gender Studies from the University of Virginia and worked for the Institute for International Public Policy. Rangina returned to Kandahar in 2003 and with a personal commitment to help lead change in Afghanistan she assumed the leadership of the Women’s Income Generation (WIG) Project for Afghans for Civil Society (ACS), a development organization dedicated to the social development of Southern Afghanistan.
Deborah Kamulbi
Youth Advocate for Refugees
UNHCR DAFI Recipient
Deborah Kalumbi is a female 3rd year DAFI sponsored student pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Education at Cavendish University Zambia. After getting selected on DAFI in 2017, Deborah firmly believes that a person cannot change their past but can definitely do something to change their future. She also believes in being the difference that can bring about change and development. One of her priced life lessons is that Humanity is a virtue. Deborah has been an active participant in the DAFI students club activities and is part of the UNHCR Refugee Humanitarian Ambassadors with her wish being “changing the world one step at a time”. She has also represented youths on platforms such as the Young Peoples World Heritage Education which focuses on educating young people on self- empowerment and more recently, was selected in the “young ideas competition” which focuses on improving refugee livelihoods.
Kamal Khera
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development
Kamal Khera was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Brampton West in 2015. A registered nurse, community volunteer, and political activist, Ms. Khera is passionate about improving the lives of those around her. A first generation Canadian, Ms. Khera immigrated to Canada from Delhi, India, at a very young age. She attended York University where she earned an Honours Bachelors of Science in Psychology and an Honours Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Drawn to helping others, Ms. Khera gained diverse experience in the health care field through her professional experience with the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, Peel Family Shelter, and William Osler Health System. Recently, she worked as a registered nurse in the oncology unit at St. Joseph’s Health Centre Toronto, which gave her a deep understanding of the issues that impact individuals every day.
Nujeen Mustafa
Youth Advocate for Refugees
Nujeen Mustafa is an incredible young woman who, at just sixteen, made the 3,500-mile journey from Syria to Germany in a steel wheelchair. Nujeen was born with cerebral palsy and spent the majority of her life confined to her apartment in Aleppo, Syria, where she taught herself English watching shows on TV. As war broke out, she and her family were forced to flee, first to her native Kobane, then Turkey. Her family didn’t have enough money for them all to make it to safety in Germany, where her brother lives, so her parents stayed in Turkey while she set out with her sister across the Mediterranean, braving inconceivable odds for the chance to have a normal life and an education. Nujeen’s optimism and defiance when confronting all of her challenges have propelled this young refugee from Syria into the spotlight as the human face of an increasingly dehumanised crisis. Since moving to Germany, Nujeen has continued to tell her remarkable story and to capture the hearts of all who hear her speak.
Yasmine Sherif
Education Cannot Wait
Yasmine Sherif is the Director of Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – a global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crisis established by the World Humanitarian Summit. A lawyer specialized in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law (LL.M), she has 30 years of experience with the United Nations (UNHCR, UNDP, OCHA) and international NGOs, starting her international career in 1988. Ms. Sherif has served in some of the most crisis affected countries and regions on the globe, including Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and across the Middle East, including Jordan (the Syria-crisis) and the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as in New York and Geneva. Her expertise spans across the humanitarian, development, human rights, gender and peacekeeping spectrum. 
Dag-Inge Ulstein
Minister of International Development
In his role as the Minister of International Development, Dag-Inge Ulstein is responsible for international development efforts in countries outside the OSCE, the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan. He is also responsible for development cooperation under the auspices of the UN system, the World Bank, the regional development banks and other global funds and programmes. In addition, he is responsible for Norad, Norec and Norfund
Justin van Fleet
Justin van Fleet is the President of the global children’s charity Theirworld and Executive Director of the Global Business Coalition for Education. He previously served as the Director of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity and Chief of Staff to the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown where the landmark “Learning Generation” report put forward a pathway to finance and deliver the ambitions of Sustainable Development Goal 4 – inclusive and equitable quality education for all. He has been a passionate advocate for financing education, playing an instrumental role in the establishment of the Education Cannot Wait Fund for education in emergencies and the new International Finance Facility for Education.



“The future of education is here”

Education is the key to personal development and the future of societies.

It unlocks opportunities and narrows inequalities.

It is the bedrock of informed, tolerant societies, and a primary driver of sustainable development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education ever.

In mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, affecting over 1 billion students.

At least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on education in their critical pre-school year.

And parents, especially women, have been forced to assume heavy care burdens in the home.

Despite the delivery of lessons by radio, television and online, and the best efforts of teachers and parents, many students remain out of reach.

Learners with disabilities, those in minority or disadvantaged communities, displaced and refugee students and those in remote areas are at highest risk of being left behind.

And even for those who can access distance learning, success depends on their living conditions, including the fair distribution of domestic duties.

We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people.

We already faced a learning crisis before the pandemic.

More than 250 million school-age children were out of school.

And only a quarter of secondary school children in developing countries were leaving school with basic skills.

Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.

The knock-on effects on child nutrition, child marriage and gender equality, among others, are deeply concerning.

This is the backdrop to the Policy Brief I am launching today, together with a new campaign with education partners and United Nations agencies called ‘Save our Future’.

We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people.

The decisions that governments and partners take now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.

This Policy Brief calls for action in four key areas:

First, reopening schools.

Once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control, getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority.

We have issued guidance to help governments in this complex endeavour.

It will be essential to balance health risks against risks to children’s education and protection, and to factor in the impact on women’s labour force participation.

Consultation with parents, carers, teachers and young people is fundamental.

Second, prioritizing education in financing decisions.

Before the crisis hit, low and middle-income countries already faced an education funding gap of $1.5 trillion dollars a year.

This gap has now grown.

Education budgets need to be protected and increased.

And it is critical that education is at the heart of international solidarity efforts, from debt management and stimulus packages to global humanitarian appeals and official development assistance.

Third, targeting the hardest to reach.

Education initiatives must seek to reach those at greatest risk of being left behind — people in emergencies and crises; minority groups of all kinds; displaced people and those with disabilities.

They should be sensitive to the specific challenges faced by girls, boys, women and men, and should urgently seek to bridge the digital divide.

Fourth, the future of education is here.

We have a generational opportunity to reimagine education.

We can take a leap towards forward-looking systems that deliver quality education for all as a springboard for the Sustainable Development Goals.

To achieve this, we need investment in digital literacy and infrastructure, an evolution towards learning how to learn, a rejuvenation of life-long learning and strengthened links between formal and non-formal education.

And we need to draw on flexible delivery methods, digital technologies and modernized curricula while ensuring sustained support for teachers and communities.

As the world faces unsustainable levels of inequality, we need education – the great equalizer – more than ever.

We must take bold steps now, to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.

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