11 September 2020, New York – As a friend and strong advocate of Education Cannot Wait, I welcome this opportunity to convey my support for ECW’s critical work and my solidarity with the millions of children and youth who are still being deprived of the opportunity to obtain a quality education because they are caught up in conflict, crisis or disaster.

Education is foundational to all the Sustainable Development Goals, but to advance on the Decade of Action and to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must step up our efforts to ensure that all girls and boys, including the poorest and most marginalised, are able to complete their primary and secondary education. That requires addressing the often deeply rooted gender inequalities in both education and in crisis and investing far more in girls’ education.

I commend Education Cannot Wait for working to ensure that girls and adolescent girls make up at least 60% of the total number of children and youth reached and this entails breaking down the long-standing barriers to education for girls and adolescent girls, including by sustainably increasing access and improving protection, including through activities that help to increase the proportion of women educators.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed some of the important gains made in recent years, while its impacts are being felt universally by those already marginalised by conflict or disaster are hit hardest by the pandemic: sometimes barely coping with one crisis, they are now being forced to face yet another. Education Cannot Wait was amongst the very first to respond to the outbreak including to countries hosting large refugee and/or IDP populations.

I thank ECW’s strategic donor partners for their support. I also recognize UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, ECW Director Yasmine Sherif and her entire team for their tireless efforts to reach those left furthest behind.

Education Cannot Wait is an example of how the United Nations system delivers quality with speed to advance SDG4 leveraging the best from across the UN family. Now is the time to take our work to the next level , to reimagine education, deliver the financing and policies to bring quality education to all, to tackle deeply engrained disparities and in the words of the new Global Campaign, save our future.


At the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly under the inspiring theme “The Future of Education is Here for Those Left Furthest Behind,” leaders, advocates, celebrities and champions for education in emergencies and protracted crises came together to re-imagine education for those left furthest behind.

Across the globe, 75 million children and youth living in countries affected by war and climate disasters have limited access to the hope, opportunity and protection of a quality education. The COVID-19 global pandemic has only made the situation worse.  The number of out-of-school children in conflicts and forced displacement is now rapidly escalating, and the future of an entire generation is at risk.

The event was moderated by Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait and co-hosted by Canada, Colombia, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America together with Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Somalia. 

Please click on the video link below to view some of the insightful words shared by the eminent speakers at ECW’s #UNGA75 global event.


September 21 is the International Day of Peace. Dugale sees education – and the hope and opportunity it brings – as a pathway to a more peaceful world. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

In Uganda, a refugee teacher from South Sudan has returned to the classroom through an accelerated education programme implemented by the Norwegian Refugee Council with funding from Education Cannot Wait

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Rebecca Crombleholme, Norwegian Refugee Council Uganda (Original Story)

He fled South Sudan with nothing, but as soon as he arrived in Uganda, he began teaching. Dugale believes in the next generation, and he will stop at nothing until every child can return to their community ready to face the future.

“I have lost a lot of things,” he says, “but when I enter the classroom, I leave all that behind me. I teach like I would normally, and I am free.”

Dugale Severy is 38 years old. He began his teaching career in his hometown in South Sudan straight after leaving university. Throughout his own schooling he benefitted from teachers who made things clear, and this gave him the courage to learn more. Teaching, he says, is his way of serving others.

“I love teaching,” Dugale says with a smile. “When you are a teacher, you can help everybody without borders. I want to inspire my students to become teachers themselves so that they can help other refugee children.”

Dugale now teaches on the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Accelerated Education Programme in Nyumanzi Settlement, Uganda. Many of his students have lost loved ones and missed out on many years of school. All have been forced to flee their homes.

This is something Dugale understands, as he too was forced to flee.

A sanctuary amidst the chaos of conflict

In 2011, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan, bringing an end to Africa’s longest civil war. Two years later, violent conflict broke out, shattering the newly acquired peace. The conflict has since forced over four million people to flee their homes.

Dugale found a sanctuary amongst the chaos through his work. “I instantly enjoyed teaching. It was a good escape from the war. There was no interference.”

Despite the peace within the classroom walls, it was often hard to ignore the threats that surrounded them.

“During the war, we weren’t able to teach at our best because of fear. Sometimes you are in class and you hear the sound of guns. And then you must stop teaching and figure out how to respond. Whether you need to run,” says Dugale.

As the violence got closer to home, Dugale decided he must flee with his family to keep them safe.

Education offers a route out of poverty

Dugale and his family crossed the border into Uganda in 2016 with only their ID documents, clothes and enough food to last two days. “This is all I came with. The rest of the things I left in South Sudan,” Dugale says with regret.

He finds it difficult when he thinks about everything he has left behind. “My property has been looted and some of my relatives have been killed, so it is difficult to think about.”

Despite Uganda’s open border policy for refugees, life without work can be tough. Many families benefit from food aid from organisations like NRC, but this doesn’t reach everyone. As a result, many refugee children drop out of school to take on adult responsibilities.

But Dugale believes that education provides a route out of poverty. NRC’s Accelerated Education Programme is taught at primary level and welcomes students up to the age of 18. Some of these young people are scared of re-entering education, Dugale says. “They see their age and they see their size they think they cannot fit.” But he believes that it is never too late to learn.

“For those who do join the programme, they can instantly see a way out of extreme poverty,” he continues. “They really know something. When they are in the classroom, they can see their future ahead and that their future is bright.”

Squeezing seven years into three

Dugale’s job is a challenging one. He must squeeze seven years of schooling into just three. The students in his class are from different ethnic groups, and they all have unique stories to tell about where they come from. “You know, a lot of my students have lost family members,” he explains.

A lot of students demonstrate challenging behaviour when they begin the programme. Dugale describes one student who stood out in his memory.

“Back then, he was drinking alcohol, he was smoking. His behaviour was really very bad. But throughout the programme something changed within him. He is now in secondary school, and he is so bright. I stay in touch with him, I will never forget him because of his progress and the way his attitude changed.”

Dugale continues with pride: “He is doing so well, and I know he will never, ever, go back to the life that he had before.”

A calm environment

Dugale knows that despite his students’ challenging pasts, each one has something unique to offer. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious, and his students benefit from this in the classroom.

“Sometimes they are happy,” he says. “But their lives have been difficult. There is a time for everything. If there is also some joy, we hold onto it and enjoy it. I am always talking with my students, whatever situation they are in. We provide a calm environment.”

“Singing is one of the methods we use in the classroom. You know, when you sing, it can make my students feel upbeat. You make a bit of fun, and the students will be laughing. When I do this, especially when teaching something that is challenging to understand, I know that the lesson can go successfully.”

‘I see that what I am doing here is good’

Education is one of the most underfunded of humanitarian responses. According to Education Cannot Wait, only two percent of humanitarian funding is allocated to education. This should not be the case. The benefits of education run far deeper than addressing the immediate needs of individuals or communities.

Dugale believes that education is the key to creating peace in times of conflict. “Teachers are the commanders who can fight this war. There must be teachers who can educate the next generation. When you have knowledge, you can give it to the rest of the world.”

Teachers like Dugale are essential to ensuring that young refugees can rebuild their futures. He knows that he alone cannot stop the devastating cycle of war, poverty and displacement. But with every new student that joins the Accelerated Education Programme, there is hope for the future. And that impact will continue for generations to come.

“The students in my class are active. There is hope. When I am teaching and they are getting something from me, I see that these are the people who are going to uplift the economy, even uplift the world!”

Covid-19 situation in Uganda

When the first case of Covid-19 in Uganda was confirmed on 21 March 2020, the government introduced stringent measures to minimise the spread of the virus. All education centres were closed, thus disrupting learning. This paved the way for distance learning programmes for children at home, delivered through radio, TV, and self-study. However, there are challenges for refugees who do not have access to radio and TV sets.

Since the schools have been closed, the situation for thousands of students have been very difficult. It is not easy to study at home and many have a lot to catch up on when the schools open.

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.


17 September 2020, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) brought together an impressive, diverse line-up of world leaders, policymakers, youth, teachers, celebrities and global advocates to rally around the cause of education in emergencies and protracted crises during the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly under the inspiring theme “The Future of Education is Here for Those Left Furthest Behind.”

With over 30,000 viewers watching on Twitter livestreams and 1,085 viewers tuned in to watch the two-hour, high-level online event live on Zoom, ECW’s 17 September #UNGA75 event  – moderated by Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait and co-hosted by Canada, Colombia, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America together with Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Somalia – emphasized the importance of education in emergencies and protracted crises to a global audience.

“We are facing an economic and a health crisis which has now become an education crisis – and the people who are the hardest hit are the 13 million refugee children, the 40 million displaced children and the 75 million children in conflict zones,”  said The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the ECW High Level Steering Group, during his opening remarks.

“Despite all our efforts, the situation is still getting worse and we have to do more,” Brown added, calling on public and private donors to answer ECW’s urgent appeal for an additional $300 million dollars to meet the immediate education needs of vulnerable girls and boys caught in armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate change-induced disasters and protracted crises – and who are now doubly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Let’s make sure that we can see the talent of a new generation realised and fulfilled.”

Maintaining the momentum of progress to increase financing for education in emergencies and protracted crises

Expert panellists stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening hard-won development gains, including encouraging funding trends in the education in emergencies and protracted crises sector registered since ECW’s inception. All agreed that despite the pressures on aid budgets, education for the most marginalised children and youth must be prioritised as their inherent human right, and to empower crisis-affected girls and boys, their families and communities to help lead recovery and post-crisis rebuilding efforts. Key strategic donors demonstrated their commitment with new additional contributions to ECW.

“Where conflict rages, access to education is not just crucial for the future of each individual child, but for re-integration, economic development and building the sustainable peace we all want to see,” said Baroness Liz Sugg, Minister for Foreign and Development Affairs for the United Kingdom and Special Envoy for Girls’ Education. The United Kingdom is ECW’s top donor.

Dr Maria Flachsbarth, German Parliamentary State Secretary for Development, stated Germany’s goal to invest 25 percent of its development aid in education and announced a new, additional €8 million (US$9.5 million) contribution to ECW. “Solidarity and cooperation are more important now than ever before if we want to ensure that we leave no one behind,” she said.

“We strongly believe that education can be lifesaving and life-changing. We know that many of the gains made are at risk today. Our collective efforts now are therefore more important than ever,” said Carol O’Connell, Acting Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State, as she announced an additional $5 million contribution to ECW.

“The story about how humanity handled COVID-19 is being written now. Let it not be the story of a lost generation. Let it rather be the story of a global community that came together to ensure that the right to learning was upheld for all,” said Dag Inge Ulstein, Minister for Development for Norway, as he announced an additional contribution of NOK 20 million ($2.2 million) to ECW.

Highlighting the scope of needs

Education ministers from crisis-affected countries highlighted the challenges they face in reaching vulnerable and marginalised girls and boys who are now at even greater risk of being left behind due to the pandemic, while also stressing the crucial support received from ECW and partners.

“We have the lowest enrolment rate in sub-Saharan Africa, with 68 percent of children out of school,” said The Hon. Abdullahi Godah Barre, Minister of Education, Culture and Higher Education for the Federal Republic of Somalia. “We try to focus on the most vulnerable communities of our society. We have a very significant and helpful partnership around the world, including ECW which we find very instrumental in this front.”

H.E. Excellency Dr. Getahun Mekuriya, Minister of Education for Ethiopia, presented the distance learning solutions deployed to respond to the COVID-19 crisis – and the challenges faced – in a country that hosts one of the largest refugee population in Africa and also is experiencing multiple crises. The pandemic “has widened the digital divide,” he said, thanking ECW for its support and encouraging the Fund to “continue to harness the deployment of digital technologies to the less advantaged.”

In Burkina Faso, “the future of an entire generation is at risk as the number of out-of-school children increases as a result of conflict, terrorist attacks and forced displacement,” said H.E. Stanislas Ouaro, Minister of Education and Literacy for Burkina Faso.“Education is now more than ever a powerful weapon in preventing violence, terrorism and growing insecurity,” he stressed, welcoming ECW’s upcoming Multi-Year Resilience investment in the region.

H.E. Maria Victoria Angulo, Minister for Education for Colombia, stated that “Colombia is facing the second largest migration flow in recent history,” and that with the support of ECW, “Colombia has learned to innovate and create learning opportunities during multiple crises.” She stressed her Government’s focus on “access to quality education, fostering gender equality, and bringing education to rural and urban contexts.”

Reimagining education in emergencies in the wake of COVID-19

Expert speakers agreed that the unprecedented education crisis triggered and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic must be seized as an opportunity to transform education systems, make them more resilient and adapt them to 21st century needs and realities.

“While many children are going back to school this month, there are millions of children who do not have school to go back to,” said Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “We have to get them back to school” she said, calling for all to “reimagine education”, and to “refresh our thinking about what education can be” with a focus on four areas: quality, universality, humanitarian crises settings and safety.

“Children can retain hope even in the most desperate circumstances,” said Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive of Save the Children UK. “ECW is keeping hope alive for millions of children around the world. So, it is imperative that governments – as we respond to this appalling emergency in education – get behind ECW and get behind the children. They have the courage; we have to get behind them.”

Jutta Urpilainen, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, reaffirmed her commitment to boost the share of education in the European Union’s development expenditure. “The crisis has revealed and deepened inequalities. Weaknesses of our education systems have been exposed. We have a once in a generation opportunity to reopen schools better than they were before and improve learning,” she said.

“The pandemic forces us to re-imagine all aspects of education, from policy to practice. This means directly empowering the voices of local communities, of refugees, of internally displaced persons in every aspect of our work,” said The Hon. Karina Gould, Minister of International Development for Canada. She highlighted Canada’s specific focus on the urgent education needs of adolescent girls and forcibly displaced children.

“We are all worried that a victim of this pandemic – of the largest education crisis of the last 100 years – is equality of opportunities. This is a moment to make education more equitable, more efficient, and more resilient,” said Jaime Saavedra, Global Education Director for the World Bank.

Voices from the field  

Teachers and youth recounted how the pandemic and the ensuing school closures are affecting students and their communities in countries already experiencing conflict and crises, while also highlighting the challenges and successes in adapting to distance learning solutions.

“School was giving them hope and helping them transit from the trauma they came with, so now they are getting a little demoralised because they are not at school,” said Amyera Irene who teaches refugee children in Uganda. “Staying at home every day is very hard, they have parents engaging them in agricultural activities. They say reading is becoming a little difficult and that some words have disappeared from their minds,” added her colleague, Okema Geofry.

“My academic practices have been totally rethought. Initially only three students had internet at home and I had to communicate with the others though phone calls and WhatsApp messages,” said Yaqueline Hernandez, a teacher in Colombia.

“We tried to prepare the lessons in an interesting and enjoyable manner and transmit these through social media to reach a maximum number of students,” said Mona Ibrahi, a teacher in Lebanon. “Our success is due to the role the parents played serving as a link between the teacher and the student,” underscored Nada Fakherelddine, another teacher in Lebanon.

“The opportunity to engage in digital learning makes me feel excited about the future. If students can learn digitally, they can connect to all the resources and opportunities that exist. Then, we move from surviving to thriving,” said Miranda Ndolo, a youth advocate from Cameroon who has herself gone through the hardship of forcible displacement.

“Something that we have learned from COVID-19 is that education can be reached with just one click. Technology has provided us with a huge opportunity to take education to the shorelines of Greece and to refugees around the world. Every refugee deserves the right to study. Every human deserves an education,” said Sarah Mardini, a refugee youth advocate from Syria.

Supporting “whole-of-child” responses

Panellists agreed that to achieve education outcomes for children and youth caught in conflict and crises, it is essential to provide holistic, ‘whole-or-child’ education responses that cover a broad range of needs, addressing the full dimension of a child’s well-being.

“ECW makes a difference because they know and respond to the complex needs of every child. They don’t just repair buildings and build schools. They support the nutrition, mental health, protection, and gender programmes that run within them. They equip, train, and support teachers, who work in these difficult settings, to relate to these students – I have seen it first-hand,” said Emmy Award winning actress and education champion, Rachel Brosnahan.

“For many vulnerable children, school meals are often the only food they get in a day. Getting these children back into school “is essential if we are to avoid a hunger pandemic triggered by the COVID-19 crisis,” said David Beasley, World Food Programme Executive Director, who stressed WFP’s partnership with ECW and UNICEF and their joint ongoing work to support governments in reopening schools safely.

Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, underscored the importance of ensuring a transition “between immediate urgency assistance and support for education systems step-by-step over time” to build back resilience. “It’s about having value for learners,” she said, highlighting the need for a stronger focus on inclusion and data.

“In conflict and crises contexts, girls are often the hardest hit when schools are closing, and this is what we are seeing with the COVID-19 crisis,” said Delphine O, Secretary General of the Generation Equality Forum, calling all stakeholders to work to remove the specific barriers to girls’ education.

Creative partnerships:  the key to unlocking big changes  

Speakers emphasized that partnerships are essential to successfully unlock the necessary changes to meet the full scope of needs in education in emergencies and protracted crises, building on their experiences and concrete examples.

“The important role of government and their duty is to deliver, and sometimes to get that big machinery moving, we need quite unlikely partners to come together,” said Sarah Brown, Chair, Their World and Executive Chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education. “Creative partnership is more than business,” she said, recounting how Theirworld developed an innovative partnership with the Dutch Postcode Lottery, Education Cannot Wait, UNHCR and UNICEF to support education for refugee children on the Greek islands.

“We are committed to supporting all children, including the youngest and most vulnerable who are affected by conflicts and crises. We are partnering to deliver programmes on the ground and, importantly, are committed to extracting learnings from those programs that can be shared across the whole of the ECW community. Then, we can reapply those insights into new, emerging crises,” said John Goodwin, Chief Executive Officer of the LEGO Foundation.

H.E. DR. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares appealed to existing and new partners to join and redouble collaborative efforts. “What we bring together as ECW is coordination on the ground,” he said. He also pointed out that partnership is more crucial than ever at this historic moment. After years of trying to deploy the potential of EdTech, “the whole world switched to remote learning overnight”, because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Let’s see how we can reshape education together.”

“Education, as we have known it, will be forever changed. That presents opportunities and challenges and responsibilities to the children of today and the leaders of tomorrow, to envision and contribute to a world where school doesn’t have to be disrupted by future shocks. Together, today, we must use this opportunity to create a brighter future,” said Julie Cram, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator.

The future of education, here and now

“When it comes to education for children who are suffering and left furthest behind, patience is anything but a virtue. We have to move with speed,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.  “We all agree that investing in education is investing in humanity, to unleash the potential of humankind,” she stressed during her concluding remarks. “Crises always lead to opportunities. We determine how to respond to crises. We can decide to do nothing. We can decide to do something. We can also decide to give it our all, and that is what we do across the Education Cannot Wait community. We can – and we will – turn the future of education into the present here and now, for those furthest behind.”


World leaders today committed to expand education in emergency aid for children and youth impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – girls and boys already suffering the brunt of armed conflict, forced displacement, climate-change induced disasters and protracted crises – with a focus on the most marginalized, including girls, refugees and children with disabilities.

With new contributions from Germany, the United States, Norway and the Netherlands, the total funds mobilized to date by Education Cannot Wait surpass US$650 million.

17 September 2020, New York – World leaders today committed to expand education in emergency aid for children and youth impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – girls and boys already suffering the brunt of armed conflict, forced displacement, climate-change induced disasters and protracted crises – with a focus on the most marginalized, including girls, refugees and children with disabilities.

The new political and financial pledges were made during today’s global, high-level event “The Future of Education is Here for Those Left Furthest Behind”, organized by Education Cannot Wait (ECW) on the margins of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The event was co-hosted by Canada, Colombia, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Two dozen political leaders, policymakers, influencers and youth advocates took the stage during the event, including education ministers from Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as youth and teachers from the Greek islands, Lebanon, the State of Palestine, Syria, Uganda and Venezuela. They stressed the urgent need to collaborate and redouble efforts to avoid losing hard-won gains and reversing the progress recorded in recent years in political commitment and financing for education in emergencies and protracted crises.

Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, German Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, announced an additional contribution of 8 million euros (US$9.5 million) to ECW in 2020, commending the Fund’s rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months. “Thanks to ECW, partner countries have received urgently needed support very quickly. For many countries, it was the only support they received,” she said. “I hope that other partners will also commit more funding, because solidarity and cooperation are more important now than ever before if we want to ensure that we leave no one behind,” she added.

Working with a broad range of partners, ECW has disbursed over $60 million in emergency grants in 35 crisis-affected countries since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an emphasis on reaching the most marginalized children and youth, including refugee, internally displaced and host communities girls and boys. ECW’s COVID-19 response encompasses the full scope of needs of a child’s well-being, including mental health and psychosocial support, and improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene and nutrition. Participants to the meeting stressed the importance of such a holistic approach to achieve education outcomes in crises.

“The United States strongly believes that education can be lifesaving and life-changing. That is why we are continuously striving to ensure that a focus on education is better incorporated into crisis responses around the globe and ensuring that the education provided also supports each child’s broader well-being,” said Carol Thompson O’Connell, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, U.S. Department of State, as she announced an additional contribution of $5 million to ECW.

More than 1.5 billion learners worldwide had their education disrupted at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus continues to upend entire communities, the economy, and social and education systems, children and youth who were already living in crisis settings are at particular risk of falling behind and being further marginalized. Out-of-school girls face increased risk of sexual violence, child marriage and early pregnancies. Children and youth living in extreme poverty, precarious conditions and forced displacement may never return to school – this is particularly true for refugee children and youth, and even more so for adolescent refugee girls.

“The story about how humanity handled COVID-19 is being written now – and education will figure in the conclusion. Let it not be the story of a lost generation – nor of a community that abandoned its promise to ‘leave no one behind’ when push came to shove. Let it rather be the story of a global community that came together to ensure that the right to learning was upheld for all – also for the COVID Generation,” said Dag-Inge Ulstein, Norway’s Minister for International Development, as he announced an additional contribution of NOK 20 million ($2.2 million) to ECW.

Today’s new financial pledges to ECW add to the recent contribution of the Netherlands of 6 million euros ($6.9 million) announced at ECW’s High-Level Steering Group meeting on 11 September, bringing the total funds mobilized by ECW in just four years of operations to over $650 million.

“We must stand by those left furthest behind and move with unprecedented speed, determination and commitment to financing an innovative idea and approach in the multilateral system, in the United Nations, that has proven to work. Education Cannot Wait is no longer a start up fund, but has now turned into a full-fledged global fund, reaching 4.5 million children and youth in crises and forced displacement. ECW enables us all to bring hope to those left furthest behind when they most need us,” said The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Steering Group.

Since its inception in 2016, ECW has reached an estimated 4.5 million children and youth with inclusive, quality education in some of the worst humanitarian crises worldwide, half of whom are girls. Building on these achievements, ECW is appealing to public and private donors to urgently mobilize an additional $300 million to respond to the pandemic and other emergencies and protracted crises in the coming months.

“We are grateful to all our partners and stakeholders who form Education Cannot Wait. All results are your results. Today, I want to thank Germany, the United States, Norway and the Netherlands for additional generous financial contributions to Education Cannot Wait – announced during the UN General Assembly week – which allows us to continue with speed during the pandemic,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “At ECW, we believe that crises always lead to new opportunities. It is the choice we make that determines the outcome. We must all chose to give it our all and make Sustainable Development Goal 4 a reality for those left furthest behind. The future of their education must be now.”

Today’s event was also an opportunity for ECW to roll out a new donation feature through video communications platform Zoom in partnership with online fundraising platform Pledgeling. During the event, the audience was invited to make and view live donations to support Education Cannot Wait’s work for children and youth caught in conflict and crises across the globe, raising over $14,000 in just two hours. Donations can still be made at or, in the US, by texting ‘ECW’ to 707070.

Note to Editors

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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.

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Education Cannot Wait, together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Ministry of Development Cooperation of Norway, the Ministry of Education of Colombia and the governments of Canada, United Kingdom and United States of America, convene this virtual meeting of global leaders, education experts and young people to take place during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly.



Filippo Grandi is the 11th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
He was elected by the UN General Assembly on 1 January 2016 to serve a five-year term, until 31 December 2020. Grandi has been engaged in refugee and humanitarian work for more than 30 years.

Filippo Grandi is the 11th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He was elected by the UN General Assembly on 1 January 2016 to serve a five-year term, until 31 December 2020. Grandi has been engaged in refugee and humanitarian work for more than 30 years.

Education Cannot Wait: As the UN agency mandated by the UN General Assembly to provide international protection and seek solutions for refugees, could you please elaborate on the overall importance of education for refugee children as a component of protection and solutions?

Filippo Grandi: School is often one of the very first things that refugee families ask about after being displaced. Keen to recover a sense of normalcy and dignity after the trauma of being uprooted, they are also heavily invested in their children’s futures. Many children and young people are displaced several times before crossing a border and becoming a refugee. For these children school is the first place they start to regain a sense of routine, safety, friendship and even peace. Education plays a key role, both in ensuring the protection of children and young people and helps families and children focus on rebuilding their lives and returning to many of the activities that they would normally have engaged in prior to displacement.

As UNHCR’s recent Education Report 2020 has shown, whilst there have been some successes in access to primary education, these have slowed down. Gross Enrollment Ratios show that 77 per cent of refugee children are enrolled in primary education, but this drops dramatically to 31 per cent at the secondary level. Girls are disproportionately impacted. Since global evidence shows the significant protective nature of secondary education for girls, this is a key aspect of work for UNHCR and partners like Education Cannot Wait.

Together, we are petitioning for refugee enrollment in education at all levels to be brought up to global levels to enable the millions of children and young people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes to build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. Allowed to learn, develop and thrive, children will grow up to contribute to the societies that host them but also to their homelands when peace allows for their return. Education is one of the most important ways to solve the world’s crises.

Filippo Grandi meets children at the Jibreen shelter in Aleppo, Syria. Jibreen is now home to over 5,000 people displaced during fighting in the city. © UNHCR/Firas Al-Khateeb

Education Cannot Wait: You are a long-standing member of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group. As you know, Education Cannot Wait is designed to ensure that children can continue their education in times of emergencies and protracted crises. Please elaborate on the special needs of refugee children during emergencies and protracted crises, and how do you see Education Cannot Wait contributing to meeting those rights and needs?

Filippo Grandi: The Global Compact for Refugees calls for measures to enable children and youth return to learning within three months of displacement. This goal highlights the important role that education – both formal and non-formal –  plays in supporting children to resume normal activities. Children can feel a sense of belonging with their peers in classrooms, have the opportunity to play and engage in recreational activities, and receive potentially lifesaving information on issues related to health, hygiene and safety. Schools also provide access to support services, such as counselling and school-feeding programmes.

Preparing refugee children to enter into the national education systems of host communities is critical and requires working closely with Ministries of Education to remove administrative and policy barriers to school enrollment.  It also entails ensuring children have the skills and abilities needed in order to thrive once they are enrolled in schools. Language learning classes – especially where the language of instruction is different – catch up programmes, and accelerated education all support children’s enrollment into school and ability to learn effectively. It is also important to provide information and material assistance to assist families overcome some of the practical barriers to school enrollment. Psycho-social support is also instrumental for children who have undergone the trauma of displacement and need help in adapting to new situations and environments.

The support provided by Education Cannot Wait enables agencies and organizations to ensure that services are provided after the onset of an emergency to address the immediate needs that have been highlighted above, focusing both on protection and education needs and working to ensure that children are prepared for inclusion in formal education programmes. Education Cannot Wait has also played a pivotal role in calling for donors to invest in education during and after emergencies to ensure children’s educational needs can be met during humanitarian crises, as evidenced by the increase in investment in education in emergencies over the last four years.

Education Cannot Wait: A significant number of pledges made by countries and other stakeholders at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum centered around education, including individual and joint pledges made by Education Cannot Wait highlighting multi-year investments to increase opportunities in secondary education for refugee children, and in working with other global funds to support quality education for refugees. What gaps in funding are there for refugee education globally and where best can donors help, including countries, civil society and private enterprises?

Filippo Grandi: While funding to education in emergencies grew five-fold between 2015 and 2019, education usually only receives between 2 and 5 percent of the total budget of humanitarian appeals. As we move from emergency situations to protracted crises, there is a risk that education spending is further deprioritized, making it harder to support host governments to continue the delivery of education services over a sustained period.

Funding gaps in education mean that it is often difficult to ensure that children and youth complete a full cycle of education, moving from primary, through secondary and to tertiary education.  Global figures show that there is a dramatic drop in enrollment between primary and secondary education and that only 3 percent of refugee youth are enrolled in tertiary education programmes.

Funding gaps also mean that those who are most in need, including children in women- or child-headed households and those with disabilities do not receive the specialized support that is required in order to fully enjoy their right to education. The joint pledge at the Global Refugee Forum by Education Cannot Wait, the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education has the potential to be a game changer in terms of ensuring that systems are strengthened and supported so that refugees and other vulnerable populations enjoy continued access to education.

Education Cannot Wait: Education Cannot Wait has dedicated its second round of COVID-19 First Emergency Response investments for refugee situations throughout the world. Could you please elaborate on some of the key emergencies in terms of refugee education for UNHCR and the difference that Education Cannot Wait’s emergency response for COVID-19 will make?

Filippo Grandi: The closure of schools around the world effectively meant that 90 percent of refugee children who were enrolled in schools and education programmes were unable to continue receiving an education.

As they are located in some of the most remote areas in countries or have limited resources at home, they were unable to benefit fully from distance and home-based learning programmes and are at serious risk of falling further behind academically. This risk is even more serious for adolescent girls where an estimated 50 percent of girls who were in school are at risk of not returning once classes resume. The closure of schools also means that many of the wrap-around support services mentioned earlier (food distribution, psycho-social support and recreational activities and learning support programmes) were disrupted.

Families who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the pandemic experience greater economic pressure and may deprioritize spending what little resources they have on schooling in order to ensure that their most basic needs are met. All these factors contribute to heighten protection risks during periods of school closure, leaving the educational futures of many refugee children hanging in the balance. 

Keeping education going during a pandemic requires resourcefulness, innovation, invention and collaboration. Education Cannot Wait’s funding for the COVID-19 response will play a key role in mitigating these risks, by finding ways of ensuring that students are able to continue learning during school closures, disseminating information to refugee families about re-opening procedures and the safety protocols that will be put in place, training teachers on adjusting to the pandemic, providing additional materials to students, implementing back to school campaigns and making much-needed improvements to water and sanitation facilities in schools. Many of these activities have already been initiated with the generous support of Education Cannot Wait. 

Education Cannot Wait: UNHCR and ECW have also jointly coordinated closely with host-governments, humanitarian and development actors in developing multi-year resilience investments, such as the Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda. How do you see this strengthening education for refugees and host-communities in the humanitarian-development nexus?

Filippo Grandi: The theme of UNHCR’s 2020 report is ‘Coming Together for Refugee Education’. This focus really echoes the Global Compact on Refugees which advocates for a “whole of society” approach to ensuring that the needs of refugees and hosting communities are addressed.  This means that a range of stakeholders have a role to play in realizing the goals of the Compact.  The presence of a clear plan and set of objectives for supporting access to education helps define roles and areas of contribution for a broad range of stakeholders. It is crucial that there are linkages between refugee and humanitarian response plans, multi-year resilience plans and longer-term sector development plans.

Education Cannot Wait’s support for education programming immediately after the onset of an emergency and the longer-term assistance provided through Multi-Year Resilience Programmes plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between humanitarian and development financing.  The inclusion of refugees in host-country education systems means that donors and other actors need to work closely with governments to increase the capacity of these systems to accommodate additional students, develop teachers’ abilities to respond to students’ needs and to ensure that children can progress through different educational levels.

Education Cannot Wait: Would there be any final comments you would wish to make to ECW’s audience globally regarding the importance of refugee children’s education in emergencies?

Filippo Grandi: Investment in education for refugees is essential to ensure that creativity and potential of young people in conflict and crisis-affected regions is not lost.  During the COVID-19 pandemic refugee students have played pivotal roles in their communities working on the frontlines as healthcare workers, making masks and soap to be distributed to those who need it, offering advice and disseminating health and hygiene information and establishing programmes for tutoring younger students. Their drive, initiative and passion would have been lost without early investment in their education. 

Education for refugees is an investment that pays off for the whole community – and the world. It is also a fundamental right for all children that is affirmed in the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This right must also be upheld in emergencies where we call on global actors to focus not only on access but on the quality of education and children’s ability to learn, leading them to a brighter and more dignified future.


This interview is also published by IPSNews and is available in French and in Spanish.


As prepared for delivery | Virtual Meeting, 11 September 2020 | View Original

Thank you, Gordon [Brown].

I’m impressed by Education Cannot Wait’s achievements. You have helped more than 2 million children access education and raised US$ 637 million.

It’s a privilege to be part of this group and talk about the exciting collaboration on anticipatory action.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic impacts are the biggest crisis in our lifetime. While some countries are cautiously recovering, others are teetering on the brink of disaster, with the worst still to come.

While the humanitarian, protection, economic and social impacts of the pandemic escalate, ongoing crises such as droughts and disease will endure, and new ones will break out.

Children will be at the sharp end, and their education will suffer.

Fortunately, we can now more accurately predict disasters and their impacts.

We can anticipate humanitarian needs and act early to mitigate or prevent suffering before a crisis spirals out of control.

We can use evidence of risk – instead of suffering – to take anticipatory action.

A recent study by the World Food Programme found that for every dollar spent on anticipatory action, households generated more than two-and-a-half times the value in in socio-economic outcomes. Even if no crisis occurs, every dollar spent yielded $1.60 in social value. Anticipatory action pays off.

It’s an approach that’s faster, cheaper, and more dignified. One that protects hard-won development gains. One that deals with problems before they arise. One that keeps children going to school and learning.

A few recent examples.

In June, forecasts for Somalia showed that the number of severely food-insecure people would triple to 3.5 million during the lean season. I released $15 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to the FAO, IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and WHO to cover health, food security, water and sanitation, nutrition and protection assistance.

In July, severe flooding was forecasted for Bangladesh’s Jamuna River which automatically triggered the immediate release of CERF to help 220,000 people prepare and protect themselves before peak flood with cash, animal feed, storage drums, and health, dignity and hygiene kits.

This was the fastest CERF funding release in history – within four hours of the trigger being activated.

We know that many families who received cash will invest in the education of their children. And we know this investment will go beyond education.

When children can stay in school, they are less exposed to the risks of violence, trafficking, child labor, child marriage and recruitment by armed groups. Many receive their only daily meal at school.

There is an economic impact, too. The Brookings Institute estimates that future earnings of four months of lost education in the US due to COVID-19 amounts to $2.5 trillion—12.7 percent of annual GDP.

In June this year, I committed to release up to $140 million for anticipatory action projects. It’s a good start but this alone won’t be enough. I’m excited about ECW joining the funds supporting anticipatory action.

By pre-committing funds to be released when a trigger is reached, you ensure schools remain open and children continue their education.

It is good news that the ECW’s new Operations Manual now enables anticipatory action under the First Emergency Response and the Multi-Year Resilience Programme window. OCHA will continue to support ECW on the next steps, including by identifying projects that can be financed.

These are extraordinary times and they call for bold new approaches.

We face unprecedented needs and sharper resource constraints.

We have no choice but to squeeze the most value from every dollar we spend.

Investing in education is a win-win for everyone. I hope that many donors – including those of you here today – will contribute generously to this new approach through our funds.

By doing so, you are investing in a better future for all of us.

Thank you.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit


11 September 2020, New York – The Netherlands today announced a new, additional contribution of €6 million (~US$6.9 million) in support of Education Cannot Wait’s COVID-19 education in emergency response. The pledge was made by the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Sigrid Kaag, at ECW’s High-Level Steering Group meeting today.

“I am very happy to announce our new, additional €6 million contribution to Education Cannot Wait today. We appreciate Education Cannot Wait’s intersectoral approach and the emphasis on mental health and psychosocial support. As we respond to the COVID-19 education crisis, now is the time and moment to further mainstream this approach,” said Minister Kaag.

This new contribution expands ECW’s latest COVID-19 response targeting over 850,000 crisis-affected children and youth, including at least 650,000 refugees and IDPs, 460,000 girls and adolescent girls and 50,000 children with disabilities. Countries benefiting from this support include Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

“We thank Minister Kaag and appreciate her global leadership and that of the Netherlands for this generous and timely contribution. This contribution will enable us to provide concrete and action-oriented support to children and youth who are already suffering the brunt of conflict and refuge. With a strong focus on mental health and psychosocial services in our education investments, ECW is now able to bring hope and real remedies to girls and boys in the midst of COVID-19,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.

ECW’s COVID-19 response focuses on continuity of learning and safe school re-openings. This includes providing distance teaching modalities, accelerated learning programmes for those who have been out of school, and helping education actors and systems prepare for the re-opening of schools with proper safety and physical distancing measures.

ECW is working with a wide range of partners to respond to the full impact of the ongoing education crisis on children and youth. In addition to academic needs, the response incorporates mental health and psycho-social support (MHPSS) activities, while also providing intersectoral interventions such as protection referral services and school meals programmes.

To date, ECW has allocated over $60 million in First Emergency Response grants across 35 countries where children and youth are doubly impacted by the pandemic and pre-existing emergencies and protracted crises.


For additional information on ECW’s COVID-19 responses:

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

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

ECW First Emergency Response grants announced on 22 July (learn more here)

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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