Photo: UNICEF Uganda/2021/Abdul

This first of its kind curriculum acknowledges the immeasurable resilience of adolescents living in crisis settings, encouraging them to use their experience to become their potential.

29 June 2021, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies – is developing a curriculum derived from the seminal work of world-renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”, and its related branch of psychotherapy, Logotherapy. The curriculum, which has been preliminary field-tested in Uganda, aims to fully tap into the resilience of girls and boys living in crisis settings.

Psychosocial support is a core component of the holistic education programmes supported by ECW and its partners to help adolescent girls and boys in armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate change-related disasters and protracted crises to cope with the incommensurable hardship and adversity they face.

“Crisis-affected girls and boys endure abnormal challenges of armed conflicts, widespread violations of their human rights, chronic insecurity and constant threats to their lives and sense of safety. To achieve quality learning outcomes and empower them to thrive towards their potential, one must address their trauma and experiences of adversity. By empowering them to find a meaning in their experience, they stand greater chances of healing, unleashing their resilience and becoming positive agents of change in all walks of life. Logotherapy is a forward-looking and profound approach that ignites the strength of the human spirit,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “With this ground-breaking curriculum we want to shift the dominant narrative that hardship prevents young people from achieving their goals or fully living their story of life. Viktor Frankl provides an empirical and inspiring example of how extreme hardship can actually fuel global contributions. At Education Cannot Wait, this is also our stance. We want to empower children and adolescents in armed conflicts and forcible displacement to turn their gruesome adversity into ultimate hope and capacity to shed their light of  knowledge, wisdom and compassion onto their communities, nations and the rest of the world.”

Frankl posits that human beings can withstand significant suffering if they can access meaning and hope and recognize their choices and potential. Frankl tested his research while enduring Nazi concentration camps in World War II. The themes he conveys include dehumanization, profound loss, injustice, and unspeakable cruelty. Without making comparisons, Frankl presented logotherapy in his world-renowned book, “Man’s Search for a Meaning,” which is today universally recognized as one of the top schools of thoughts in Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS). Thus, all of these concepts are relatable and relevant to adolescent girls and boys living in conflict and disaster-affected communities.

By providing a curriculum as a global good, ECW aims to offer a structured alternative approach to partners who work with adolescents experiencing hardship. Through dialogue, reflection and activities focused on the life and teachings of Viktor Frankl – as well as role models such as Malala Yousafzai, Wangari Maathai, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela – young people will explore how to create connection, find meaning, imagine a different future, and contribute to the world in big and small ways.

ECW supported the field-testing of the curriculum package – titled “An Instruction Manual for Life” – with groups of adolescents in a non-formal community setting with upper secondary students in Northern Uganda in early 2021.

Initial results from the testing found that young people and facilitators enthusiastically embraced the curriculum as “relevant, exciting, engaging, and new.” Youth reported high satisfaction and showed that they learned and internalized key concepts. Facilitators expressed strong interest in the curriculum as they felt that local schools fell short in supporting adolescents in profound and critical thinking, individual expression and self-reflection to access their resilience, inner strength, hopes and dreams.

Based on the feedback of the field testing, ECW filmed introductory videos to accompany each of the three “blocks” of the curriculum: “Deep Dive”, “Find Your Meaning” and “Dream Big.”

Watch videos

Watch all the ECW Logotherapy Life Lessons Videos on our playlist.

Additional testing will be conducted before the curriculum is finalized and published.

For more information on the curriculum, please contact


Responding to displacement, school closures and violence, new grant delivered by UNICEF and Norwegian Refugee Council will reach 18,300 children and youth

French Version

30 June 2021, New York – Half of the children in the Central African Republic (CAR) have been affected by the increased violence, displacement, and closure and occupation of schools connected with civil unrest following the December 2020 elections.

In response to this complex humanitarian crisis, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today a US$1 million first emergency response grant that will be delivered by UNICEF (US$600,000) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (US$400,000) to ensure access to education in safe, inclusive and protective learning environments for displaced and returnee children affected by the recent post-election violence.

“This new wave of violence and forced displacement has increased humanitarian needs at a time when Central Africans are already dealing with the crippling consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, years of conflict and insecurity, and the devastating impacts of climate change and other crises,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the UN’s global fund for education in emergencies. “Once again, children bear the brunt of the crisis. Their education is disrupted, their rights violated; they are experiencing violence, being separated from their families, and at risk of being recruited into armed groups. Due to school closures, girls are suffering sexual violence, being forced into early marriage and are exposed to other risks that no child should ever have to face. They need the support of the world, and they need it now.”

First Emergency Response

An estimated 1.4 million students have been affected by school closures in the Central African Republic. Some of these students may never return to school. Analysis carried out in Bangui shows an increase in sexual violence against children, particularly girls, during the closure of schools.

In all, the conflict has forced nearly 200,000 people – almost half of them children – to flee their homes. While many have since returned home, around 100,000 people remain displaced. This brings the total number of displaced people to 1.5 million, or nearly one-third of the country’s total population.

The ECW First Emergency Response grant targets 18,300 conflict-affected girls and boys aged 3 to 18, of whom 60 per cent are girls and 10 per cent are children with disabilities. The ECW funding will be used to provide safe, clean, and inclusive learning spaces with basic learning materials.

“The extensive disruption of education over the past year alone risks having profound consequences in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Central African children, already affected by years of crisis,” said Fran Equiza, UNICEF Representative in CAR. “We are very grateful to Education Cannot Wait for this generous and timely contribution that will allow us to improve equitable and inclusive access to education for the most vulnerable children and to keep them in school. We will also be able to invest further into alternative learning opportunities – such as accelerated classes and radio education – for out-of-school children, in combination with psychosocial support – a crucial need in such an emergency context.”

“Improving access to quality education for children and youth affected by displacement through support to public education and opening up out-of-school children and adolescents to alternative learning opportunities is the goal of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s CAR education programme,” said Powel Tchatat, Country Director for NRC CAR. “Thanks to the ECW funds, NRC will improve the education of 7,498 children (including 60 per cent girls and 10 per cent children with disabilities) in the Ombella-M’Poko prefecture. The intervention will focus on access and retention in a safe, inclusive, protective and quality education system through back-to-school campaigns, construction of classrooms, provision of school kits and dignity kits, water and sanitation services in school, payment of incentives and training for teachers.”

ECW’s Regional Response

In response to the displacement and violence in CAR, ECW has approved First Emergency Responses in neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The total regional First Emergency Response grants now amount to US$5 million, aiming to reach over 43,000 children and youth overall (of whom 56 per cent are girls).

An additional US$3.8 million has been allocated for ECW’s COVID-19 education in emergency response in the region.

An ongoing multi-year resilience programme in the Central African Republic seeks to mobilize US$77.6 million in additional funding to reach an estimated 900,000 children.

“To respond to this crisis, world leaders need to come together to fully fund educational programmes in the Central African Republic and across the region, and join ECW’s global movement to mobilize US$400 million to provide millions of children worldwide with the hope and opportunity of an education,” said Sherif.



21 June 2021, New York – We are deeply alarmed by reports of the abduction of 80 schoolchildren in the State of Kebbi in Nigeria on 17 June and call for their immediate release. This news comes only a few days after another tragic attack in which 150 students were abducted in north-central Nigeria. Such heinous violence has been increasing in the country, with around 1,000 girls and boys reportedly abducted by armed elements in recent months, according to the United Nations.

Every child – especially girls – deserves the right to go to a safe school free of fear of violence or kidnapping.  Every school-aged child and adolescent, every girl, has an inalienable right to protection under international law. With the increase in school abductions in Nigeria, government efforts to reestablish a Safe Schools Initiative, which derives from international law, and take new measures for school safety must be accelerated. Every child should have the confidence that all parties – local governments, national government, civil society and the international community – are working together to make their safety and right to a quality and inclusive education a top priority.

Under international humanitarian law and human rights law, students, schools, and their personnel must be protected. Yet, the horrific reality is that impunity remains pervasive for the perpetrators of attacks against education and schoolchildren. It can no longer be allowed to stand.

Around the globe, a growing number of States have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration – a total of 109 to date, including Nigeria. As Nigeria prepares to host the Fourth International Conference on the Safe Schools in October this year, it must lead the way on how to turn the Declaration’s commitments into action to ensure that all students and educators can learn and teach in safety. The children of Nigeria, especially the girls, have suffered enough and deserve no less than physical and legal protection to learn in safety.

Justin van Fleet, President of the global children’s charity Theirworld

Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait


Kevin Watkins is the Chief Executive of the Save the Children UK. Kevin joined Save the Children in September 2016, after spending three years as Executive Director of the Overseas Development Institute.

Kevin Watkins is the Chief Executive of Save the Children UK. Kevin joined Save the Children in September 2016, after spending three years as Executive Director of the Overseas Development Institute.

Previously, he held a senior academic role at the Brookings Institution, and acted as an adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Education, before which he spent seven years at the United Nations, as director and lead author of UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report and UNDP’s Human Development Report.

He is a senior visiting research fellow at Oxford University’s Centre for Global Economic Governance and a Visiting Professor of International Development at the London School of Economics.

ECW: We’ve witnessed a horrifying spike in attacks on schools in recent months, undermining both the Safe Schools Declaration and breaching International Humanitarian Law. How can we keep children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises safe from these terrible attacks and achieve the goals outlined in the Safe Schools Declaration?

Kevin Watkins: I’m torn on this one because on the one hand it’s very complicated – we recently released an academic and legal report on this that ran to 148 pages because law and policy and practice around protecting children have built up over time with lots of different provisions and instruments, some of which overlap and some of which don’t and we wanted to get to the bottom of what’s really working to keep children safe. We found structural barriers to justice for children, like how attacks against them are prioritized for prosecution and how few experts there are who are qualified to investigate and document crimes against children.

On the other hand, this isn’t very complicated at all. Children being caught up in attacks on civilians is unbearable but attacking them at school or, in other words, attacking children because they are children is unspeakable. All of us at Save the Children are so glad to see increased attention across the world to stop attacks on children’s education, with 108 countries now having signed the Safe Schools Declaration. This October, the world will again meet in the 4th International conference on Safe Schools, in Nigeria and digitally, to strengthen this commitment. Our data indicates that the Declaration has led to change for children, reducing the number of attacks in some countries in conflict who have endorsed it.

In the end the thing that will keep children safe is collective revulsion about the destruction of the hopes of a generation.

ECW: Save the Children is providing children and youth caught in some of the world’s most complex crises and emergencies with the safety, hope and opportunity of an education through Education Cannot Wait-financed first emergency response and multi-year resilience programmes. You were one of the founders of Education Cannot Wait. How do you see the progress from the first ODI report in which you were involved, and where ECW is today?

Kevin Watkins: The first thing to say is congratulations to everyone at ECW for what has been achieved since your formation. It’s hard to believe, looking back, that there was a time when the world felt it was okay to leave children out of school for huge periods of time during emergencies as long as their basic needs for food, shelter and medicine were met. It was particularly infuriating for those of us who conducted research with children and families, knowing that they consistently put education top of their wish list for what they needed after being caught up in an emergency. As with so many things, we should listen to children!

So I think you should be hugely proud of what is being delivered by your partners, of the lives changed by your support and that of the donors who fund ECW. Even more than that, you’ve won the argument and won it forever – I don’t think anybody will ever again be able to say with any credibility that providing education in emergencies is either not necessary or not possible.  You’ve broken open the imagination of the global system and given everyone the confidence to think they can do this – now that’s proven we can’t ever go back.

ECW: ECW’s multi-year resilience programmes are built to bridge the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. How can we ensure whole-of-child education responses meet whole-of-society challenges, provide children with the mental health and psychosocial support they need to recover from displacement and violence, and build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Kevin Watkins: The whole challenge around mental health provision strikes me as similar to what we were talking about before. It’s not enough for everyone to decide it would be good to support children with mental health programmes, or to investigate it when appalling crimes have been committed, we need to have decided it far enough in advance that the qualified people are there to do the work.

At Save the Children we’ve been working in Jordan to develop something called the Child & Adolescent MHPSS Diploma to help skill up mental health professionals in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, because we know there is a pre-existing regional shortage of mental health professionals, particularly for paediatric care.

We’ve also been working with Imperial College London on a toolkit for treating blast injuries in children and one thing the lead researcher on that always says to me is ‘remember children aren’t little adults’. In other words what you need to do to treat a child’s shattered skeleton or shattered heart for that matter is different to how you’d do it for an older person, and we always need to design and invest in services and programmes that are specifically for children. I would love to see more investment in mental health and psychosocial support across the board, but I’ll always argue for it being targeted and tailored if we want it to work for a whole generation of children who in some cases have known nothing but war and exile.

ECW: ECW celebrated its 5th anniversary on 24 May 2021. We’ve reached close to 5 million children and youth left furthest behind in crisis with quality education, and an additional 10 million children and youth in response to COVID-19. Yet, much more needs to be done now. What message do you have for current and potential new public and private sector donors to ensure we leave no child behind?

Kevin Watkins: Happy birthday! What’s been achieved to date is fantastic. We’re very proud to be partnering with you and would definitely recommend ECW to others. This work is vital, urgent and we’ve got the stories and data to show that it works, so come and join us!

ECW: Climate-induced disasters are impacting the education of more children every year. This year the United Kingdom hosts both the G7 and the global climate talks (COP26). How can education in climate change-related disasters and crises contexts be leveraged more effectively to build more sustainable development pathways and support achievement of the Paris Agreement targets?

Kevin Watkins: One of the strange things that’s happening at the moment is a tendency to pitch one issue against another – so should we prioritize action on climate change or COVID-19 or education? When you put children at the center and start from their perspective, this is even stranger. All these things matter to a child, and they are heavily interlinked. By educating a child today, you are helping to set them up for a more secure future, with more chance of a decent livelihood and better health so they will be less vulnerable when crises hit in future. This is even more important for children living in areas that are already vulnerable to climate risks like floods or droughts, or children from disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s vital that we do more to help vulnerable communities to build their resilience and adapt to what’s to come and education is a vital part of that.

It’s also worth noting that it’s young people around the world, including school children, who are showing the most leadership right now on the climate emergency. They know their future is at stake and are rightly calling on us, as the ‘grown ups’ to get on with it.

ECW: ECW puts girls first in everything we do, and girls represent 50% of those we reach, with our affirmative action targeting 60% girls. How does Save the Children support girls’ education, and education for other vulnerable populations such as children with disabilities, and what more needs to be done?

Kevin Watkins: Save the Children is a child rights organization, founded over 100 years ago to fight for the rights of children – especially those who are being left behind because of inequality and discrimination, wherever they are in the world. This commitment applies across all our work, which is focused on three ‘breakthrough’ ambitions: that more children survive, get the chance of a quality education and are protected from violence, underpinned by action to tackle child poverty and defend child rights.

I’m proud that in 2020, across our global movement, we supported 14.7 million people through our education interventions, including many women teachers and nearly 6 million girls. We know that education is one of the best investments out there and girls’ education stands out as particularly transformative – for the girl, her family and wider community.

We’re also stepping up our focus on children with disabilities as an area that needs far more attention. We did a global survey with children and their parents on the pandemic and this brought out clearly the extra challenges faced by children with disabilities, including in education.

This work must be grounded in the local context, working with local partners and families. For example, Save the Children’s partnership with UWEZO in Rwanda works with 137 youth volunteers with disabilities in a project called ‘Mureke Dusome’. This is helping the parents of more than 2,200 children with disabilities to support their children’s reading.  In Kosovo, since the Covid pandemic started, Save the Children has supported 69 families with disabilities to access the internet, including by providing 250 children with tablets and 308 children who’ve been giving education toolkits so they can keep learning even when school is not open.

ECW: We’d love to learn a bit more about you on a personal level. Could you tell us what are the three books that have influenced you the most personally and/or professionally, and why you’d recommend these books to other people?

Kevin Watkins: Last year Save the Children’s Executive Leadership Team committed to regular learning and reflection days on diversity and inclusion, so I’ve been reading up (and acting on) issues of allyship and anti-racism. I would recommend anything by Layla Saad, Reni Eddo Lodge or Ta-Nehisi Coates, who are all brilliant and insightful writers.