In 2019 ECW reaffirmed itself as the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises:
Financing remains a top priority for ECW to advance progress on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 – to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all – and to address the needs of the 75 million children and youth who are left furthest behind in humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises. ECW’s efforts come at a moment in history when armed conflicts, natural disasters, forced displacement, protracted crises, and infectious diseases are affecting children and youth at unprecedented levels: there are now more refugees globally than at any time since World War II, half of whom are children. In the face of complex and protracted emergency situations, ECW today provides an influential platform for collective advocacy, resource mobilization, and speed in the delivery of results for children.
ECW’s global advocacy for education in emergencies and protracted crisis (EiEPC) contributed to the upward trends recorded in humanitarian funding for education, with global humanitarian aid to education increasing fivefold from 2015 to 2019, reaching a record amount of more than $700 million in 2019. The share of global humanitarian funding dedicated to EiEPC grew from 4.3 per cent in 2018 to 5.1 per cent in 2019. More remains to be done, however, as appeals for EiEPC remained significantly underfunded in 2019, with only 43.5 per cent of the required funding secured – down from 47.5 per cent in 2018. Of the total amount raised by ECW for EiEPC in 2019, 35.7 per cent came from development sources and 36 per cent from humanitarian sources. The dual sources of funding highlight ECW’s approach in supporting humanitarian and development coherence, which lays the groundwork for sustainable solutions to improve learning for children affected by conflict, natural disaster, and forced displacement.
In 2019, six new Multi-Year Resilience Programmes (MYRPs) – bringing together humanitarian and development actors – were jointly launched with national authorities and in-country partners, increasing the number of active MYRPs to 10, with total disbursements under this funding window at about $89 million (22 grants). The year 2019 also marked a high point for disbursements under the First Emergency Response (FER) funding window: $40 million. About $81 million has been disbursed through FERs over the life of the fund using 101 grants. To improve the coherence and efficiency of regional solutions to regional challenges, in 2019 ECW also disbursed approximately $13 million using two regional rather than country-specific, FER grants: one in the Sahel and one in response to the Venezuela crisis.
ECW funding in 2019 flowed to emerging educational needs within rapidly changing humanitarian contexts, ensuring that education systems did not stop operating and that solutions were put in place at the nexus between humanitarian and development assistance. ECW’s investments significantly improved access to education: in Uganda, following ECW’s support to the Education Response Plan, the primary gross enrolment ratio for refugee children improved from 53 per cent in 2017 to 75 per cent (71.4 per cent for girls) in 2019. Similarly, in Ethiopia, following a $15 million grant implemented by UNICEF, the primary gross enrolment ratio for refugee children rose to 67 per cent, up from 62 per cent in 2018.
Armed conflicts and forced displacement intensified barriers to education for girls, displaced populations, and children with disabilities. Through interventions that addressed gender-based barriers to education, ECW’s MYRP grants have reached gender parity, with girls representing 50 per cent of all beneficiaries. In Afghanistan, a successful model of community-based education has reached 57 per cent of girls among its beneficiaries. Restoring access and promoting gender equality does not guarantee that children will complete their education: children and youth affected by crises may drop out of school as they get older due to employment opportunities as well as due to gendered sociocultural norms and expectations that may prevent girls from continuing their education. In 2019, ECW reached more than 108,000 children with early childhood education services, which is fundamental for setting a course for a child’s educational journey.
In Bangladesh, approximately 7,000 Rohingya refugee children (49 per cent girls) whose educations had been disrupted by displacement took part in accelerated education tailored to the Myanmar curriculum. Globally, over 35,000 children took part in either catch-up classes or accelerated education to be able to re-enter formal education at the correct age-for-grade. In the Central African Republic, the Norwegian Refugee Council delivered an eight-month accelerated learning programme to 720 conflict-affected children (45 per cent girls), and 85 per cent of children who completed the programme were able to re-enter the formal system after receiving the required certification.
Safe and protective learning environments are necessary for children’s well-being and improved learning outcomes; for many children and youth, even walking to and from school exposes them to risk or gender-based violence. To this end, ECW-funded programmes in 2019 provided 4,175 girls and boys with safe transportation to and from educational facilities; and across ECW-supported interventions, more than 102,000 children have been taught by teachers who were trained in psychosocial support and inclusive education.
Delivering quality education and improving learning outcomes are key ECW objectives. In 2019, ECW actively promoted a ‘whole-child’ approach in which interventions address a variety of learning, teaching, organizational, and safety needs. The approach responds to the fact that conflict-affected children and youth often do not have previous schooling experience, nor do they have the mental or academic readiness for learning. ECW also recognizes that teachers and other education personnel play a pivotal role in creating quality learning environments. Since 2017, ECW grantees have trained more than 41,000 teachers and education personnel (46 per cent women). Further, in 2019 more than 1.8 million children received learning material support, more than doubling the support in previous years. School-based teaching and learning packages were also distributed in 9,673 learning spaces, including school-in-a-box sets containing pencils, erasers, scissors, exercise books, clocks, laminated posters, chalk, and counting cubes.
In Nigeria, ECW supported the international NGO Street Child to increase learning in both reading and mathematics through a catch-up programme in areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. The programme provided non-formal education for more than 5,200 children aged 4–14 who were either out-of-school or had fallen behind in the formal education system. As a result, the percentage of children who were unable to recognize letters plummeted from 50 per cent to just 1 per cent; the percentage of students able to read words increased from 9 per cent to 43 per cent; and the percentage of students able to read a paragraph of text increased from 1 per cent to 13 per cent. In Afghanistan, Save the Children and the Afghanistan Consortium for Community-based Education and Learning achieved similar improvements: at baseline only 2 per cent of the students were able to read a story and answer related questions correctly, while at endline, after students had received non-formal as well as community-based educational support, 48 per cent could do so. When tested on numeracy, 75 per cent of the students at baseline were unable to recognize three or more single digit numbers, while at endline the percentage decreased to just 1 per cent.
Based on lessons learned over the last three years, ECW urges donors to increase the share of both humanitarian and development funding for education in crisis contexts, to deliver on the rights of children and youth, and to meet SDG 4. To answer the UN Secretary-General’s call for a Decade of Action, ECW will continue playing a convening role at the global, regional, and country level, bringing together donors, governments, UN agencies, other global education actors, civil society, and the private sector to build an international movement around EiEPC. In addition to continuing to mobilize and leverage funds at the global level, ECW will further diversify funding with a focus on non-traditional donors, international finance institutions, and philanthropic and private sector organizations. At the country level, ECW will build capacity for advocacy and resource mobilization to leverage additional funding.
To address existing gender imbalances in education outcomes, ECW is committed to reaching more girls than boys – up to 60 per cent of girls in multi-year programmes. Educating girls delivers well-documented and multidimensional benefits, yet girls who live in conflict-affected countries are almost two and a half times more likely to be out of school than those who do not.
Future investments will contribute to tackling the inequalities within education by trying to address the root causes of gender-based discrimination. Education for refugees and the internally displaced will also remain a key focus for ECW. In 2019, only 63 per cent of refugee children attended primary school (compared to 91 per cent globally) and only 24 per cent of refugees accessed secondary education. While increasing the size of its portfolio, in 2020 ECW will continue to support regional plans and structures to respond to refugee crises affecting multiple countries in a coordinated manner, ensuring not just access to but also continuity of education. ECW will also continue to focus on efforts to generate and disseminate global evidence on what works and what does not. In this regard ECW will scale-up its support to improving learning outcome measurement systems in MYRP countries between 2020 and 2023, investing in global, regional, and national partnerships. ECW will also continue responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to challenge educators everywhere – even more so in crisis contexts.