Education Must Come First

Article re-posted with permission from Project Syndicate.
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Disruptions to education resulting from COVID-19, violent conflict, and climate change are leaving crisis-affected girls and boys ever-further behind. It is hard to imagine a better investment than keeping these children in school.

NEW YORK – COVID-19 is pushing the world to the brink. The pandemic has killed more than 4.7 million people, caused global GDP to decline by 4.6% in 2020, and pushed 119-124 million more people into extreme poverty. Today, nearly one in three people globally do not have enough food to eat, while conflicts and climate-change-induced natural disasters are forcing families from their homes. And the resulting school disruptions are leaving crisis-affected children ever-further behind.

When world leaders launched Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations’ global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, 75 million children and youth globally were being denied their right to an education as a result of conflict, displacement, and natural disaster.

Fast forward to the present. As COVID-19 continues to ravage the world’s least-developed countries, and with other crises on the rise, the number of children who are out of school has increased to an estimated 128 million. This is a rough estimate that will likely increase as the world’s multiplying crises deepen, and it is already more than the population of Japan, or the populations of France and Italy combined. At the same time, two in three students globally are still affected by school closures. Many of them, particularly girls, may never return to full-time education, raising the risk of a surge in child marriage and child labor.

Education is the foundation for peace, stability, economic prosperity, and social progress. With the pandemic, climate change, and geopolitical shifts placing the world at an inflection point that will define the trajectory of human development for generations to come, we must move urgently to make education a top priority.

At this year’s UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, UN Secretary-General António Guterres asked leaders to rethink how we allocate resources and respond to global challenges as we race to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. It is hard to imagine a better investment than education.

For starters, investing in education for all – including crisis-affected children – could contribute significantly to long-term economic growth. Studies indicate that each additional year of learning can raise incomes by 8-10%. Likewise, the World Bank estimates that enabling every girl to complete 12 years of education could generate an additional $15-30 trillion in lifetime productivity and earnings.

Research also shows that violent conflict drops by up to 37% when girls and boys have equal access to education. And closing gender gaps in education can contribute to curbing climate change and hunger, and to fostering respect for human rights. A generation of women professionals and leaders could be empowered to break cycles of poverty, violence, displacement, and hunger. In fact, the economic gains from expanding girls’ education alone could far outweigh the financial costs of the necessary investments, yielding benefits lasting for generations.

For businesses, this economic windfall promises to create new markets, promote stability in regions where there is now chaos, and strengthen the long-term viability of investments. Entrepreneurs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America will gain pathways to establish a new generation of enterprises.

For governments, the promise of faster economic growth means more revenue. And more resources will enable policymakers to respond more strongly to the climate crisis, bolster environmental protection, build roads and productive infrastructure, and provide basic health care, education, and social services.

But children caught in conflict zones and on the brink of starvation will reap the greatest benefits. For them, quality education means safe spaces to learn, mental-health services, school-based nutrition programs, and access to water and sanitation. Just $220 annually can provide a child living in a crisis setting with a holistic quality education, whereas internal displacement costs the global economy over $20 billion a year, or about $390 per displaced person.

While some progress has been made, more needs to be done now. At a recent global roundtable co-organized by the United Kingdom, Canada, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and Education Cannot Wait, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, highlighted World Bank estimates indicating that meeting the educational needs of refugee children alone will cost over $4.8 billion per year.

We must catalyze the investments needed to fill this gap. Specifically, public donors, the private sector, and key stakeholders such as philanthropic foundations, high-net-worth individuals, and local governments must urgently mobilize hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding for Education Cannot Wait.

As we rethink humanitarian and development interventions in the twenty-first century, education must be central to our response to the multiplying disruptions associated with COVID-19, violent conflict, and climate change. We must take bold action now. For the millions of children whose future is threatened by today’s crises, education cannot wait.

ECW INTERVIEWS THE HONOURABLE AWUT DENG ACUIL, MINISTER OF GENERAL EDUCATION AND INSTRUCTION FOR SOUTH SUDAN

Awut Deng Acuil is the first female Minister of Education for South Sudan, and only the second person to serve as Minister of Education for her country – which became independent country in 2011. Prior to this role, Minister Acuil was the first woman to serve as the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Recently, Minister Acuil made history as the first women to lead a South Sudan university when she was appointed head of council at the University of Bahr El-Ghazal.

Since 2005, Minister Acuil has served as Presidential Advisor on Gender and Human Rights, Minister of Labour, Public Service and Human Resource Development, Minister of Humanitarian and Disaster Management and Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare.

Her long and impressive history of public service began during a challenging time in her life. During the civil war in Sudan, she spent years as a refugee in Kenya with her children. Following the death of her husband, Minister Acuil went on to continue her education and become a fierce advocatefor peace, gender equality and human rights.

Minister Acuil became active in a number of organizations, training others in conflict resolution and advocating for peace. She is a founding member of the Sudanese Women Association of Nairobi and the Sudanese Women Voice for Peace. These experiences, coupled with her degree in political science, led to her participation in eventual peace negotiations between the North and South. She gained international recognition for these efforts to promote peace and development in her war-torn nation when she was awarded the InterAction Humanitarian Award in 2002.

Awut Deng Acuil has been Minister of Education and Instruction for South Sudan since early 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on education globally and further exacerbated existing barriers to education in her country. Not one to balk in the face of challenge, Minister Acuil continues to champion for the rights, protection and education of young and future generations of South Sudan.

As the Minister of General Education and Instruction, Awut Deng Acuil is supporting new initiatives in education, including those with ECW, that aim to open the door to learning for children throughout South Sudan who have been too-often excluded – girls and boys affected by conflict, students with disabilities, and pastoralist children who herd livestock.

ECW: South Sudan has a young population with a median age of 18 years, which results in serious pressure on the education system. Can you describe the challenges faced by South Sudanese children and youth to access inclusive, quality education – especially for girls? 

Minister Awut Deng Acuil: A number of inhibiting factors affect school enrolment, retention and completion rates in South Sudan: lack of school infrastructure – including availability of WASH facilities, sex-segregated toilets, menstrual management and sanitation systems, etc. – conflict and insecurity, traditional norms and the high turnover of qualified teachers – particularly female teachers – which results in a lack of qualified teachers. These factors fall into three barrier categories: household and community level barriers; school-based barriers; and, policy/system-level barriers. They can occur simultaneously to limit children’s learning.

While access to education rates are very low for all children in South Sudan, they are even lower for certain groups of children such as girls, children with disabilities, children affected by conflict, and pastoralist children.

Nationally, there are more male students than female students in all school types.
One of the biggest gender gaps is in secondary schools where only 35% of the enrolled students are female.

Children with disabilities face even greater exclusion. 1,597 (1.4%) of children enrolled in ECW’s Multi-Year Resilience Programme (MYRP) supported primary schools are children with disabilities, while 50 (1.38%) learners enrolled in MYRP-supported secondary schools are children with disabilities.

Girls face a number of barriers to accessing education, including:

  • Family and community: Among all of the out-of–school children in South Sudan, approximately two-thirds are girls and children with disabilities. Many parents prefer to prioritize boys’ education over girls’ – so, if a family cannot afford to send all of their children to school, the interests of boys‘ education are often favored. This leads to girls either being removed from school for early and forced marriage as they are seen as a source of income or expected to take care of siblings at home.
  • School environment: Lack of girl-friendly infrastructure such as WASH facilities, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) issues, school-related gender based violence, gender-biased teaching, learning methods, language, etc.
  • System and policy: secondary schools are not available throughout all of South Sudan. The majority are located in urban areas, leaving rural areas neglected. This leads to higher dropout rates in rural areas. Lack of infrastructure, under-qualified teachers, inconsistent teacher pay and scarcity of resources further limit the construction of, access to and continuous staffing of schools.
  • Teacher performance at schools: according to Educational Management Information System (EMIS) 2018 data, only 17% of teachers currently teaching in primary schools, and 52% of teachers in secondary schools, have received recognized teacher trainings. Besides the need to train these teachers in education foundations and subject matter content, it is imperative that trainings incorporate gender-sensitive lenses in all aspects – from teaching and learning material to the language used by teachers to promote a gender-sensitive and responsive teaching and learning environment.

Existing Education Cannot Wait (ECW) programmes are addressing learning environment barriers through: the construction of girl and disability-friendly WASH facilities in schools, menstrual hygiene management (MHM), prevention of gender-based violence, etc. More still needs to be done to support the enrolment and retention of girls in school to complete their education cycle and transition to higher levels of learning.

ECW: What are the key priorities and strategies of South Sudan’s Ministry of Education to address these challenges and to fulfil the right to a quality education of every girl and boy in South Sudan? 

Minister Awut Deng Acuil: There are two levels of reform that are taking place in South Sudan with respect to the education system.

On a higher, more systemic level, the Government is attempting to prioritize education by creating strategic plans and bolstering the infrastructure required for an effective education sector.

In South Sudan, where 40% of girls are married before the age of 18, the Government has demonstrated its commitment to ending child marriage by prioritizing child protection and providing for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Constitution, Child Act (2008) and ratifying related international and regional human rights instruments. The right to education is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan 2011, including in Article 17 on the rights of the child and Article 29 on the right to education.

The General Education Act 2012 outlines a regulatory framework and structure for education in the country, providing guidance on general education principles and goals as well as associated structures, systems, standards, financing and accountability for the sector. The General Education Strategic Plan (GESP) 2017–2022 is a national roadmap for implementation of the General Education Act and outlines strategies, monitoring and evaluation frameworks and financing of the sector. The GESP also includes education in emergencies and humanitarian activities that link to the medium-term development objectives.

The End Child Marriage in South Sudan, Strategic National Action Plan 2017-2030 and a National Gender Strategy, while not yet fully implemented, aim to address the early pregnancy and early marriage issues.

The Inclusive Education Policy in South Sudan was just launched on 27 July 2021. This national policy defines and identifies areas of need across the whole population. The comprehensive inclusive education policy framework will guide the work of all actors involved in the provision of inclusive education to ensure consistency and coordinated implementation. This policy is also important in the elimination of discrimination and enhancement of equity and equality for all learners, especially inclusion of learners with additional needs in the education system, including learners with disabilities.

On a deeper level, reforms have been made to the curriculum and teaching materials, attempting to improve the quality of education and promote peace in South Sudan.

With the help of development agencies and partners, South Sudan has developed a new national curriculum that “is designed to help young people learn about their shared national identity” and “supports key values for the country including justice, democracy, tolerance and respect”. The aims of this curriculum are aligned with the Constitution of South Sudan, the General Education Act and the South Sudan Vision 2040, which aspire “to build an educated and informed nation by 2040.”

Within the curriculum, there are seven goals for the broader education sector; one of the goals is to “promote national unity and cohesion”. While the formation of a national identity can help post-conflict countries overcome differences, nationalism can also be associated with exclusionary policies. How South Sudan moves forward in respecting its citizens’ ethnic diversity, acknowledging its history of conflict and teaching learners to actively engage and think critically will be a key feature of the education system.

ECW: In 2020, together with the Ministry of Education and other education partners, Education Cannot Wait rolled out a Multi-Year Resilience Programme (MYRP) with the particular aim of getting more South Sudanese children enrolled. While these are still early days, how relevant and impactful has the programme been so far? 

Minister Awut Deng Acuil: Through the ECW Multi-Year Resilience Programme, 137,708 learners (54,408 girls and 83,300 boys) have been supported to enroll in school in ECD, primary, ALP, PEP and secondary schools across the six States and the back-to-school/learning campaigns are still ongoing to get more children back to school.

Analysis of enrollment trends indicate that many children who were formally in school before the COVID-19 pandemic have yet to return to school. The ECW MYRP has supported the safe reopening of schools and efforts to build back better through the creation of more learning spaces, improvement of WASH in schools and awareness-raising on COVID-19 preventive measures. One other key impact has been reducing the pupil-book ratio for secondary education to 1:1 in the six target States.

ECW’s MYRP is reaching over half of the country geographically, where the majority of the population of children in need are located. The Programme focuses on six States: the three States of the Greater Upper Nile (Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity States), one State in the Greater Equatoria Region (Eastern Equatoria) and two States in the Greater Bahr el Ghazal Region (Lakes and Warrap). These six States of MYRP implementation are areas affected by different types of conflict and by different trends in terms of displacement.

Progress is being made on several components, for example:

  • All MYRP target schools/learning centers have received handwashing facilities. Of the 50 boreholes that we committed to drill, so far, 36 have been completed. 6 boreholes have been repaired. Some partners and contractors hired for the work have faced the issue of flooding, so we are considering moving one/two boreholes and funding to other locations that are accessible and eligible. According to the data that we received at the beginning of this initiative, there are 156 schools in need of water sources. Due to budget limitations, we targeted 50 schools. For various reasons, we cannot access some locations and, with the approval of the MYRP Steering Committee, we can begin to consider other locations. During the selection of the 50 schools to receive boreholes, we coordinated with other stakeholders – including UNICEF and DG George Mogga – and used the data generated by GESS.
  • 12 million textbooks have reached all targeted counties and, in most cases, reached the schools. Different partners joined the State and County Authorities in distributing textbooks to the schools and we have continuously followed up on the use of the books. The textbooks ratio is expected to be reduced to 1:1 for secondary and primary learners in the targeted six States across South Sudan and other 2 States included in this initiative. All enrolled learners have also been provided with learning kits and adolescent girls have been provided with MHM kits.
  • With the exception of children with sight and hearing impairments, all children with physical disabilities have been provided with assistive devices. There is the tendency to focus on the children with visible disabilities and this is something that we must take into greater consideration during the next quarters. We need to make sure that children with “invisible” disabilities also get the support that they need.
  • All supported schools have been provided with learning kits including chalk, manila papers, markers and pens.

Additionally, one of the important features of the ECW Multi-Year Resilience Programme in South Sudan is the robust in-country governance mechanism, which is led by the Ministry of Education with active participation of donors like the UK, USAID, SIDA and Canada, United Nations agencies like UNICEF and UNESCO, and civil society actors, like the National Education Coalition. The MYRP Secretariat providing the technical support is an important added value of the programme. This mechanism enhances the Programme’s effectiveness and alignment.

ECW: To reach all the out-of-school girls and boys targeted by this multi-year programme, an additional US$189 million must be urgently mobilised. What is the government’s strategy to ensure that the programme will be fully funded? How can public and private donors help and what message do you have for them? 

Minister Awut Deng Acuil: The focus on Internally Displaced People (IDPs), returnee and host community girls and boys aligns perfectly with the Ministry’s target and policy priorities. Multi-year design and catalytic seed funding are innovative approaches as lack of funding too often disrupts South Sudanese children’s continuity of learning.

The MYRP has always been seen as a government intervention, in line with the priorities and objectives identified as national priorities, and the Ministry of Education believes it must make a substantial contribution to its realization.

The Ministry of General Education and Instruction (MoGEI), together with implementing partners, stakeholders, donor groups, etc., has developed a solid fundraising strategy to bridge the significant financing gap, extend the project and include more girls and boys in the Programme.

In the context of South Sudan, the following donor groups have been targeted:

South Sudan Government (domestic resources); public donors (humanitarian and development donors); humanitarian funding envelopes (CERF funding, pooled funding, etc.); other UN pooled funding mechanisms (for example, the Peacebuilding Fund, if relevant); and, private sector donors and private foundations.

By conducting prospect research on potential new donors and existing supporters, MoGEI wants to maximize fundraising reach. And, by analysing these prospects, the Ministry hopes to discover new information that can help create better strategies for all future campaigns too.

ECW: COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on education everywhere. What are the repercussions of the pandemic in South Sudan and how has the Ministry of Education worked to ensure that children and youth are able to keep learning and developing themselves to their full potential? 

Minister Awut Deng Acuil: The outbreak of COVID-19 in late 2019 led to the closure of schools in March 2020, when cases of the disease were detected in South Sudan. Numerous deaths and infections were recorded so, as part of precautionary measures, schools were closed and learning was suspended nationwide.

The closure of schools exacerbated the challenges facing education and puts in danger progress made. Data has shown an increase in pregnancies as a result of increased time out of school, which is leading girls to spend more time around men in their communities and at greater risk of sexual violence and exploitation (Save the Children et al., 2015, Children’s Ebola Recovery Assessment in Sierra Leone).

In crises, families may also resort to early marriage as a coping mechanism to either alleviate economic pressures on the household and/or to generate income through ‘bride price’.

Studies have also shown that poverty can drive parents to send their children to cattle camps when they are unable to provide them with food. Child labour in cattle camps is a basis of concern as it means that children are sent far away from home, more exposed to protection issues and inherently prevented from attending school (ILO, 2013, Child labour and Education in Pastoralist Communities in South Sudan).

To reduce negative consequences of school closures and to ensure learners are able to continue their education, MoGEI, with support from different partners, has adapted learning methods and provided alternative protection and support mechanisms. With support from UNESCO, through the Capacity Development for Education Programme, MoGEI launched ‘Education on Air’.

This programme aims to broadcast daily lessons to primary and secondary level learners, focusing on key topics such as English, science and mathematics. During these ‘on air’ lessons, teachers deliver classes and address questions from learners live. Several radio networks have provided such programmes, including City Radio FM, Eye Radio, South Sudan Radio and Miraya Radio. The Ministry of General Education and Instruction, with UNESCO, also introduced ‘Education on Line’, where learners could follow the science teachers while teaching. In October 2020, the MoGEI, with support from development partners, also opened schools for candidate classes all over the country. Necessary steps were taken to avoid putting children, teachers and their family members at risk of contracting the disease.

ECW: The situation in South Sudan has improved somewhat in recent months but the consequences of the multiple shocks and crises that the country has experienced in recent years are still felt. What can be done to further strengthen resilience, and to ensure that the education sector is better able to withstand these shocks and indeed bounce back? 

Minister Awut Deng Acuil: Only by planning for unforeseen conflicts and natural disasters, and by integrating disaster risk reduction, can the South Sudanese education system remain functional in the face of shocks.

In this context, South Sudan embarked in September 2015 on its second Education Sector Analysis (ESA). Representing much more than a simple update, the 2015 ESA is the first of its kind to incorporate crisis-sensitive analyses. Multiple education sector analyses, each of which constitutes a chapter of the report (i.e. on the global context, school enrolment and internal efficiency, cost and financing, as well as management and quality), were carried out using a crisis-sensitive lens. Equity analyses were also mainstreamed with a specific focus on gender and the regional state-level, reflecting the decentralized nature of the education sector. These permit a better understanding of education sector challenges, weaknesses and strengths.

ECW: Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better on a personal level and reading is a key component of education. Could you please share with us a book that has influenced you the most personally and/or professionally, and why you’d recommend it to other people to read? 

Minister Awut Deng Acuil: When I was a child, I loved Alice in Wonderland very much. Alice diverges from the gender norms by creating a completely new world that she explores while facing many hostilities with a very positive attitude. Alice is a prototype of a rebellious child who manages not only to survive this dangerous adventure but also to learn and become a woman with a new sense of her own subjectivity. A woman who refuses ideas of marriage and oppression and instead teaches us that “we can chase something interesting, barge in where we’re not invited, try new things, observe strange phenomena, ask too many questions, argue with authority figures, tell stories, and wander far from home without worrying how to get back.”

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EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT ANNOUNCES US$12.5 MILLION CATALYTIC GRANT IN IRAQ, ADVANCING GOALS FOR PEACEFUL DEVELOPMENT AND UNIVERSAL, EQUITABLE EDUCATION

Fully funded US$48 million multi-year resilience programme will reach close to 200,000 displaced, refugee and returnee children and youth in response to protracted crises in Iraq and neighboring countries.

البيان في اللغة العربية ادنى الصفحة.

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3 August 2021, New York – To support the Government of Iraq in its goals to achieve universal and equitable education – especially for forcibly displaced children and youth impacted by years of war and conflict – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today a new multi-year resilience programme that will reach a total of 192,100 girls and boys.

To reach its targets, the three-year programme seeks to mobilize US$35.5 million in additional resources. The initial US$12.5 million catalytic seed-funding grant from ECW will be implemented by Save the Children in coordination with the Iraq’s Ministries of Education in Baghdad and Erbil The seed-funding grant will reach 36,500 children and youth over the next three years, 60 per cent of whom are girls.

“We call on donors, the private sector, philanthropic foundations, and national and international partners to urgently help fully fund this multi-year resilience programme, which will support Iraq in building back from years of war, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other factors pushing more and more children out of school,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the UN global fund for education in emergencies. “Education means a more peaceful, more prosperous future for the people of Iraq. Education means girls will learn to read and one day become teachers, doctors and engineers. It means boys can avoid recruitment into armed groups. It means refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and other neighboring countries can find stability, hope and resilience as the region seeks to build back from the ashes of war.”

“Save the Children welcomes the launch of the multi-year resilience programme in Iraq at a time when children are missing out on early childhood development and education opportunities due to the long-term impact of conflict combined with COVID-19. The programme will be an opportunity for a safe return to schools for crisis-affected children and youth in Iraq to access inclusive, and quality education to support their well-being and their learning outcomes. We look forward to having coordinated efforts of all education actors in Iraq and hope to bring sustainable changes to the Iraqi education system,” said Ishtiaq Mannan, Country Director Save the Children in Iraq.

Rising from the ashes

Prior to the Gulf War, Iraq had achieved near universal primary education. Years of crisis, armed conflict, out-of-date policies, economic challenges, and a series of sanctions have led to a deterioration of access, equity and quality of education.

School closures from COVID-19, limited remote learning access, a lack of teaching and learning materials, and other factors are pushing even more girls and boys out of school. Early childhood education enrollment is alarmingly low with just 1 out of 10 children attending pre-school.

It’s a system-wide challenge. By the sixth grade, girls represent less than half of the students in the education system. Only about 1 in 4 internally displaced children are able to access a formal education, while just 2 out of 10 returnees are back in the classroom. Schools were targeted during the years of war, and only 38 per cent of school infrastructure remains undamaged.

Efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 led to the closure of schools across the country in March 2020. Schools under the Center Ministry of Education remain closed, while primary and secondary schools under the Kurdish Region of Iraq started to reopen at the beginning of October 2020. The Government of Iraq offered technology-based solutions for learners, but many remote models are not feasible for those living in the camps. This leaves 7.4 million students without the means to access remote schooling.

Where education services are available, school resources and qualified teachers are overwhelmed by overcrowded classrooms and responding to the unique needs of learners that are struggling to overcome adversity, stress and other psychological factors after years of living in active war zones.

Building back better

The multi-year programme builds on ECW’s US$2.3 million COVID-19 education in emergency grant, and aims to support 250 schools and learning centers delivering formal and non-formal education, across the Center Iraq and Kurdistan regions of Iraq.

In all, 10 per cent of beneficiaries are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps and 15 per cent in non-camp settings, 30 per cent are returnees, 35 per cent are Syrian refugees, and 10 per cent are from host communities. Girls and adolescent girls will make up 60 per cent of those to be reached across all education levels. Children living with disabilities will comprise 10 per cent of the overall girls and boys to be reached.

The programme will rebuild schools, promote access for continuous, inclusive and gender-responsive education services in crisis-affected communities, restore a sense of safety, protection, and social and emotional well-being, train and recruit qualified teachers, strengthen the capacity of both community-based and institutional school governance systems, and make sure schools, the government and other local partners have the resources they need to scale-up the impacts of the project and reach the targets outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals for universal, equitable education.

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بيان صحفي

صندوق «التعليم لا يمكن أن ينتظر» يُعلن عن منحة تحفيزية بقيمة 12.5 مليون دولار أمريكي في العراق، من أجل النهوض بأهداف التنمية السلميّة والتعليم الشامل والمنصف

إنَّ برنامج تعزيز القدرة متعدّد السنوات ومموَّل تمويلاً كاملاً بقيمة 48 مليون دولار أمريكي، من المقرَّر أن يساعد حوالي 200 ألف طفل وشاب من النازحين واللاجئين والعائدين ،وذلك  في إطار الاستجابةلأزمات طال أمدها في العراق والبلدان المجاورة.

3  آب / أغسطس 2021، نيويورك – بهدف دعم حكومة العراق في بلوغ أهدافها الرامية إلى تحقيق تعليمٍ شاملٍ ومنصف – لا سيما للنازحين قسراً من الأطفال والشباب الذين تضرَّروا لسنوات عديدة من وَيْلات الحرب والنزاع – أعلن صندوق «التعليم لا يمكن أن ينتظر» اليوم عن برنامج جديد لتعزيز القدرة على الصمود، يمتد لسنوات عدّة ويستفيد منه 192,100 تلميذ من الفتيات والفتيان. 

بُغْيَة تحقيق أهدافه، يسعى البرنامج الممتد لثلاث سنوات إلى حشد موارد إضافية تبلغ قيمتها 35.5 مليون دولار أمريكي. وسيتولى صندوق إنقاذ الطفولة تنفيذ منحة التمويل الأوَّلي التحفيزي بقيمة 12.5 مليون دولار أمريكي المقدَّمة من صندوق «التعليم لا يمكن أن ينتظر»، بالتنسيق مع وزارتَيْ التربية العراقيّتَيْن في بغداد وأربيل. وستتمكّن منحة التمويل الأوَّلي من مساعدة 36,500 طفل وشاب طيلة السنوات الثلاث المقبلة، 60 في المائة منهم من الفتيات.

لقراءة البيان الصحفي بالكامل اضغط هنا

ECW INTERVIEWS YOUTH REFUGEE ADVOCATE NUJEEN MUSTAFA

Nujeen Mustafa is a Syrian refugee, youth advocate and champion for children with disabilities for the UN Refugee Agency.

At just sixteen years old, Nujeen Mustafa 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 to Turkey. Her family didn’t have enough money for them all to make it to safety in Germany, where her brother lived, 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 dehumanized crisis. Since moving to Germany, Nujeen has continued to tell her remarkable story and to capture the hearts of all who hear her speak.

ECW: Your story of triumph over struggle has inspired people around the world. Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like growing up as a girl not able to go to school in Aleppo, Syria, and how you worked to ensure you got an education?  

Nujeen Mustafa: Growing up and not being able to go to school, I realized pretty early on that my life was unusual – but I kind of wanted to do the best with what I had. I mostly noticed it when the kids in the building would go and I wouldn’t, but I was surrounded by a very supportive environment that just made it so easy to live with the fact that there was something missing in the routine of my life.

When I turned about 6 or 7, my older sister taught me how to read and write in Arabic and then it was left up to me to practice. This was when I kind of used television as a way of educating myself and learning how to read and write. Then these mechanisms evolved and the things I wanted to learn also evolved, so I moved on to other things with English – a bit of general knowledge, and a bit of background in every subject and topic that I could find. Of course, my sisters also brought me the schoolbooks for each year when I was growing up. I would finish them in one day because I turned out to be such a bookworm! From then on, when I was old enough to start being self-taught, I just did it.

Of course, I still recognize it was not fair that I was not able to go to school but, as I said, I tried to do the best with what I had. I think this was my way of defying the circumstances that I was in, and it kind of gave birth to this desire to prove myself and prove that I can overcome all these obstacles, even if they are hard. To this day, I think one of my most fundamental traits is the desire to prove that I can do things and that I can accomplish a lot of things that are not expected of me.

ECW: Today, 75 million children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises are not able to go to school. Education Cannot Wait and its partners are working to get them back to learning. Why do you think this is so important, particularly for perhaps the most vulnerable: refugee girls with disabilities?

Nujeen Mustafa: I found this question quite strange because it shouldn’t even be a question as to “why” we should educate our children. It just has to be a fact of life, because everyone should know “why.” Children are always emphasized as the future of their countries and communities. But when you do not invest in a portion of the population, which is the population that has a disability, this is just not right. This is a violation of your rights as a human being, your right to education. It is discriminating against you on the basis of your disability, if you don’t get an education. It’s very unfair treatment of young people – of people who should be planning and thinking out the future.

There have been a lot of pledges and resolutions about the importance of education, especially for young people and people with disabilities. To live in this kind of cognitive dissonance, where there is this acknowledgment that this is important and yet there is nothing being done to carry it out, is very concerning. We can all agree that it has very dire consequences on our society and even the living standards of any country.

Education of the public and of youth are factors in all of these things. A prosperous and educated youth means a prosperous and thriving country. There is no logical reason as to why any country would want to ignore its children, its youth, and people with disabilities. It’s really disturbing that I even have to say that. They are not a burden on anybody. They can contribute and they are this kind of untapped treasure, untapped resource, that is not being used sufficiently.

From a human rights point of view, no one has the right to discriminate against you on the basis of something that you have no control over. You don’t make a choice to be born with a disability just as you don’t make a choice to be of a certain ethnicity. So even from that point of view, there is no logical reason as to why this should be happening.

ECW: What key message(s) do you have for world leaders about the urgent, important need to address and fund education for refugees and for children with disabilities in emergency and protracted crises settings?

Nujeen Mustafa: I think the most important thing for decision makers to know is that education needs to always be a priority, even in emergency situations and crisis response. It is not enough to ensure basic living conditions for survivors of conflict or people who are now living through a pandemic. There needs to be an awareness that the future of the entire generation is on the line and their need for an education needs to be prioritized. I know that it can be overwhelming at times, but I think that education needs to be viewed and seen as something as essential and crucial to the well-being of everyone – especially people with disabilities – as providing shelter, food, or water. It needs to be prioritized in emergency situations, whatever they may be. There needs to be an acknowledgement of the vitality of education to their futures and to their lives.

Of course, the situation with COVID-19 is unprecedented in this century, but we should have been better equipped to deal with such an unexpected change in our daily routines and such disruptions in our lives. That just goes back to the point of making sure that education is accessible to all and that everyone, wherever they may be and whatever their circumstances may be, has access to it and is able to smoothly transition from one mode of education to the other. It should have been essential everywhere around the world. We see that countries with a colder climate (where some children are unable to attend school during the winter months) are much better equipped, already having this kind of digital form of attending lessons and school. So, I think that countries all around the world should strive to be on that same level, ready and prepared for any kind of unprecedented situation.

When it comes to people who have fled conflict regions, refugees, and refugees with disabilities, it is not enough to make sure that they survive, but that they live and thrive as individuals. Receiving an education is a building block of that. You can’t say that you are doing them right if you don’t provide them with access to education as soon as possible. Prioritize education as a part of the essential means of survival – prioritize it in every plan of action.

ECW: You wrote an inspiring, best-selling book about your amazing journey: Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair. Could you tell us the three books that have influenced you the most personally and/or in your current studies, and why you’d recommend them for other people to read?

Nujeen Mustafa: One of them is The Time Keeper by one of my favorite authors, Mitch Albom. It tells a story of the first person to measure time. It comments on humanity’s obsession with time, being late, and having clocks all over your environment. People have forgotten to enjoy their lives and actually live them because they’ve become obsessed with time; everyone wants to get everything on time and not be late, to the point where we have forgotten how to enjoy living in the moment. There is a quote that is very inspiring and memorable for me, which is, “when you are measuring time, you are not living it.” It’s a very inspiring and soulful book about enjoying the moment, truly experiencing it, and not being worried about whether you are late or too early. As we see in nature, only humans measure time. Nature and animals are not plagued by worries about being late to the meeting, or being too early, or what the social standard is.

The second one would have to be 1984 by George Orwell… We see it in the way that our phones watch us and how essential they have become to our lives. Even I am guilty of it. I spend my day on an iPad. But there is this voice nagging in the back of my head for my life not to turn into 1984 – using technology in that sense and giving everyone access to my thoughts. Every time we Google Search, there is some kind of record of the question that we thought about at that moment, so I think it’s very unsettling but it is necessary in this day and age.

The third one, a fairly recent read, is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. That book is just a must-read for everyone about perseverance and resilience… even in the most dire and horrifying circumstances. That you could still maintain your humanity, even in a concentration camp. It tells of a lot of horrible, horrifying things and the lengths that we humans can go to. But it was also a message of hope that we could thrive and rise above all that and become better people because of it. So, I think it appeals to me because it essentially says that we are stronger than we thought – even in the most unimaginable, horrifying, terrible circumstances, we can be better and we don’t have to succumb to the desperation and the helplessness. It also talks a good deal about grief and how you can emerge as a stronger person from it; how suffering is also a part of life and that it initiates a part of you and builds you as a person. Your response to it is so crucial. Its essential message, I think, is that there is still hope for humanity. You’re a human being, even in situations of genocide. There are still heroes out there who have lived through it and survived. Not only physically – but emotionally and morally and every other sense of the word. And I just thought that that was inspiring. I think everyone should read it because it gives a message of silver lining, of hope, and just that you can be that person that overcomes these challenges.

ECW: What were the common misconceptions about children with disabilities that you faced as you were growing up?

Nujeen Mustafa: The fifth question is just my favorite. I love to talk about this aspect of having a disability because, where I grew up, disability meant that you were expected to just live on the sidelines and not grow at all as a person – be it academically or personally. I absolutely despised meeting people for the first time because there would be a recount of how I was born and how it was discovered that I had a disability. And then I would see the looks of just people feeling sorry because they thought that I would have no future and no life. That I would just be there, not being an active member of society or contributing anything to my family or to anyone. Just be someone that wouldn’t be of use to anybody. So, I think the misconception that people may have is that we are expected to play into these expectations and act as though we were doomed – but that, of course, is not the case.

I recognize and realize that it depends on the mentality that your first caregivers and family has, and my family was absolutely adamant about me receiving and having what they had. And being as equal to them as possible. I would be hammered on to do homework and learn how to read and write and advance my education and learn English… Of course, I did it on my own, later on, in my teenage years. But there was always pressure to learn a lot about math and to enrich myself intellectually. Even if I couldn’t do it physically. Of course, many of these children didn’t have this kind of supportive and encouraging environment. How society perceived them might have damaged their sense of self and made them very insecure and have a low self-esteem. I consider myself lucky that I grew up in a family that pushed me to be better – that didn’t view me as a kind of a nuisance or as a girl who didn’t have any potential.

So, I think the biggest misconception that society has of these people is that it expects us not to have any ambitions or dreams. That the mere fact of us having a disability should eradicate any glimmer of hope inside of us that these dreams might come true. I encountered that even on my journey here. I would meet people who would be surprised that I spoke English or that I was socially active – and, you know, not at all awkward or hiding from anyone. Even when I was younger, I limited my exposure to that kind of negativity. I just surrounded myself with mostly adults and people who loved me and appreciated me for who I am. And I think that helped. I kind of eliminated any possible person that I thought, okay, this person doesn’t really like me, he is just pitying me or looking at me in a very condescending way. The secret to that was that we, as a collective family and everyone around, were able to kind of stay away from that type of negativity and that kind of mentality that “okay, this person has a disability, so he is useless—he or she is useless.”

ECW: From your own experience, what does inclusive education mean to you and what makes a school accessible for all boys and girls with disabilities?

Nujeen Mustafa: Inclusive education, for me, has a lot of meanings. I only experienced it when I arrived here in Germany and realized how smooth and easy it can be to make education inclusive. Of course, inclusive education means not just enrolling someone with a disability in a school, it’s about accommodating their needs without making them feel isolated or separated or something different than the other students who may not have a disability. It’s not just about making the restroom or making the building accessible, it’s about capacity building.

For example – I always laugh and find it very encouraging and impressive about what I experience here – there is nothing that I do, or that I go through, that people my age do differently. I’m also applying for apprenticeships, filling out applications, filling out paperwork, and working in accountancy. I study business, that’s what we do. And I don’t think that the experience of a person who doesn’t have a disability differs so much from mine. There’s no discrepancy—there’s no, “this level is for you and this level is for that person.” It’s more about accommodating your needs and making sure that you have full access to whatever you may encounter in your professional life and you are well-versed in whatever it is that you are trying to specialize in. I would say that I have the same amount of experience in business as anyone in the same grade, or level, as I am now. So, having a disability, they wouldn’t level it down for someone who is disabled. They would accommodate your needs in such a way that you get the full content and that you grasp everything that is needed of you and that you learn about.

That, for me, is what inclusiveness means. It’s about finding methods that would make your working environment better—and equal to your non-disabled peers. It’s about making sure that you receive the same kind of treatment and that you understand the same curriculum. That your needs are accommodated. For example, if somebody’s disability is in speech, there would be all kinds of assistance to him or her, using iPads or specific programs on their PCs, and it’s very encouraging because we know – I personally know – that nobody is dumbing stuff down for me to grasp and nobody’s going a level down just to teach me about it. I know that I would be as equally qualified to a co-worker that is not disabled. So, this, for me, is what inclusive education means. It’s about accommodating the needs of a person with a disability so that it’s integrated into a non-disabled structure or a curriculum that might not originally be for people with disabilities.

For me, the key point is not isolation—I don’t want to be taught separately—it’s about the merging of education, ideas, and concepts, so that everyone can benefit and absorb information equally and effectively. And that would be the main goal – the optimal option – for everyone, just to merge these ideas and methods so that every school in the world can and would receive a person with disability.

I also think that integrating people with disabilities into schools with people who have no disability is essential in changing any misconceptions that non-disabled people might have about people with disabilities. Because exposure lets you know how that person lives. You’ll know that he’s not pathetic, he doesn’t want you pity. You learn that he’s just like you—he or she is ambitious, is working on his plans, has career plans, has dreams he wants to achieve, and that he can be independent. He or she can have fun and dance and do stuff. And they will go far in life.

 

MINISTER OF EDUCATION, UNICEF AND PARTNERS LAUNCH 3-YEAR EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT PROGRAMME IN PERU

Spanish version

Lima, March 2021 – “On behalf of the Government of Peru, I would like to thank the commitment of the United Nations, partner governments such as Canada and civil society organizations for working together on the challenges we face in education, especially those that involve the most disadvantaged children and adolescents, such as migrants”, with these words, Peru´s Minister of Education Ricardo Cuenca welcomed the of the Education Cannot Wait (ECW) Programme, which seeks to respond to the challenges of education in emergencies.

ECW is a global fund dedicated to education in emergencies. “We first worked with ECW in 2019 to respond to the Venezuelan migration crisis and now we are starting a multi-year development programme that will allow us to directly reach the migrant population settled in Lima and the region of La Libertad,” said Ana de Mendoza, UNICEF Representative in Peru.

The multi-year programme called “Promoting Inclusive Education with equal opportunities for migrant and refugee children and adolescents in host communities in Peru” will be implemented from 2021 to 2023. The goal is to improve the education of 30,000 migrant? children, adolescents and their families. The programme starts with a “seed” fund of US$ 7,400,000 and is expected to raise, by the end of the project, a total of US$ 13 million.

Igor Garafulic, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Peru noted that the focus of this multi-year programme is the social integration of refugees and migrants, including the full inclusion of children and adolescents in quality education. “We welcome efforts to open doors for them. The evidence we have from before the pandemic confirms that migration has had a positive impact and can have an even greater positive impact on our economy and our society.”

As the project launch coincided with the celebration of International Women’s Day, Minister Cuenca highlighted that migrant girls and adolescents face a triple challenge to stay in school: “They must ask for permission to study because many times there are no conditions for them to keep doing so; they have to try to insert themselves into spaces that are not theirs; and, finally, they must break with cultural norms that tell them that what is different is scary”.

Ralph Jansen, Ambassador of Canada to Peru, stated that interventions such as this one must have a clear gender approach: “This approach guarantees the fulfillment of other rights and helps to guarantee a dignified life. Everything done for the benefit of migrant children and adolescents has an impact on their emotional health, and this is a fundamental aspect in this intervention”.

The project has five expected outcomes. The first is to achieve better access to an inclusive and quality education, the second is staying in the educational system. The third objective is to develop life skills and socio-emotional capabilities. The fourth is that authorities and officials improve decision-making on access and educational inclusion based on available data and evidence. Finally, the ECW project seeks to promote the mobilization of resources.

This new multi-year ECW programme was designed by a working group made up of the Ministry of Education, RET, Plan International, Save the Children, UNESCO and UNICEF. By joint agreement, UNICEF has led the programme since 4 January  2021.  The Steering Committee is made up of the Ministry of Education, the Embassy of Canada, the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office and the Roundtable for the Fight against Poverty.

 Para mayor información www.unicef.org/peru ,o en UNICEF favor contactar a Marilú Wiegold al celular 99757-3218, e-mail mwiegold@unicef.org y/o a Elsa Ursula al celular 991982525, e-mail eursula@unicef.org y/o a Consuelo Ramos al celular 999089558, e-mail cramos@unicef.org

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT ANNOUNCES US$1 MILLION GRANT TO UNHCR IN SUPPORT OF FORCIBLY DISPLACED AND HOST-COMMUNITY CHILDREN IN NIGER

ECW’s First Emergency Response grant will reach over 6,000 girls and boys in the Tillabéri and Tahoua regions of Niger with expanded COVID-19 prevention measures, new classrooms and integrated educational support

French version

9 March 2021, New York – The education system in Niger faces major challenges: COVID-19, climate change, insecurity, armed attacks on schools and other factors are pushing refugees and internally displaced girls and boys out of school and into the shadows and margins of society.

To address these immediate, critical challenges – and to support Niger in achieving its goals for equitable and inclusive quality education as outlined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today an additional US$1 million grant to the UN Refugee Agency in Niger.

“The uprooted children and adolescents and their host-communities in Tillabéri and Tahoua endure unspeakable suffering. Reports allege terror, kidnapped teachers and burnt down schools. We must not only condemn such attacks, we need to take action” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises. “We can all take action and Education Cannot Wait is therefore partnering with UNHCR in Niger to support their admirable efforts on the ground to deliver education combined with protection now.

“The beginning of 2021 has been particularly dramatic, with several attacks having forced tens of thousands of people to flee, and depriving children of school,” says Alessandra Morelli, UNHCR Representative to Niger. “Education is without a doubt the strongest tool to protect children and youth affected by armed conflict from death, injury and exploitation. Education alleviates the psychological impact of armed conflict by offering routine, stability and psychosocial support.”

“We are grateful for this strategic partnership with ECW, which will contribute to the objectives of UNHCR’s refugee education strategy that aims to support access to inclusive, equitable and quality education in national systems, create conditions in which children and young people can learn, thrive, be more resilient, and become agents of peaceful coexistence who contribute to their society,” Morelli added.

The 12-month grant will be implemented by UNHCR in partnership with the Government of Niger and other key stakeholders. Building on ECW’s recently announced US$11.1 million in catalytic grant funding for Niger’s multi-year resilience programme, the fast-acting investment will reach over 6,000 crisis-affected girls and boys in the Tillabéri and Tahoua regions of Niger.

The new programme will: expand COVID-19 prevention measures with the rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities; help build and rehabilitate classrooms and learning centres; and provide teachers and students with the training, tools and resources they need to respond to the unique needs of children and youth who have been displaced by ongoing violence in the region. The progamme has a specific focus on ensuring access to learning opportunities for girls and children with disabilities.

Niger hosts the largest number of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Central Sahel. At the end of 2020, UNHCR Niger registered 573,059 refugees, IDPs and asylum seekers in Niger, resulting from years of widespread insecurity and armed attacks. The Tillabéri and Tahoua regions in particular continue to face an unpredictable and volatile security environment, which has led to the displacement of 138,229 Niger citizens, adding to the already existing caseload of 60,244 Malian refugees in both regions as well as an estimated 7,000 Burkinabe refugees in the Niger-Burkina border area. The start of 2021 saw renewed attacks and secondary forced displacement.

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Notes to Editors

Learn More

Programme Outcomes

Outcome 1 – Crisis-affected girls and boys access education services

UNHCR will construct or improve, as well as equip 15 classrooms with a capacity of 50 students (creating an additional capacity for 750 students) in durable material. Next to the construction of the classrooms, annexes will be built according to the needs identified through different multisectoral evaluations carried out in the intervention areas. Special attention will be given to physical security of girls and boys in the classrooms by constructing fences around the schools. Children with disabilities will benefit from improved accessibility.

To continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR will equip the new classrooms and classrooms in need of rehabilitation with appropriate WASH facilities.  A total number of 1,200 persons, including teachers, will be trained on WASH and COVID prevention.

In addition, UNHCR will offer material support to improve the learning environment. Over 6,000 girls and boys, including adolescents and children with special needs, will receive a schooling kit with notebooks, pens and books. 88 teachers will be equipped with a didactic kit, which includes books and material in function of the discipline taught.

Furthermore, awareness raising campaigns on back to school and school retention will be organized. UNHCR will organize 12 mass sensitization campaigns and 2 regional workshops, diffuse messages through media, set up commemorative events linked to education and distribute visibility material.

Outcome 2 – Formerly out-of-school boys and girls completed an accelerated education program (AEP)

Coordinated with the educational authorities, UNHCR will support the establishment of remedial classes for some 1,000 students, mostly Burkinabe refugees and IDPs out-of-school. The authorities will train 100 teachers (50% female teachers) for 5 days and offer them fixed-term contracts of three months to deliver remedial classes, which will be supervised by the Government. The content of these classes will be developed by educational authorities such as inspectors, pedagogic counselors of primary education and the regional directorates of primary and secondary education.

Outcome 3 – Crisis-affected girls and boys in ECW-supported schools feel safe in their classrooms

To improve the quality of education, UNHCR will organize teacher trainings on a various set of subjects. Next to WASH, teachers will receive training on COVID-19 preventive measures, SGBV, child protection issues, mental health and psychosocial support, code of conduct, positive disciplining, conflict management, social cohesion, disaster prevention and risk management.

Finally, UNHCR will ensure that ECW-supported learning spaces have a functioning school-management committee and/or parent-teacher association. UNHCR will map, set up and train committees. The members of 30 community educational structures will receive training on their roles and responsibilities, the management of these structures and community mobilization.

 

About Education Cannot Wait (ECW):
ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises. 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 around the world. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. The Fund is administered under UNICEF’s financial, human resources and administrative rules and regulations, while operations are run by the Fund’s own independent governance structure.

On Twitter, please follow: @EduCannotWait  @YasmineSherif1  @KentPage
Additional information available at: www.educationcannotwait.org

To support our efforts and donate to Education Cannot Wait, text ‘ECW’ to 707070 (*from the US and Canada only) or visit www.pledgeling.com/ECW.

For press inquiries:
Anouk Desgroseilliers, adesgroseilliers@un-ecw.org, +1-917-640-6820
Kent Page, kpage@unicef.org, +1-917-302-1735

For other inquiries: info@un-ecw.org

International Women’s Day, 2021 Every Girl Has a Right to An Education

The following opinion piece is part of series to mark the upcoming International Women’s Day, March 8.

NEW YORK, Mar 7 2021 (IPS) – Access to an inclusive quality education is a universal human right. When the inherent right to a good education is ignored or denied, the consequences are severe. For a girl in country of conflict or forced displacement, the impact is brutally multiplied.

Besides their already marginalized role in war-torn countries or as refugees, adolescent girls and girls are being disproportionately affected by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic broke in early 2020, some 39 million girls had their education disrupted as a direct result of humanitarian crises. Of these, 13 million girls had been forced out of school completely.

Such is the level of discrimination that, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, refugee girls are only half as likely to be enrolled in secondary school as boys. There is a two in three chance girls in crisis settings won’t even start secondary school. At primary level girls in crisis settings are two and a half times more likely to be out of school.

In crisis settings, adolescent girls are more likely to be married by 18 than to finish school. Early pregnancies, gender-based violence and sexual and physical exploitation are realities faced by millions of girls daily. Take a moment and reflect on this brutal reality. Imagine if these figures were the reality of our own adolescent daughters.

The UNFPA projects that the diverse consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic could result in 13 million additional child marriages between 2020 and 2030. These traumatic experiences lead to higher dropout rates, perpetuating cycles of exploitation and entrenching millions in poverty. Such is the excruciating consequences of girls already enduring conflicts and forced displacement and now surviving another threat: the pandemic.

Providing girls and adolescent girls in crisis with an education is absolutely essential today in order to empower them and bring hope. Their access to an inclusive quality education during already challenging circumstances is as transformative for them as human beings arising from the ashes of hopelessness, as it is for their societies in urgent need of empowered girls and women to build back better.

Studies show that increased access to education dramatically raises their lifetime earnings, national economic growth rates go up, child marriage rates decline, and child and maternal mortality fall. Girls’ education breaks down cycles of exploitation, protecting and empowering young girls and adolescents to reach their potentials and become change-makers. And, the world need change-makers more than ever, not the least in countries affected by conflicts and displacement.

The World Bank estimates that if every girl worldwide were to receive 12 years of quality schooling, whether or not in a crisis setting, they would double their lifetime earnings, with the aggregate value running into trillions of dollars.

Education provides girls with practical skills and tools; it supports them emotionally and empower them process their traumatic experiences; it prepares them to face their unique challenges, helping them to not only become productive members of society, but more and more, to become confident leaders of their societies.

It is a small crowd right at the top, however. Only about 20 countries have a female head of state or government, and fewer have at least 50 percent women in the national cabinet. But as COVID-19 has demonstrated, several have played decisive roles in protecting our humanity on the basis of universal human rights.

So, what does the pathway to leadership look like when you are young? How do we get young girls in crisis situations into education and then later to play important roles in the decision-making of their communities, their economies and nations?

Education Cannot Wait – the global fund launched at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit to deliver quality education for those left furthest behind, that is 75 million vulnerable children and youth in countries affected by armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate-induced disasters and protracted crises. At Education Cannot Wait we place girls and adolescent girls at the forefront of our work – because it is their inaliable human right and we believe in them as the change-makers. We take affirmative action: sixty percent of our total spending is geared at an inclusive quality education for girls.

Afghanistan, for example, is one of the most dangerous countries for children because of ongoing insecurity and conflict. UNICEF estimates that 60 percent of the 3.7 million children out of school are girls. Some 17 percent of Afghan girls will marry before the age of 15 and 46 percent will marry before they reach 18. Early marriages contribute significantly to school dropout rates.
The Welfare Association for the Development of Afghanistan, an ECW implementing partner, reaches out to community leaders to deliver real results for girls in the most remote areas of Afghanistan, who until recently were held back from going to school and from receiving a quality education.

ECW has given priority in Afghanistan to female teacher recruitment. This is being achieved in Herat, where 97 percent of teachers are women and 83 percent of students in accelerated learning classes are girls. The first year of ECW’s Multi-Year Resilience Programme – with teaching starting in May 2019 – saw some 3,600 classes established in nine of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. This required newly recruited teachers, 46 percent of whom are women, to teach 122,000 children. Nearly 60 percent of the enrolled children are girls.

In Rodat district in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, for example, community stakeholders and religious elders agreed the lack of qualified female teachers was hindering girls’ access to education, and immediately set about to find one. It was no easy task but eventually a female graduate in chemistry and biology was hired and she has turned into a beacon of hope, helping some 40 girls return to classes.

This emphasis on girls’ education is crucial for our future as a human family and the priority must be with those girls and adolescent girls left furthest behind. As Deputy-Secretary of the United Nations, Amina J. Mohammed, recently stated: “Girls’ education is particularly under threat in emergencies and for children on the move and we need to continue to empower this next generation of women leaders through a quality education.”

On March 8 we celebrate International Women’s Day with this year’s theme of ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’. From the perspective of those living in developed countries, what that equal future might look like for girls in crises settings has been perversely highlighted by the grim consequences of the new coronavirus world. As each month of lockdowns in rich countries passes, reports mount up of the mental health issues and child abuse being suffered by those unable to get to their normal safe learning environment at school. Girls especially are at risk and the ones more likely to be pressed into domestic chores and subject to discrimination – deprived of a future.

Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the ECW High-Level Steering Group, reminds us that the world in 2030 risks being as far away from meeting the Sustainable Development Goals for education (SDG4) as we are now – unless we act decisively. No one should be left behind and that means addressing support needed by over 75 million children and youth in need of urgent education support in crisis-hit countries.

Education cannot wait for a conflict or crisis to be over so that crisis affected children and youth can resume normal life, or refugee children can go home. Protracted crisis often last for decades and families caught up in conflicts spend an average of 17 years as refugees. When education is denied to children, hopes for a better, the last glimmer of hope is extinguished.

Education Cannot Wait is about hope and action. We were established to accelerate the race for meeting Sustainable Development Goal 4 in crisis and disasters. By bringing together all actors in both the humanitarian and development community, we sprint forward to meet the deadline of 2030. Thanks to host-governments, UN agencies, civil society and communities, we move fast, effectively and efficiently. However, a quality education for girls and adolescent girls in crisis requires financial investments. Provided that the funding is available, we can together win this race for girls’ education. Of this, we have no doubt.

The author is Director, Education Cannot Wait

Source: http://www.ipsnews.net/2021/03/international-womens-day-2021every-girl-right-education/

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT, THE INTER-AGENCY NETWORK FOR EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES AND THE UN GIRLS’ EDUCATION INITIATIVE CALL FOR GENDER EQUALITY TO BE AT THE CENTRE OF COVID-19 EDUCATION CRISIS RECOVERY EFFORTS

Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), today launched a new toolkit to support stronger integration of gender equality in education responses for children and youth in countries affected by emergencies and protracted crises.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day 2021 on 8 March 2021 – ECW, INEE and UNGEI – three partners working together for gender equality in education in emergencies (EiE), have joined forces to launch a toolkit promoting gender-responsive and inclusive education interventions in emergency & protracted crises settings.

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3 March 2021, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), today launched a new toolkit to support stronger integration of gender equality in education responses for children and youth in countries affected by emergencies and protracted crises.

Armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate-induced disasters, health emergencies and other crises increase barriers to safe, quality education, especially for vulnerable children and youth. Girls, boys, women and men experience these barriers to education in different ways, resulting in an exacerbation of pre-existing gender inequalities and vulnerabilities. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to cause unprecedented disruptions to learning worldwide for millions of crisis-affected girls and boys.

“As the world strives to address and recover from global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must apply lessons learnt from previous crises. We know the tragic hardship that looms ahead for millions of girls and other vulnerable children and youth living in crisis settings. We can’t say we did not know. Unless we protect and empower them urgently with the safety, hope and opportunity of quality, inclusive education, we will have failed both them and ourselves. There is no excuse not to act now,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises. “In launching this new toolkit with our partners, we appeal to all education stakeholders to join us in putting gender equality at the centre of our collective emergency response to the pandemic. At Education Cannot Wait, we are committed to making girls’ education a reality across our investments, boldly, firmly and passionately.”

Previous health emergencies, like Ebola, Zika and SARS, led to school closures which disproportionately affected girls and women. In crises, adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable and face increased risks of sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, child marriage and early pregnancy. This is proving to be the case with the COVID-19 pandemic. Analysis conducted by UNHCR and the Malala Fund already show that 50 per cent of refugee girls in secondary school may not ever return when their classrooms open. This is why the new ‘EiE-GenKit’ comes as a timely, ground-breaking resource for aid practitioners to ensure education in emergencies interventions are both gender-responsive and inclusive.

“Education plays a key role in redefining gender norms in any situation, but especially in humanitarian situations, where a good education that is gender-transformative can break cycles of violence and promote tolerance and reconciliation,” said Antara Ganguli, Director of the UN Girls’ Education Initiative, “We must harness this potential and ensure that all learners of all genders are able to contribute equally and positively to their communities’ recovery, as a cornerstone of sustainable peace and development”.

When gender-responsive, quality, inclusive education is available to all – including crisis-affected girls and boys – it has the potential to transform children’s futures, build up societies and lead to sustainable peace. The ‘EiE-GenKit’ equips education practitioners with the tools to achieve that vision.

“Now is the time to leverage the power of education in emergencies. Together we can reverse gender inequalities and transform education for women and girls, men and boys. We must commit to leave no one behind,” said Dean Brooks, Director of the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies.

The ‘EiE-GenKit’ was developed over two years through an extensive consultation process involving the review of over 150 existing education in emergencies and gender resources, with contributions from over 80 global, regional and country level gender and EiE experts and other stakeholders.

The toolkit is based on internationally recognised minimum standards and guidelines and is closely aligned with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Gender Handbook, the INEE Minimum Standards for Education and the INEE Guidance Note on Gender.

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Notes to editors:

For more information and to download the EiE-GenKit, visit:  www.ungei.org/publication/eie-genkit

For press inquiries:

Education Cannot Wait:

Anouk Desgroseilliers, adesgroseilliers@un-ecw.org, +1-917-640-6820

Kent Page, kpage@unicef.org, +1-917-302-1735

About Education Cannot Wait (ECW):

ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises. 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 around the world. 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.

UN Girls’ Education Initiative:

Gloria Diamond, gdiamond@ungei.org

Emilie Rees-Smith, ereessmith@unicef.org

About the UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI): 

UNGEI is a global, intergenerational partnership united by a shared commitment to advancing gender equality in and through education. UNGEI provides a platform for coordinated advocacy and collective action in order to break down barriers to education, close the gender gap and unlock its transformative power for all girls, everywhere. For more than two decades the UNGEI partnership has been championing gender-responsive education systems, policies and practices – speaking out as one and holding the international community to account.

Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

Laura Davison: laura.davison@inee.org

Lauren Gerken: lauren.gerken@inee.org

About INEE:

The Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) is an open, global network that works to ensure all persons the right to quality education and a safe learning environment in emergencies and post-crisis recovery. INEE is composed of more than 18,000 practitioners, students, teachers, staff from UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, donors, governments (including Ministries of Education), and universities who work together within a humanitarian and development framework. INEE serves its members through the core functions of community-building, convening diverse stakeholders, maintaining knowledge management, amplifying and advocating, facilitating and learning, and providing members with the resources and support they need to carry out their work on education in emergencies.

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INTERVIEWS COLOMBIA’S MINISTER OF EDUCATION MARÍA VICTORIA ANGULO

María Victoria Angulo is Colombia’s Minister of Education. She holds a Master´s Degree in Development Economics from the Universidad de Los Andes and a Master´s Degree in Specialized Economic Analysis from Pompeau Fabra University (Barcelona, Spain). The minister has more than 20 years of experience in educational policy development.

Education Cannot Wait recently announced US$12.4 million in catalytic grant financing for a multi-year resilience programme in Colombia. The initial programme will run for three years, with the goal of leveraging an additional US$70.5 million in co-financing from national and global partners, the private sector and philanthropic foundations. The programme will reach at least 30,000 children through early childhood education, 90,000 children through primary education, and 30,000 children through secondary education.

ECW: Colombia has set an example for the world in welcoming Venezuelans who have fled instability and insecurity back home. One important component of that response has been to receive over 350,000 Venezuelan children and adolescents into the country’s school system, mainly in public schools. It would be useful to highlight good practices that your Ministry has put in place that could help other countries respond in a similar positive manner.

Minister Angulo: In Colombia, education is a fundamental right and a public service, consecrated in our Political Constitution. We recognize that “Children’s rights prevail over those of everyone else”, regardless of nationality, migration status, race, sex and political and religious beliefs, among others. So, we recognize that equal rights includes all foreign citizens in our country.

One of the first actions we took in our country, and in particular in the education system, was to make the requirements to access the education system more flexible for children with Venezuelan origin in regards to documents and records. As a consequence, we have seen a 1,067 per cent increase in enrollment, from 34,030 Venezuelan students in 2018 to 363,126 in 2020.

This exponential increase in enrollment has led us to generate innovative and transformative actions, in addition to the lines of work established in the National Development Plan “Pact for Colombia, Pact for Equality” 2018-2022, where education quality, coverage increase, school permanence and the protection of complete educational trajectories have been prioritized.

In this context we can highlight the following good practices:

  • Migration regularization: We are very close to officially telling the country the results of the joint work the Ministry has advanced with other government sectors to create the Special Permanence Permit for the Education Sector which will be a migration regularization tool for those students enrolled in the education system, (preschool, primary and secondary education) to facilitate access, continuance and promotion within the education trajectory for students with migrant status who do not have a valid identification document in Colombia; this applies to close to 85 per cent of migrant enrolled students with Venezuelan origin.

This innovative process, unique in the world, will allow these children and youth to overcome the barrier of a lack of identification documents, and allow them not only to have access to education services, but also to health and social protection services offered by the Colombian government, under the same conditions as Colombian citizens.

  • Grade Leveling: Given that the Colombian and Venezuelan education systems are different, the measures taken in the ‘Strategy for Attending Migration from Venezuela’ – established in the policy document CONPES 3950 – have allowed the Ministry to advance in different fronts like designing proficiency tests and grade leveling processes.

With Decree 1288 of 2018, we have also advanced in terms of strategies of school grade accreditation. This decree established that Venezuelan children and youth can validate grades through evaluations or academic activities in the schools they are attending, with no additional cost. This process allows grade validation for preschool, primary and secondary education until 10th grade. In the case of 11th grade, the process must be done with the Colombian Institute for Education Evaluation (ICFES).

  • Improvement in validation processes: To facilitate the validation of primary and secondary education studies, the National Ministry of Education has updated its orientations to define leveling strategies and proficiency tests for Venezuelan migrant and returned Colombian students. The Ministry validation platform has been improved to speed up the process for Venezuelans, and a specialized group has been created to solve them in less than 15 days.
  • Teacher training: Regarding integration into the school system, this Ministry has identified the need to strengthen teacher support to provide them with the necessary tools to implement the welcome and well-being strategy for the migrant and returned population within the education system. Currently, through the “All to Learn Program” and the school cohabitation system we aim to prevent any type of discrimination.
  • School Food: The School Feeding Program has been improved so that migrant Venezuelan students can have access to this program under the same conditions as Colombian students. The only requirement is that the school and grade they are enrolled in are focalized by the local education authority. This has allowed us to serve in 2019 around 140,000 students, and in 2020 around 260,000 students of Venezuelan origin.
  • Humanitarian corridor for education purposes: The National Ministry of Education has not only strived to guarantee education access to the Venezuelan population living in Colombia, but also to the population living in a situation of back-and-forth migration in the border zone. For them we designed a humanitarian corridor for education purposes, which has benefitted, since its creation, around 4,000 students living in municipalities in the border area, who study in schools in Cucuta, Villa del Rosario and other municipalities on the Colombian side of the border. Since the creation of the humanitarian corridor, the National Ministry of Education has led the necessary normative, technical, political and financial processes needed for its effective operation. Between 2015 and 2019, $13.137 billion pesos have been allocated for its operation, and for 2020, $5 billion pesos have been allocated.
  • Technical assistance: To assist territorial education authorities in regards to the education for migrant population of Venezuelan origin, actions to provide general technical assistance for local education authorities and their directive teams from different areas of the Ministry of Education have been organized. To this end, meetings are programmed to take stock of the activities that are being implemented in the territories to guarantee education service provision, as well as well-being and permanence strategies.

ECW: While there are good practices that the Government of Colombia has developed, we know that welcoming such record numbers of Venezuelans to your country has also presented challenges.  Knowing how this can strain local communities, particularly those hosting large concentrations of Venezuelans, could you elaborate on the model community and communications strategies to promote social harmony and discourage xenophobia, which has had a positive impact in schools, that the Government has put in place.

Minister Angulo: As a sector, we are committed to enabling the conditions and developing in each child, adolescent, youth and adult both respect towards diversity and a positive appreciation of differences.

To this end we have been working at identifying the best strategies for providing services for the Venezuelan population with education needs, to be able to offer them a service that accommodates their needs and recognizes their prior knowledge. Education is thus one of the best tools to prevent an attitude or behavior that goes against recognizing the dignity and equality of people in regard to their rights.

For this reason, we have promoted actions that allow us to:

  • Strengthen the socio-emotional development of educators, children and adolescents to prevent and combat expressions, acts and manifestations of xenophobia, exclusion and stigmatization against migrant and other social groups.
  • Design protocols with which we can identify risk and vulnerability situations migrants have to face in the social and cultural dynamics of school environments, to incorporate pertinent inclusion processes in the Institutional Education Projects of the schools.
  • Produce reflection exercises to transform beliefs and views present in social representations to guarantee that all ethnic and cultural identities are valued based on equality.
  • Stimulate dialogue and sharing of situations present in schools to improve school cohabitation and understand that diverse beliefs, interests and interpretations of reality exist in the education community, and that we need to value them as learning opportunities.

Understanding that migration is a social process linked to different factors, and that, until the conditions in the neighboring country and the provision of basic services like education, health and housing, among others do not improve, Venezuelan citizens will keep on seeking better life conditions in Colombia or other countries. In view of the above, we will continue working to:

  • Strengthen disclosure processes of the available route and means for access to the education system.
  • Facilitate transition and leveling mechanisms for Venezuelan students into the Colombian education system.
  • Strengthen and activate cohabitation mechanisms to prevent xenophobia.
  • Train and accompany teachers on how to receive migrant populations into the education system.
  • Strengthen mechanisms that allow us to identify the demand for education services outside the education system.

ECW: With the number of Venezuelans who have fled into Colombia having reached 2.4 million, making it the largest humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere and among the largest globally, ECW has just provided seed funding totaling US$12.4 million for a multi-year programme to assist the country in addressing the educational needs of Venezuelan children and youth, as well as the children and youth in the communities hosting Venezuelans.  Could you comment on the impact of this catalytic grant from ECW, and more specifically what activities the Ministry, in collaboration with a range of UN and NGO partners are planning to implement?

Minister Angulo: The project presented by Colombia within the framework of the multi-annual window of ECW has been turned into a tool to activate the participation of other actors, inject new resources and delve into the strategies we are developing.

We have worked with different actors to define and agree upon the priorities of the Multi Year Resilience Programme for Colombia, convinced that this seed funding can amplify the response we are currently already giving regarding the right to education for migrant people. With ally organizations who have been with us in the formulation process, we have agreed to focus the project on four lines:

  • Increase access to education and permanence. Developing strategies to create opportunities for inclusive, gender-sensitive learning that will help children and adolescents with any disability, who have been victims of armed conflict or who are living with the effects of the migration process to overcome the barriers they find.
  • Improve quality of education and learning: Through resources and materials for work in classrooms, teachers with the capacity to respond with pedagogical practices adjusted to the characteristics, interests and barriers that are found in crisis situations, and finally the support for parents and caregivers to strengthen their abilities to accompany the integral development process of their children at home.
  • Promote socioemotional wellbeing and mental health: Provide support to parents and teachers to develop practical abilities for well-being and personal care, stress management and exhaustion prevention.
  • Strengthen the education sector: Improve capacities for an inclusive response, with gender perspective, articulated between the national and local levels and sensitive to crisis and emergencies.

ECW: Recognizing that ECW’s grant is intended to kickstart the multi-year programme and acknowledging the strides the Government is making in implementing the country’s commendable peace accord, could you please comment on how important it is for the international community donors to fully fund the multi-year programme with an additional US$ 70.5 million in co-financing.  What could happen to school children and their education if the funding gap is not be filled?

Minister Angulo: We thank ECW for the initial investment and ask the community of international donors and the private sector to give us support in our efforts to close the financing gap.

It is important to remember that Colombia has invested important resources to increase access to education for migrant and refugee children. We estimate that for 2020, the investment in education made by the government is close to US$120 million. However, the needs of children affected by the crisis are increasing, especially for migrant children who need more support to remain at school.

Parallel to this situation, in Colombia we must cope with multiple challenges. For example, the recent hurricane in the San Andres archipelago almost completely destroyed the education infrastructure. In La Guajira, due to flooding, many migrant and refugee children in informal settlements have lost their learning materials. The different emergencies we have had to respond to in Colombia exceed the capacity of any government.

We continue to be committed to providing quality education and protection to every child in our country. To achieve this enormous task, it is important to join efforts with the international community, made up of donors and partners in the private sector.

Our objective is that all children receive the same opportunities, are protected and can learn. If the financing gap for this programme is not covered, we run the risk of not providing an integral education service that will allow children to learn, prosper and be prepared for the work force of the XXI century. If we do not act now with enough resources, many children will not have access to education, and many others will drop out. If we do not act now, it will be more difficult and expensive to address the topic of access to quality education where children can fulfill their dreams to complete their education trajectory.

ECW: In fully funding the multi-year programme in Colombia, could you elaborate on the important role that the private sector and philanthropic foundations can play, such as the KOYAMADA International Foundation (KIF), co-led by Colombia’s own TED Talk Speaker and producer Nia Lyte and her husband, actor and producer Shin Koyamada, and perhaps give examples of other foundations providing funding for children’s education in Colombia.

Minister Angulo: In the Colombian education sector, we work with both the public and private sector, as well as civil society and international organizations. We share a common goal: to leave no one behind. This work is strengthened by an inter-institutional approach which is based on experience and optimizes efforts and resources to respond to the particular needs of each region, including challenges already overcome, and those yet to be faced.

Being able to count on organizations like KOYAMADA International Foundation (KIF) and its work for the empowerment and leadership of young people and women, means it will, without a doubt, offer a great boost to the mobilization of resources for educational care, helping us reach those most in need and ensuring our commitment to quality education in long-term crisis contexts.

ECW: ECW would like to reiterate its gratitude for your remarks at the UN General Assembly side event this year entitled “THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION IS HEREFor those left furthest behind.”  With Colombia leading the way for education under the very difficult challenges that the Venezuelan situation has created in the region, it would be good if you could comment on the importance of SDG 4 quality education.

Minister Angulo: The targets set for the Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular those of SDG4, are central elements for the 2018-2022 National Development Plan. One of our main pledges is the generation of conditions that ensure, progressively, a quality educational service, within the framework of a multidimensional approach (Atención integral). We want to positively impact the consolidation and monitoring of complete educational trajectories of all students.

In this regard, the country is focusing its efforts on the following areas:

  1. As a fundamental right, quality education is one of our most important pledges and its progressive universalization stands as one of our main goals to achieve in order to move forward. This is based on the multidimensional attention approach and a cross-sector perspective.
  2. Secondary education, as one of the educational levels lagging behind the most in the country today, requires special attention to strengthen and make it more relevant.
  3. One of the great challenges of the country is to guarantee all the conditions of access, quality and permanence so that all people achieve a complete educational trajectory, from initial to post-secondary education, and also facilitate the transition to the labor market. In this sense, inclusion is one of the cross-cutting concepts that guide sectoral policies.

To achieve the aim of the Declaration of Incheon of Leaving No One Behind, the Colombian government has directed its efforts so that children from Venezuela, as well as all children and adolescents in Colombia, can enjoy quality education as a fundamental right and constitutionally enshrined public service. For this reason, we are committed to the assistance and protection of children to ensure their harmonious and integral development and the full exercise of their rights.

In this sense, the Ministry of Education has determined a management strategy that combines coverage and quality actions within the framework of the Welcome, Welfare and Permanence Strategy. Cross-sector coordination has been developed due to active search processes, effective enrolment, monitoring, knowledge generation and information-driven decision-making processes. This has allowed us to strengthen teacher skills, infrastructure, school food, transport and endowment, among others, which allow migrant students to benefit equally from the available strategies.

It is also important to mention that strategies are being strengthened to facilitate psychosocial support and the effective integration of this community into the Colombian citizen environment.

ECW: Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better on a personal level. Can you tell us what education means to you personally? Could you also share with us the three books that have influenced you the most personally and/or professionally, and why you’d recommend them to other people to read?

Minister Angulo: Education for me is the most powerful tool for the integral, personal and professional development of people. It also represents the epicenter where all social policy in the region comes together. Education generates social mobility and innovation, touches the lives of many people and is the axis of processes of development, resemblance and reconciliation, where I have developed my vocation of service.

As for the 3 books that have influenced me and that I would recommend that people read, they would be:

Love in the Time of Cholera by the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, I recommend this book because it is a literary work that reaches the soul. It is dedicated to true love, a love that survives despite the challenges of a traditional city, and the changing times of the Colombian Caribbean from the late nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century. This book manages to portray human nature in a simple way, with beauty and humor, through a romantic story where the reader can feel the representation of love as the purest feeling, around each life is built.

Ética para amador by the Spanish writer Fernando Savater. I read this book in my teens and it really left an impression on me because it was a window into the world, and it led me to reflect on topics essential to life, which guide our decisions and explain why ethics, morality, freedom and choice are needed. This text reminds us that our greatest quality as human beings is to be able to think, to be aware and to create our future according to our expectations of it.

The last book I would recommend is Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by Professor John Hattie. This research helps us to categorize in a very clear way how to improve the effectiveness of the school system, and I think it is a necessary book to read for those of us who work in education.

And from this text I can highlight two conclusions that are vital to me: the most influential aspect in learning is feedback, both the one offered by the teacher to the student and the one that the teacher receives from the student. In the first case, you have to distinguish between feedback and flattery, the latter has little value if it is not associated with the work that has been done. The teacher-student relationship also has a big impact. Developing a pleasant socio-emotional climate in the classroom, promoting effort, and involving all students requires that teachers step into the classroom with certain ideas about the possibilities of progress and the relationship with students.