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.


Mission provides the opportunity to initiate with partners the process for the   planned ECW-funded multi-year resilience education programme in Lebanon

15 December 2020, Beirut – Concluding her latest mission to Lebanon, Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – highlighted the severe impact of multiple crises on the lives and education of the country’s children and youth, and urgently appealed for additional funding to support them: “We must all invest in education in Lebanon today; if not now, it may soon be too late. I call on public and private sector donors around the world to support Lebanon’s education system with the fierce urgency of now.”

“Our will to revive the educational sector stems from our hearts’ strong determination,” said Lebanon’s Minister of Education and Higher Education, H.E. Dr Tarek Majzoub, during a high-level press conference in Beirut launching the new Education Cannot Wait and UNESCO Beirut partnership to rehabilitate 40 schools damaged by the Beirut explosions and provide 94 public schools with new equipment to replace those damaged in the blast. “The educational system is central to bringing the country back to life. If this system fails, the country will lose its backbone.”

Lebanon hosts the largest proportion of refugees per capita of the local population in the world. Since 1948, it has been home to a large Palestine refugee community. Since 2011, it has seen more than one million Syrians – many of them children – cross the border into an already over-stretched and under-funded society with pre-existing and continuing education challenges for refugee, host-community and Lebanese children.

“I appeal to the international community to stand with Lebanon by providing immediate and generous funding for the education sector. Multiple crises threaten to reverse progress made and further leave behind those struggling through these crises: refugees and host-communities alike,” said The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, and Chair of the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Steering Group.

Just four months ago, while already in the throes of the most severe financial crisis in its history, as well as combating the socio-economic effects of COVID-19, Lebanon’s capital Beirut, was struck by a catastrophic blast. The explosion destroyed hospitals and schools, dramatically affecting the city’s infrastructure, disproportionately affecting many already marginalized citizens at a time when the country was ill-equipped to support them.

It was in this context that ECW visited the site of a Beirut blast-damaged school in Geitawi, Achrafieh during which ECW, together with UNESCO and Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education, launched their new partnership to rehabilitate damaged schools following the 4 August 2020 Beirut explosions.

  • ECW’s First Emergency Response (FER): Thanks to ECW’s funding support in September 2020, 40 public and private schools damaged in the explosions will benefit from rapid rehabilitation efforts, and 94 public schools will be provided with new equipment to replace those damaged by the blasts.

ECW’s field trips during the six-day mission included visits to informal settlements hosting Syrian refugees, Palestine refugee camps, and meetings with parents and children from marginalized Lebanese families.

  • Education challenges: ECW’s 2019 Annual Report indicates that some 631,209 Syrian children and 447,400 vulnerable Lebanese children faced challenges accessing education in 2019. This number further increased in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. During COVID-19, ECW is supporting online learning for marginalized children in Lebanon whose schools are closed due to the pandemic.

In south Lebanon’s Ein El Hilweh camp alone, the education of more than 6,000 children is under threat due to lack of continuity of funding for UNRWA, as are the multiple programmes sustained by the organization in regional camps and urgent funding is required.

  • Under-funding challenges: Under-funding is endemic within Lebanon’s current economic malaise, and ECW advocates globally for the restoration of funding to UNRWA – the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

“Every girl and boy in Lebanon has both the right to inclusive, quality education and the right to learn in safety. Education Cannot Wait stands shoulder-to-shoulder in support of every child and every government and non-governmental actor which shares our vision for guaranteeing the delivery of these rights,” said Sherif. “Lebanon’s window of opportunity is closing fast. We are not prepared to stand by and watch it slam shut in the faces of the most vulnerable children and youth when we know a solution is readily in reach if we join hands in their support.”

Beyond addressing first emergency responses, ECW is working to establish multi-year resilience programmes in Lebanon. These aim to bridge the gap between short-term humanitarian responses and longer-term development interventions and will set a milestone in advancing the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on inclusive and equitable, quality education. The mission provided an opportunity to initiate the launch process for the planned ECW-funded multi-year resilience education programme in Lebanon.

“Education is the key to addressing the many challenges faced in this wonderful country, and by investing now in children’s futures it will quickly build a stronger economy and build greater resilience and opportunity for everyone in Lebanon,” said Justin van Fleet, President of Theirworld. Theirworld was the first to advocate for the integration of Syrian students into school system in Lebanon, and views education as the best investment for girls and boys, and for the future of their country.

With its urgent objective to heighten global awareness surrounding education challenges for the most vulnerable children in the country, ECW’s Lebanon visit provided several strategic moments for the global Education Cannot Wait movement to advocate for an even more collective approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes in line with the UN’s 2030 reform agenda. Joint analysis, joint planning, and collaborative programming, along with ECW’s value-added approach of bringing local and international actors together with a common aim, ensures effective plans are created on the ground and owned locally.

Education Cannot Wait’s mission – which included Sherif and ECW’s Chief of Strategic Partnerships, Nasser Faqih and ECW’s Chief of Humanitarian Liaison, Maarten Barends – was supported on many levels by the government of Lebanon, to whom ECW extends its heartfelt thanks.

During her six-day mission in the country, Sherif met with: Lebanon government representatives, including the Minister of Education and Higher Education; the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator; UN agencies, including UNRWA, UNESCO, UNICEF and UNHCR; civil society and bilateral partners, including Save the Children, AVSI, NRC, IRC and World Vision; and in-country donors.


About Education Cannot Wait (ECW):
ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crisis. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve educational outcomes. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. We re-emphazise our call to public and private sector donors to step up to mobilize US$400 million in funding in support of the establishment of a series of global multi-year resilience education programmes around the world.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlighting the scope of needs

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

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

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

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

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

Reimagining education in emergencies in the wake of COVID-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voices from the field  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supporting “whole-of-child” responses

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

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

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

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

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

Creative partnerships:  the key to unlocking big changes  

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

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

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

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

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

The future of education, here and now

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

About Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. The Fund is administered under UNICEF’s financial, human resources and administrative rules and regulations, while operations are run by the Fund’s own independent governance structure.

On Twitter, please follow: @EduCannotWait  @YasmineSherif1 @KentPage

Additional information available at:

For press inquiries:

Anouk Desgroseilliers,, +1-917-640-6820

Kent Page,, +1-917-302-1735

For other inquiries:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commissioner Urpilainen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ECW Press Release

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

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

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





























Relevant links to the report’s digital portal: