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:


“The future of education is here”

Education is the key to personal development and the future of societies.

It unlocks opportunities and narrows inequalities.

It is the bedrock of informed, tolerant societies, and a primary driver of sustainable development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education ever.

In mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, affecting over 1 billion students.

At least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on education in their critical pre-school year.

And parents, especially women, have been forced to assume heavy care burdens in the home.

Despite the delivery of lessons by radio, television and online, and the best efforts of teachers and parents, many students remain out of reach.

Learners with disabilities, those in minority or disadvantaged communities, displaced and refugee students and those in remote areas are at highest risk of being left behind.

And even for those who can access distance learning, success depends on their living conditions, including the fair distribution of domestic duties.

We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people.

We already faced a learning crisis before the pandemic.

More than 250 million school-age children were out of school.

And only a quarter of secondary school children in developing countries were leaving school with basic skills.

Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.

The knock-on effects on child nutrition, child marriage and gender equality, among others, are deeply concerning.

This is the backdrop to the Policy Brief I am launching today, together with a new campaign with education partners and United Nations agencies called ‘Save our Future’.

We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people.

The decisions that governments and partners take now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.

This Policy Brief calls for action in four key areas:

First, reopening schools.

Once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control, getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority.

We have issued guidance to help governments in this complex endeavour.

It will be essential to balance health risks against risks to children’s education and protection, and to factor in the impact on women’s labour force participation.

Consultation with parents, carers, teachers and young people is fundamental.

Second, prioritizing education in financing decisions.

Before the crisis hit, low and middle-income countries already faced an education funding gap of $1.5 trillion dollars a year.

This gap has now grown.

Education budgets need to be protected and increased.

And it is critical that education is at the heart of international solidarity efforts, from debt management and stimulus packages to global humanitarian appeals and official development assistance.

Third, targeting the hardest to reach.

Education initiatives must seek to reach those at greatest risk of being left behind — people in emergencies and crises; minority groups of all kinds; displaced people and those with disabilities.

They should be sensitive to the specific challenges faced by girls, boys, women and men, and should urgently seek to bridge the digital divide.

Fourth, the future of education is here.

We have a generational opportunity to reimagine education.

We can take a leap towards forward-looking systems that deliver quality education for all as a springboard for the Sustainable Development Goals.

To achieve this, we need investment in digital literacy and infrastructure, an evolution towards learning how to learn, a rejuvenation of life-long learning and strengthened links between formal and non-formal education.

And we need to draw on flexible delivery methods, digital technologies and modernized curricula while ensuring sustained support for teachers and communities.

As the world faces unsustainable levels of inequality, we need education – the great equalizer – more than ever.

We must take bold steps now, to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.



With United Kingdom support, the education in emergency response to ongoing crises compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic will be scaled up in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger

29 July 2020, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today US$13 million in new funding to scale up the education in emergency response in the Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Approximately 247,000 crisis-affected children and youth (of which over 55 per cent are girls), will be able to access quality education through the new funding.

“With this new funding, ECW’s total First Emergency Response investments in just the past four months alone now span 33 countries and crisis-affected contexts, with a record amount of US$60.1 million allocated by ECW for vulnerable children and youth in crisis-affected countries ranging from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Colombia, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, South Sudan, Uganda, Yemen, Zimbabwe and many more,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.

The First Emergency Response investments in the Sahel were made possible with a frontloaded £10.5 million contribution from the United Kingdom. The new round of grants scale up ECW’s investments in the Sahel announced in July 2019 and in December 2019.

Interventions will improve access to learning in protective environments and reduce school dropouts in Burkina-Faso, Mali and Niger, responding to pre-existing crises and to the compounding effect of COVID-19. To build inclusive and equitable quality education, as outlined in Sustainable Development Goal 4, grants target the most vulnerable populations impacted by forced displacement, including girls and children with disabilities. Investments will reach children and youth across age-groups and education levels: 13 per cent in pre-primary, 66 per cent in primary and 21 per cent in secondary education.

“Attacks on children and youth, and violence across the Central Sahel in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger continue to surge and close to 5 million children are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Girls and boys displaced by violence, who are living in precarious conditions, exposed to high-levels of malnutrition, food insecurity and with limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities are facing heightened risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Yasmine Sherif, ECW Director. “For the vulnerable children and youth of the Sahel, education is a beacon of hope, of safety and their only opportunity to build a better future.”

Despite ECW’s expanded response, there remains an approximate US$94 million funding gap for the education response across these three countries. To help fill the gap, and to expand its support for children and youth impacted by COVID-19 in other crisis-affected countries, ECW urgently appeals for US$310 million in additional funding, and calls on donors, the private sector and other key partners to support enhanced resource mobilization in response to the education crisis in the Sahel.

Information on Grants per Country:

  • In Burkina Faso, an estimated 544,000 school-aged children have been affected by the ongoing violence. The new ECW US$4 million grants allocation will support inclusive access to quality education, continuity of education for displaced children and youth, expanded COVID-19 response – including distance-learning – and school feeding programmes. The grants aim to reach over 51,600 children (60 per cent of whom are girls) and close to 1,200 teachers (60 per cent of whom are women). The investments will be delivered by EDUCO (US$800,000), Enfants du Monde (US$1 million), UNICEF (US$1.4 million) and the World Food Programme (US$800,000).
  • In Mali, as of March 2020, over 1,200 schools were closed as a result of ongoing attacks on learning facilities and insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic – and the ensuing closure of all schools in the country – has exacerbated pre-existing humanitarian needs, with an estimated 1.4 million children in need of urgent support in the education sector. The new ECW US$5 million grants allocation will support inclusive access to quality education, continuity of education for displaced children and youth, expanded COVID-19 response – including distance-learning – as well as the reopening of schools in a safe and protective learning environment. The investments will be delivered by Humanity and Inclusion (US$870,000), Plan International (US$599,000), Save the Children (US$1 million), UNICEF (US$1.6 million) and World Vision International (US$926,000).
  • In Niger, more than 2.6 million children and youth are out of school, according to analysis from 2018. COVID-19, displacements connected with attacks by armed groups on the borders with Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, and an increase in climate-changed-induced natural disasters such as floods and droughts are putting even more girls and boys at risk. Schools lack adequate water, hygiene and sanitation facilities. Targeted abductions and attacks on schools are keeping even more students from attending school. The US$4 million ECW investment will focus on inclusive access to safe and protective learning environments, psychosocial support for internally displaced, refugee and host community children and youth, vocational training courses to support out-of-school adolescents, and targeted support for girls. The investments will be delivered by COOPI (US$709,000), Save the Children ($850,000), UNICEF ($1.15 million), WFP (US$687,000) and World Vision (US$600,000).

Notes to Editors:

For more information on ECW’s support in the Sahel:

  • Education Cannot Wait approves US$6 million first emergency response Sahel (July 2019)
  • Education Cannot Wait expands first emergency response in Sahelian nations of Mali and Niger (December 2019)

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:

Statement by the Signatories of the Pledge at the Global Refugee Forum to Make Geneva a Global Hub for Education in Emergencies

Call for action to address the threat by the COVID-19 pandemic to the education of those left furthest behind

The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a global health and socio-economic crisis; it is also a massive education crisis with potentially extremely severe ramifications, especially for vulnerable children and youth impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement, and protracted crises.

Read the full statement here: Statement Geneva Hub for Education in Emergencies

UNESCO and Education Cannot Wait provide the Ministry of Education and Higher Education with online learning material for teachers and students


UNESCO Beirut / MOE&HE Lebanon / ECW Press Release

UNESCO and Education Cannot Wait provide the Ministry of Education and Higher Education with online learning material for teachers and students


12 May 2020, Beirut, Lebanon (UNESCO/Ministry of Education and Higher Education/ECW) – The COVID-19 pandemic has translated into a major education crisis. In Lebanon, 1.2 million children are affected by school closures and have seen their learning routines disrupted. While Lebanon has switched to distance teaching and learning to mitigate the effects of this disruption, challenges related to preparedness, infrastructure and capacity, as well as the digital gaps, have put additional strains on students, parents, teachers, and the educational authorities.

In this context, and in the framework of their educational response to the COVID-19 crisis, UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States (UNESCO Beirut) and Education Cannot Wait (ECW) quickly joined efforts to support the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in developing inclusive distance learning solutions to ensure that learning never stops.

As one of the tracks of the Ministry of Education’s strategy to respond to the COVID-19 crisis focuses on developing online learning as an alternative to school closures, UNESCO Beirut and ECW, with generous support from the French government, provided the Ministry with online learning material and digital resources to be used by teachers and students in Lebanon. 297 video lessons, covering Math, Science, and French classes, were provided by Reseau CANOPE, and are available on the online platform launched by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education for the COVID-19 response.

Minister of Education Dr Tarek Majzoub said: “We are happy to partner with UNESCO and ECW to facilitate inclusive learning opportunities for children during this period of sudden and unprecedented educational disruption. Special thanks to the French Government for its generous contribution that made this important initiative happen”, while adding: “This collective action will help build a more resilient system to develop more open and flexible approaches to reach all our children in Lebanon and to promote the values of citizenship, coexistence, and dialogue”.

This cooperation comes within the framework of UNESCO’s project “Supporting francophone teaching and learning in Lebanon”, funded by ECW with the support of the French government, and launched in November 2018. The project aims to promote the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in French for vulnerable Lebanese and non-Lebanese students enrolled in public schools, and is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

UNESCO’s Regional Director for Education in the Arab States, Dr Hamed al Hamami, said: “From school closures, to isolation, to a persistent sense of anxiety, the effects of this pandemic are greatly impacting children and youth. Despite the crisis, learning should never stop. This is why UNESCO is committed to supporting the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in developing remote learning solutions and ensuring inclusion and equity for all learners, so that no one is left behind. Our cooperation with the Ministry will not only help ensure continuity of education but can also contribute to building a more resilient education system for the future, through providing teachers and students with new learning material and resources ”.

Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, stated: “Lebanon deserves all our support and cooperation. UNESCO has years of experience in modeling, testing, and sharing some of the world’s most innovative learning solutions, and their ideas are now available for nations like Lebanon amidst this crisis. The admirable efforts of the Lebanese Ministry of Education to enable online learning  brings  equity and access to education for vulnerable children, including refugee and displaced girls and boys. This is how we empower these children to improve their learning, while unlocking the amazing potential for innovation. Our appreciation and gratitude to the Government of France for making this possible.”   


Additional Resources

Notes to Editors:
Information on the Education Cannot Wait Global Fund and its investment modalities are available at: 

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.
Please follow on Twitter: @EduCannotWait   @UNESCO  @YasmineSherif1 
Additional information available at: 
For press inquiries:
Anouk Desgroseilliers,, +1-917-640-6820
Kent Page,, +1-917-302-1735
For other inquiries:

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