At the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly under the inspiring theme “The Future of Education is Here for Those Left Furthest Behind,” leaders, advocates, celebrities and champions for education in emergencies and protracted crises came together to re-imagine education for those left furthest behind.

Across the globe, 75 million children and youth living in countries affected by war and climate disasters have limited access to the hope, opportunity and protection of a quality education. The COVID-19 global pandemic has only made the situation worse.  The number of out-of-school children in conflicts and forced displacement is now rapidly escalating, and the future of an entire generation is at risk.

The event was 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. 

Please click on the video link below to view some of the insightful words shared by the eminent speakers at ECW’s #UNGA75 global event.


September 21 is the International Day of Peace. Dugale sees education – and the hope and opportunity it brings – as a pathway to a more peaceful world. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

In Uganda, a refugee teacher from South Sudan has returned to the classroom through an accelerated education programme implemented by the Norwegian Refugee Council with funding from Education Cannot Wait

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Rebecca Crombleholme, Norwegian Refugee Council Uganda (Original Story)

He fled South Sudan with nothing, but as soon as he arrived in Uganda, he began teaching. Dugale believes in the next generation, and he will stop at nothing until every child can return to their community ready to face the future.

“I have lost a lot of things,” he says, “but when I enter the classroom, I leave all that behind me. I teach like I would normally, and I am free.”

Dugale Severy is 38 years old. He began his teaching career in his hometown in South Sudan straight after leaving university. Throughout his own schooling he benefitted from teachers who made things clear, and this gave him the courage to learn more. Teaching, he says, is his way of serving others.

“I love teaching,” Dugale says with a smile. “When you are a teacher, you can help everybody without borders. I want to inspire my students to become teachers themselves so that they can help other refugee children.”

Dugale now teaches on the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Accelerated Education Programme in Nyumanzi Settlement, Uganda. Many of his students have lost loved ones and missed out on many years of school. All have been forced to flee their homes.

This is something Dugale understands, as he too was forced to flee.

A sanctuary amidst the chaos of conflict

In 2011, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan, bringing an end to Africa’s longest civil war. Two years later, violent conflict broke out, shattering the newly acquired peace. The conflict has since forced over four million people to flee their homes.

Dugale found a sanctuary amongst the chaos through his work. “I instantly enjoyed teaching. It was a good escape from the war. There was no interference.”

Despite the peace within the classroom walls, it was often hard to ignore the threats that surrounded them.

“During the war, we weren’t able to teach at our best because of fear. Sometimes you are in class and you hear the sound of guns. And then you must stop teaching and figure out how to respond. Whether you need to run,” says Dugale.

As the violence got closer to home, Dugale decided he must flee with his family to keep them safe.

Education offers a route out of poverty

Dugale and his family crossed the border into Uganda in 2016 with only their ID documents, clothes and enough food to last two days. “This is all I came with. The rest of the things I left in South Sudan,” Dugale says with regret.

He finds it difficult when he thinks about everything he has left behind. “My property has been looted and some of my relatives have been killed, so it is difficult to think about.”

Despite Uganda’s open border policy for refugees, life without work can be tough. Many families benefit from food aid from organisations like NRC, but this doesn’t reach everyone. As a result, many refugee children drop out of school to take on adult responsibilities.

But Dugale believes that education provides a route out of poverty. NRC’s Accelerated Education Programme is taught at primary level and welcomes students up to the age of 18. Some of these young people are scared of re-entering education, Dugale says. “They see their age and they see their size they think they cannot fit.” But he believes that it is never too late to learn.

“For those who do join the programme, they can instantly see a way out of extreme poverty,” he continues. “They really know something. When they are in the classroom, they can see their future ahead and that their future is bright.”

Squeezing seven years into three

Dugale’s job is a challenging one. He must squeeze seven years of schooling into just three. The students in his class are from different ethnic groups, and they all have unique stories to tell about where they come from. “You know, a lot of my students have lost family members,” he explains.

A lot of students demonstrate challenging behaviour when they begin the programme. Dugale describes one student who stood out in his memory.

“Back then, he was drinking alcohol, he was smoking. His behaviour was really very bad. But throughout the programme something changed within him. He is now in secondary school, and he is so bright. I stay in touch with him, I will never forget him because of his progress and the way his attitude changed.”

Dugale continues with pride: “He is doing so well, and I know he will never, ever, go back to the life that he had before.”

A calm environment

Dugale knows that despite his students’ challenging pasts, each one has something unique to offer. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious, and his students benefit from this in the classroom.

“Sometimes they are happy,” he says. “But their lives have been difficult. There is a time for everything. If there is also some joy, we hold onto it and enjoy it. I am always talking with my students, whatever situation they are in. We provide a calm environment.”

“Singing is one of the methods we use in the classroom. You know, when you sing, it can make my students feel upbeat. You make a bit of fun, and the students will be laughing. When I do this, especially when teaching something that is challenging to understand, I know that the lesson can go successfully.”

‘I see that what I am doing here is good’

Education is one of the most underfunded of humanitarian responses. According to Education Cannot Wait, only two percent of humanitarian funding is allocated to education. This should not be the case. The benefits of education run far deeper than addressing the immediate needs of individuals or communities.

Dugale believes that education is the key to creating peace in times of conflict. “Teachers are the commanders who can fight this war. There must be teachers who can educate the next generation. When you have knowledge, you can give it to the rest of the world.”

Teachers like Dugale are essential to ensuring that young refugees can rebuild their futures. He knows that he alone cannot stop the devastating cycle of war, poverty and displacement. But with every new student that joins the Accelerated Education Programme, there is hope for the future. And that impact will continue for generations to come.

“The students in my class are active. There is hope. When I am teaching and they are getting something from me, I see that these are the people who are going to uplift the economy, even uplift the world!”

Covid-19 situation in Uganda

When the first case of Covid-19 in Uganda was confirmed on 21 March 2020, the government introduced stringent measures to minimise the spread of the virus. All education centres were closed, thus disrupting learning. This paved the way for distance learning programmes for children at home, delivered through radio, TV, and self-study. However, there are challenges for refugees who do not have access to radio and TV sets.

Since the schools have been closed, the situation for thousands of students have been very difficult. It is not easy to study at home and many have a lot to catch up on when the schools open.

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.


World leaders today committed to expand education in emergency aid for children and youth impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – girls and boys already suffering the brunt of armed conflict, forced displacement, climate-change induced disasters and protracted crises – with a focus on the most marginalized, including girls, refugees and children with disabilities.

With new contributions from Germany, the United States, Norway and the Netherlands, the total funds mobilized to date by Education Cannot Wait surpass US$650 million.

17 September 2020, New York – World leaders today committed to expand education in emergency aid for children and youth impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – girls and boys already suffering the brunt of armed conflict, forced displacement, climate-change induced disasters and protracted crises – with a focus on the most marginalized, including girls, refugees and children with disabilities.

The new political and financial pledges were made during today’s global, high-level event “The Future of Education is Here for Those Left Furthest Behind”, organized by Education Cannot Wait (ECW) on the margins of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The event was co-hosted by Canada, Colombia, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Two dozen political leaders, policymakers, influencers and youth advocates took the stage during the event, including education ministers from Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as youth and teachers from the Greek islands, Lebanon, the State of Palestine, Syria, Uganda and Venezuela. They stressed the urgent need to collaborate and redouble efforts to avoid losing hard-won gains and reversing the progress recorded in recent years in political commitment and financing for education in emergencies and protracted crises.

Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, German Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, announced an additional contribution of 8 million euros (US$9.5 million) to ECW in 2020, commending the Fund’s rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months. “Thanks to ECW, partner countries have received urgently needed support very quickly. For many countries, it was the only support they received,” she said. “I hope that other partners will also commit more funding, because solidarity and cooperation are more important now than ever before if we want to ensure that we leave no one behind,” she added.

Working with a broad range of partners, ECW has disbursed over $60 million in emergency grants in 35 crisis-affected countries since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an emphasis on reaching the most marginalized children and youth, including refugee, internally displaced and host communities girls and boys. ECW’s COVID-19 response encompasses the full scope of needs of a child’s well-being, including mental health and psychosocial support, and improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene and nutrition. Participants to the meeting stressed the importance of such a holistic approach to achieve education outcomes in crises.

“The United States strongly believes that education can be lifesaving and life-changing. That is why we are continuously striving to ensure that a focus on education is better incorporated into crisis responses around the globe and ensuring that the education provided also supports each child’s broader well-being,” said Carol Thompson O’Connell, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, U.S. Department of State, as she announced an additional contribution of $5 million to ECW.

More than 1.5 billion learners worldwide had their education disrupted at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus continues to upend entire communities, the economy, and social and education systems, children and youth who were already living in crisis settings are at particular risk of falling behind and being further marginalized. Out-of-school girls face increased risk of sexual violence, child marriage and early pregnancies. Children and youth living in extreme poverty, precarious conditions and forced displacement may never return to school – this is particularly true for refugee children and youth, and even more so for adolescent refugee girls.

“The story about how humanity handled COVID-19 is being written now – and education will figure in the conclusion. Let it not be the story of a lost generation – nor of a community that abandoned its promise to ‘leave no one behind’ when push came to shove. Let it rather be the story of a global community that came together to ensure that the right to learning was upheld for all – also for the COVID Generation,” said Dag-Inge Ulstein, Norway’s Minister for International Development, as he announced an additional contribution of NOK 20 million ($2.2 million) to ECW.

Today’s new financial pledges to ECW add to the recent contribution of the Netherlands of 6 million euros ($6.9 million) announced at ECW’s High-Level Steering Group meeting on 11 September, bringing the total funds mobilized by ECW in just four years of operations to over $650 million.

“We must stand by those left furthest behind and move with unprecedented speed, determination and commitment to financing an innovative idea and approach in the multilateral system, in the United Nations, that has proven to work. Education Cannot Wait is no longer a start up fund, but has now turned into a full-fledged global fund, reaching 4.5 million children and youth in crises and forced displacement. ECW enables us all to bring hope to those left furthest behind when they most need us,” said The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Steering Group.

Since its inception in 2016, ECW has reached an estimated 4.5 million children and youth with inclusive, quality education in some of the worst humanitarian crises worldwide, half of whom are girls. Building on these achievements, ECW is appealing to public and private donors to urgently mobilize an additional $300 million to respond to the pandemic and other emergencies and protracted crises in the coming months.

“We are grateful to all our partners and stakeholders who form Education Cannot Wait. All results are your results. Today, I want to thank Germany, the United States, Norway and the Netherlands for additional generous financial contributions to Education Cannot Wait – announced during the UN General Assembly week – which allows us to continue with speed during the pandemic,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “At ECW, we believe that crises always lead to new opportunities. It is the choice we make that determines the outcome. We must all chose to give it our all and make Sustainable Development Goal 4 a reality for those left furthest behind. The future of their education must be now.”

Today’s event was also an opportunity for ECW to roll out a new donation feature through video communications platform Zoom in partnership with online fundraising platform Pledgeling. During the event, the audience was invited to make and view live donations to support Education Cannot Wait’s work for children and youth caught in conflict and crises across the globe, raising over $14,000 in just two hours. Donations can still be made at or, in the US, by texting ‘ECW’ to 707070.

Note to Editors

Click here to watch the full recording of the high-level event “The Future of Education is Here for Those Left Furthest Behind.”

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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:

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

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Education Cannot Wait, together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Ministry of Development Cooperation of Norway, the Ministry of Education of Colombia and the governments of Canada, United Kingdom and United States of America, convene this virtual meeting of global leaders, education experts and young people to take place during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly.



As prepared for delivery | Virtual Meeting, 11 September 2020 | View Original

Thank you, Gordon [Brown].

I’m impressed by Education Cannot Wait’s achievements. You have helped more than 2 million children access education and raised US$ 637 million.

It’s a privilege to be part of this group and talk about the exciting collaboration on anticipatory action.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic impacts are the biggest crisis in our lifetime. While some countries are cautiously recovering, others are teetering on the brink of disaster, with the worst still to come.

While the humanitarian, protection, economic and social impacts of the pandemic escalate, ongoing crises such as droughts and disease will endure, and new ones will break out.

Children will be at the sharp end, and their education will suffer.

Fortunately, we can now more accurately predict disasters and their impacts.

We can anticipate humanitarian needs and act early to mitigate or prevent suffering before a crisis spirals out of control.

We can use evidence of risk – instead of suffering – to take anticipatory action.

A recent study by the World Food Programme found that for every dollar spent on anticipatory action, households generated more than two-and-a-half times the value in in socio-economic outcomes. Even if no crisis occurs, every dollar spent yielded $1.60 in social value. Anticipatory action pays off.

It’s an approach that’s faster, cheaper, and more dignified. One that protects hard-won development gains. One that deals with problems before they arise. One that keeps children going to school and learning.

A few recent examples.

In June, forecasts for Somalia showed that the number of severely food-insecure people would triple to 3.5 million during the lean season. I released $15 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to the FAO, IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and WHO to cover health, food security, water and sanitation, nutrition and protection assistance.

In July, severe flooding was forecasted for Bangladesh’s Jamuna River which automatically triggered the immediate release of CERF to help 220,000 people prepare and protect themselves before peak flood with cash, animal feed, storage drums, and health, dignity and hygiene kits.

This was the fastest CERF funding release in history – within four hours of the trigger being activated.

We know that many families who received cash will invest in the education of their children. And we know this investment will go beyond education.

When children can stay in school, they are less exposed to the risks of violence, trafficking, child labor, child marriage and recruitment by armed groups. Many receive their only daily meal at school.

There is an economic impact, too. The Brookings Institute estimates that future earnings of four months of lost education in the US due to COVID-19 amounts to $2.5 trillion—12.7 percent of annual GDP.

In June this year, I committed to release up to $140 million for anticipatory action projects. It’s a good start but this alone won’t be enough. I’m excited about ECW joining the funds supporting anticipatory action.

By pre-committing funds to be released when a trigger is reached, you ensure schools remain open and children continue their education.

It is good news that the ECW’s new Operations Manual now enables anticipatory action under the First Emergency Response and the Multi-Year Resilience Programme window. OCHA will continue to support ECW on the next steps, including by identifying projects that can be financed.

These are extraordinary times and they call for bold new approaches.

We face unprecedented needs and sharper resource constraints.

We have no choice but to squeeze the most value from every dollar we spend.

Investing in education is a win-win for everyone. I hope that many donors – including those of you here today – will contribute generously to this new approach through our funds.

By doing so, you are investing in a better future for all of us.

Thank you.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit


9 September 2020, New York – Education Cannot Wait released today the line-up of eminent speakers from around the world who will participate in ‘The Future of Education is Here for Those Left Furthest Behind’, a virtual, high-level side event to the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Please click here to quickly and easily register for this high-level event: Register Now

Confirmed speakers include:
The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education
Baroness Liz Sugg, UK Minister for Foreign and Development Affairs and Special Envoy for Girls’ Education
H.E. Dr. Getahun Mekuriya, Minister of Education, Ethiopia
H.E. Mr. Stanislas Ouaro, Minister of Education and Literacy, Burkina Faso
The Hon. Abdullahi Godah Barre, Minister of Education, Culture and Higher Education, Federal Republic of Somalia
H.E. Mrs. Maria Victoria Angulo, Minister for Education, Colombia
Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister for International Development, Norway
Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, German Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development
Ms. Carol O’Connell, Acting Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State
Henrietta H. Fore
, UNICEF Executive Director
Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive, Save the Children UK
EU Commissioners Jutta Urpilainen and Janez Lenarčič
The Hon. Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, Canada
Miranda Ndolo, Theirworld Youth Advocate, Cameroon
Jaime Saavedra, Global Education Director, World Bank
David Beasley, WFP Executive Director
Ibrahim Jalal, Youth Advocates with Disabilities from Uganda
Sarah Mardini, Syrian Youth Advocate
Rachel Brosnahan, Actress and Education Champion
Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO
Delphine O, Secretary-General Generation Equality Forum
Sarah Brown
, Chair, Theirworld & Global Business Coalition for Education
John Goodwin, Chief Executive Officer, The LEGO Foundation
H.E. Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Cares
Julie Cram, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator
Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait
And More!

Please find the Agenda for this dynamic and exciting global discussion, which will be moderated by Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait and is co-hosted by: Ministry of Education of Colombia, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), US Government, United Kingdom, Canada, the Ministry of Development Cooperation for Norway, the Ministry of Education of Ethiopia and the Ministry of Education of Burkina Faso.

Event details:

Date: Thursday, 17 September from 9:00-10:30 am, EST

Venue: Virtual side event to the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Registration: Open to the general public. Register Now

This virtual meeting of global leaders, education experts and young people will take place during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, and offer an opportunity to reimagine education for those left furthest behind, shifting the narrative from one of crisis to one of opportunity. We will provide a platform for leaders to bring forward commitments that bring this shared ambition to life. We will amplify the voices of young people to guide us on a path to deliver a better future for conflict and crisis-affected children and youth.

If you have any questions related to this event, please contact


View original on GCPEA.

More than 22,000 students, teachers, and academics were injured, killed or harmed in attacks on education during armed conflict or insecurity over the past five years, according to Education under Attack 2020, a 300-page report published by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). More than 11,000 separate attacks on education facilities, students and educators took place between 2015 and 2019. 

Attacks on education include bombing and burning schools and universities, and killing, maiming, raping, abducting, arbitrarily arresting, and recruiting students and educators at, or enroute to and from, educational institutions by armed forces, other state actors, or armed groups, during armed conflict or insecurity. 

Education under Attack 2020 finds that the number of countries experiencing attacks on education has increased in recent years. Between 2015 and 2019, 93 countries experienced at least one reported attack on education, marking an increase of 19 affected countries, up from 74 countries in the previous reporting period of 2013-2017.  

Attacks on education emerged in new countries, including Guinea and Nicaragua. In Burkina Faso and Niger, which were only minimally affected in prior years, attacks rose starkly, contributing to the closure of more than 2,000 schools. Non-state armed groups operating in these two countries carried out many of these attacks.  

Numbers of attacks on education remained alarmingly high in Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with each experiencing over 1,500 documented attacks on schools. Afghanistan, Palestine, and Syria each experienced over 500 attacks on schools. In Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen, GCPEA found the widespread use of explosive weapons during targeted and indiscriminate attacks on educational institutions.  

Students and educators were most frequently harmed by direct attacks in Afghanistan, Cameroon, and Palestine. In Cameroon, over 1,000 school and university students and staff were threatened, abducted, injured, or killed by armed groups or state armed forces.  

Attacks on higher education were reported in 73 countries. Law enforcement, military forces, or pro-government armed groups used excessive, even lethal, force to disperse university students and staff protesting on campuses or over education-related grievances, primarily in situations of insecurity. In 36 of the 37 countries profiled, over 9,100 higher education students and staff were injured, killed, abducted, or arrested between 2015 and 2019.  

A significant – and preventable – cause of attacks was the use of schools for military purposes, GCPEA found. Armed forces, other state actors, and armed groups used schools and universities for military purposes in 34 countries between 2015 and 2019, including as bases, detention centers, and weapons stores. In Myanmar, the United Nations verified 51 incidents of military use in 2019. In one example, armed forces used a school to detain over 270 men and boys in Rakhine State, opening fire and killing six prisoners and wounding eight.  

Armed groups or armed forces also targeted schools to recruit children. In the past five years, state armed forces or armed groups reportedly recruited students from schools in 17 countries. In Somalia, the UN verified that armed groups recruited at least 280 children from schools in 2017.

Armed forces, security forces, or armed groups were reportedly responsible for sexual violence in, or on the way to or from, schools and universities in at least 17 countries in the past five years.  

The overall number of attacks globally declined slightly from the 2013-2017 reporting period, from 12,700. In 2015-2019, attacks on education significantly decreased in 10 countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Nigeria, Palestine, South Sudan, and Ukraine.  

Attacks on education not only kill or injure individual students and teachers, they also impact communities for years. With buildings or teaching materials destroyed and students and teachers living in fear, schools and universities close and some students never resume their education, impeding long-term development. 

Attacks on education have specific impacts on female students and educators. GCPEA found that women and girls were targeted due to their gender in attacks on education in at least 21 countries between 2015 and 2019. Pregnancy from rape, the health consequences and stigma of sexual violence, the risk of early marriage, and the privileging of boys’ education over girls’, all make it particularly difficult for girls to return to school.  

Governments and armed groups should end attacks on education and refrain from using schools and universities for military purposes, GCPEA said. Governments need to hold those responsible for attacks to account, develop gender-responsive safety and security plans to prevent and respond to attacks, and strengthen monitoring and reporting of attacks on education. Donors, international organizations and civil society should support governments in these endeavours. 

Support for Education under Attack 2020 has been generously provided by the Education Above All Foundation, Education Cannot Wait, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an anonymous donor.  


First International Day to Protect Education from Attack Addresses Violations Globally

View original on GCPEA

8 September 2020, New York – The Central Sahel has seen a significant spike in attacks on students, teachers, and schools since 2018, according to a new report released today by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). The report is launched ahead of the first ever United Nations International Day to Protect Education from Attack on September 9, 2020.

Supporting Safe Education in the Central Sahel noted over 85 attacks on education in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger between January and July 2020, despite Covid-19-related school closures between late March and May. At least 27 attacks on middle schools were recorded in Mali when schools reopened for children to take their exams in June.

These attacks follow an alarming increase in attacks on education across the Central Sahel in recent years. In Burkina Faso and Niger, attacks on education more than doubled between 2018 and 2019, contributing to the closure of more than 2,000 schools. In Mali, over 60 attacks on education took place in 2019 alone, with over 1,100 schools closed.

Non-state armed groups targeted state education across the Central Sahel, most commonly by burning and looting schools and threatening, abducting, or killing teachers, the report said. State forces and non-state armed groups also used dozens of schools for military purposes, including as camps and temporary bases.

Female students and educators are specifically affected by attacks, GCPEA found. Pregnancy from rape, the health consequences and stigma of sexual violence, the risk of early marriage, and the privileging of boys’ education over girls’ all make it particularly difficult for girls to return to school.

“The International Day to Protect Education from Attack is a crucial moment to highlight the scope and enormous cost that attacks on education have on the lives and futures of students and communities,” said Diya Nijhowne, executive director of GCPEA. “But it is also a time to recognize the significant progress made towards protecting students and educators, including through widespread adoption of the Safe Schools Declaration and advances in its implementation.”

The Safe Schools Declaration, a political commitment to protect students, educators, schools, and universities in armed conflict, currently has 104 state signatories. By endorsing the declaration, countries commit to take concrete steps to protect education in armed conflict, including by using the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.

GCPEA calls for coordinated, targeted, and sustainable support to implement the Safe Schools Declaration and keep students, teachers, and educational facilities across the Central Sahel safe from attack. This includes prioritizing and funding measures to prevent, mitigate, and respond to attacks on education within humanitarian response and development plans and programs. As the three Central Sahel countries confront interlinked humanitarian crises, regional efforts should also be taken to reinforce monitoring and reporting of attacks and develop prevention and response plans.

The Ministerial Roundtable on the Central Sahel, to be hosted by Denmark, Germany, the European Union, and the UN on October 20, provides a key opportunity to place protection of education firmly on the humanitarian agenda.

The Central Sahel report draws on new data from the coalition’s flagship report, Education under Attack, which identified more than 11,000 attacks on education facilities, students, and educators between 2015 and 2019, harming, injuring, or killing more than 22,000 students, teachers, and academics globally.

As schools in the Central Sahel and globally resume after Covid-19 lockdowns, GCPEA urges governments to ensure that education providers conduct risk assessments prior to reopening and enact appropriate security measures where needed to minimize students’ and teachers’ risk of attack. Where schools and universities cannot reopen safely, alternative and distance measures should be put in place. GCPEA also urges governments and education providers to ensure that any post-Covid-19 “back-to-school” campaigns and catch-up classes include learners previously excluded from studies by attacks on education. Governments and education providers should also ensure that distance-learning programs established in response to Covid-19 are accessible to and benefit learners affected by attacks and insecurity.

“On this first International Day to Protect Education from Attack and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments and donors should act to keep students and educators, schools, and universities safe from attack in the Central Sahel and globally,” Nijhowne said. “As programs and policies are developed to support the continuation of education during the health crisis, there is an opening to ensure that they incorporate protection against attack, and include students excluded from learning due to past attacks.”



A Malian refugee student plays the role of teacher at a school in Goudoubo camp. Because of rising insecurity teachers no longer show up and students often teach each other. Photo © UNHCR/Sylvain Cherkaoui

On the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack, UNHCR and Education Cannot Wait are bridging the gap to provide refugee children with the safety, hope and opportunity of an education. In Burkina Faso, by the end of 2019, more than 3,300 schools were shut, affecting almost 650,000 children and more than 16,000 teachers. Oumar refuses to give up on his education.

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Ag Ahmed in Dori, UNHCR Burkina Faso  (Original Story | Español)

With the violence that had been plaguing parts of the Sahel region for years beginning to rage in Burkina Faso, teachers at Oumar’s school simply stopped coming to work. Then they left the area altogether.

That put Oumar’s education, and the education of thousands of other Malian refugee children who were then living in Mentao refugee camp, on hold.

“I was very sad to have to stay home all day and not be able to continue classes,” says Oumar, a reserved but determined teenager, now 17 years old.

It was a bitter blow. Growing up, there had been no school to go to in Oumar’s home town of Mopti, and after he and his family fled Mali in 2012 as violence was igniting there, life in Mentao camp had given him his first taste of an education.

To keep his schooling going, the boy’s father decided to take him and his siblings to Goudoubo refugee camp, further to the east. There he was registered in a school in the nearby town of Dori, hoping this would allow him to sit the crucial exams that let him progress to secondary level.

But more disruption lay in wait. “The following school year, as soon as the school year started, the same security issues continued in Goudoubo,” he says. “I was very disappointed that once again my school closed and that I was not able to finish the new school year.”

Oumar is over the usual age to start secondary school, something which is common for refugee children, particularly where education is disrupted and there are no accelerated education programmes available.

In Burkina Faso alone, over the past 12 months the number of internally displaced people rose five-fold, reaching 921,000 at the end of June 2020. The country is also host to nearly 20,000 refugees, many of whom have recently fled the camps – seeking safety in other parts of the country or even returning to their homeland.

Across the Sahel, millions have fled indiscriminate attacks by armed groups against both civilians and state institutions – including schools. According to UNICEF, between April 2017 and December 2019 the number of school closures due to violence in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger rose six-fold. By the end of last year, more than 3,300 schools were shut, affecting almost 650,000 children and more than 16,000 teachers.

In Burkina Faso alone, 2,500 schools had closed because of the violence, depriving 350,000 children of access to education – and that was before  coronavirus closed the rest.

On September 9th, the UN marks the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack, with the General Assembly condemning attacks on education and the military use of schools in contravention of international law.

In a ground-breaking report, UNHCR warns the twin scourges of COVID-19 and attacks on schools, targeting teachers and pupils, threatens to destroy hard-won gains in refugee education and destroy the dreams of millions of youngsters.

This year, Oumar thought it was third time lucky. His family moved a few miles down the road from Goudoubo camp to Dori, and he was able to start his first year of secondary school in spite of being older than most of the other students. “Everything was going smoothly,” he says.

“But classes had to stop again – this time because of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Since 1 June, the three school grades that were due to take exams this year have reopened and UNHCR is doing what it can to find places for refugee children.

For the others, UNHCR, with the support of Education Cannot Wait, began buying radios for primary and secondary refugee students to ensure they had the same access as their Burkinabe peers to lessons being broadcast over the airwaves. UNHCR is also working with governments to enable emergency education for displaced children and youth via access to safe distance learning alternatives.

As he waits, Oumar refuses to be downhearted. “I still have the hope that the situation will improve so that I can go back and finish my education,” he says.


Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.


Children in Madomale listen to the JRS radio programme. Christian Marago, accompanies them. All Photos JRS CAR.

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, Jesuit Refugee Service is expanding remote learning opportunities for children impacted by the COVID-19 crisis

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Jesuit Refugee Service (Original Story)

While all the educational facilities in the Central African Republic (CAR) have closed their doors due to the COVID-19 outbreak, students and teachers have found a new source for learning: the airwaves.

To keep children from falling further behind in the pandemic, the Jesuit Refugee Service is producing a weekday radio education program known as L’École à la Radio (The School on the Radio). Children have been tuning into the broadcast since June every day from 4:30 to 5pm to hear radio lessons broadcast by the Lego ti la Ouaka community radio in Bambari, where JRS is supporting internally displaced persons and local communities with funding from the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW).

The project is reaching preschool and primary students who have not been able to go back to class since March 2020. Before the pandemic, access to quality education was already a challenge for many children affected by conflict, recruitment by armed groups or forced displacement in CAR. Unable to access the safety, hope and protection of a quality learning environment, their education and future are at risk.

To address the unique social and emotional challenges these children face, L’École à la Radio offers important learning and psychosocial supports for children who have been displaced by war and violence. Over 2980 people (children and parents) now listen to the radio broadcast, which is heard within a radius of at least 50 km around Bambari.

Radio lessons are recorded with the participation of 10 children (5 girls and 5 boys) in the classroom, respecting the adequate prevention measures against COVID-19. This hybrid approach empowers children and presents an innovative way to extend in-class lessons to students staying home.

Listening in on the radio lessons. Photo JRS CAR.

“Since I discovered L’École à la Radio, I always lend my radio to my children and other kids in the village from 4:30 to 5 pm, so that they can learn with the radio classes,” says Christian Marago.

Christian is a father of a four and an eight year old, and lives in Madomale village, located 37 km away from Bambari.

L’École à la Radio addresses them directly, especially since children of their ages are the ones talking and doing the show,” he adds.

After contacting Lego ti la Ouaka radio and expressing his enthusiasm for the program, Christian was invited to become one of the sixteen JRS Radio Listening Focal Points who operate within the communities. They accompany the children during the radio emission and help JRS monitoring the development and impact of the program.

For Christian, the program really helps the students to continue learning, at the same time helping parents with the knowledge and tools they need to supervise their children’s learning progress.

“The language [used in the program] is suitable for children and the subjects are adapted to the context of the coronavirus pandemic,” says Christian. “At the same time, they learn about family, good manners, nature and animals… Also, about the existence of the coronavirus and how to protect themselves and the whole community.”

“From my side, I think that L’École à la Radio is one of the best programs broadcast by Lego ti la Ouaka radio in these times,” Christian says.


Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.