HOPE IN A WORLD GONE MAD

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‘When we learn and play here, I feel peace in my heart, and forget what has happened to me.’ Janat Ara, 12. Name changed to protect identity. Photo: Save the Children/Daphnee Cook

SURVIVING ATTACKS AND GUNFIRE A ROHINGYA GIRL FINDS NEW HOPE THROUGH EDUCATION

Janat Ara is a survivor. She’s a dreamer. She’s a unique symbol of hope and resilience in a world gone mad.

In her short 12-year life, the Rohingya refugee has lost both her parents. She’s hidden in the woods for 15 days to escape bandits that were reportedly threatening to rape and abduct young girls in her native Myanmar. She’s been attacked by gunfire.

Around 725,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since the ethnic violence, which some have labeled a crime against humanity, started in August 2017. The new arrivals and asylum seekers are putting a strain on local communities and resources and around 1.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance today. An estimated 54 per cent of these refugees are under 18. That means close to 400,000 children are nationless, lack consistent access to education, and live in makeshift, overcrowded camps in the Cox’s Bazaar district of Bangladesh.

While much work is being done to protect these children by both the government of Bangladesh as well as international donor agencies, local non-profits and the United Nations System, the camps are still a dangerous place. Girls are particularly at risk to sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. And malnutrition, disease and unsafe water pose health risks for children and adults alike.

Photo: Save the Children/Daphnee Cook
Attending class in the Learning Centre. Photo: Save the Children/Daphnee Cook

A SENSE OF HOPE

Out of this chaos, a sense of hope and redemption is emerging for children like Janat Ara. It all starts in the new learning centers where children receive daily instruction through an investment backed by Education Cannot Wait and implemented through UNICEF, Save the Children, Friendship and BRAC.

“I love the learning center. I have been through a lot back in Myanmar. When we learn and play here, I feel peace in my heart, and forget what has happened to me,” said Janat Ara (whose name has been changed for her own protection). “When I grow up, I want to work at an NGO or at the hospital. My teacher also said that he sees that I could become a teacher. He has suggested that I maybe can join an NGO when I am older, to teach other children Burmese.”

The first educational emergency response is making a real difference for the 400,000 Rohingya children and youth and host community children that have been impacted by this crisis, exceeding most targets by 200 per cent.

In all, the fast-acting 12-month Education for Children of Rohingya Refugees and Host Communities in Cox’s Bazar investment has built more than 270 learning centers to date, and is on track to complete an additional 50 more to reach investment targets. According to the latest reports (December 2018), over 25,000 refugee children aged 4 to 14 have received access to safe and protective learning environments – that is three times more than the number of children initially targeted by the project. Additionally, more than 270 sets of early childhood development and school-in-a-box kits have been shared.

The investment embraced innovative and flexible learning models to mobilize fast education responses, including using podcasts and video conferences to train teachers in the camps. Along with other innovative measures, this enabled more children and youth to be reached than originally planned.

Community involvement is key in a complex context like the Rohingya crisis. To encourage involvement from parents and community members, outreach activities have reached close to 20,00 people with important messages advocating for school enrollment, hygiene and sanitation, and the importance of a safe learning environment for children and youth.

Girls and children with disabilities often fall behind in crisis situations like this. More than 50 percent of the students enrolled since the beginning of the project are girls. Total access to education for girls and adolescent girls reached more than 12,800 girls, that is nearly three times more than the original number targeted by the programme. To encourage enrollment and retention of girls, the recruitment and training of female teachers has been highly encouraged. In all some 546 teachers have been trained through the investment, over 85 per cent of whom are female. The project has also identified 620 children with disabilities in these camps with the aim to reach at least 95% of them by June 2019.

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Janat Ara’s Aunt Halima has taken on the responsibility of caring for the young dreamer and her sister.

“We came here in March 2018. Even after the outbreak of violence we tried to stay. But then armed groups started tormenting us. They wouldn’t let us go out at night. They started taking away girls and young women, and raping and killing them. When the threats become too much to bear, all of us in our village decided that we would come to Bangladesh,” said Halima. “I worry a lot about Janat Ara, because she doesn’t have parents. The children had nothing to do when we arrived, and I thought – if Allah brought these children to me, then there must be something special about them. So, I registered them into the learning center.”

Since starting school Janat Ara has made new friends, started learning English and is finding a “new normal” after enduring a perilous and traumatic journey. Her Aunt reports that “she has changed a lot since being here and she seems happy now.”

‘When we learn and play here, I feel peace in my heart, and forget what has happened to me.’ Janat Ara, 12. Name changed to protect Janat Ara's identity. Photo: Save the Children/Daphnee Cook
Surviving crisis, the loss of her parents and other life-changing ordeals, Janat Ara is returning to a sense of normalcy in the camp. Photo: Save the Children/Daphnee Cook

LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS

Humanitarian crisis like this need more than one-off responses. Working with the Government of Bangladesh, UNICEF, UNESCO and UNHCR, Education Cannot Wait launched a new US$12 million grant in November 2018 to benefit an additional 88,500 refugee and host community children and adolescents. With efforts to mobilize resources from multiple partners and donors, the multi-year grant will connect with other initiatives to reach more than half a million refugee and host community and youth, and 9800 teachers over the coming years.

With continued support, class sizes are going down, and students will benefit from more time with more highly trained teachers in the learning centers. As new learning centers are built and reorganized, student contact time will increase from two to four hours, and class sizes will drop from 105 students per learning center to around 80.

It’s a powerful step forward for girls and boys caught in this cycle of violence, migration, crisis and fear. For Janat Ara and others like her, more needs to be done, and Education Cannot Wait is working to bring multiple partners to work together towards a lasting solution to protect these children, provide them an education, and a safer path to become productive and essential members of society. Through stronger partnerships and collaboration, we can address this pressing crisis.

IN FOCUS

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

FROM THE QUARRY TO THE CLASSROOM

Somalia
In crisis stricken Somalia, children often need to work to provide food for themselves and their families. One of these children is 12-year-old Nadifa, who worked in a quarry to support her family. With support from Intersos and Education Cannot Wait, Nadifa is back in school and thriving. Photo: Zakaria Awil Sirad/Intersos

IN SOMALIA, EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT AND INTERSOS LOOK TOWARD SAFE DRINKING WATER AND SCHOOL MEALS TO GET CHILDREN BACK IN SCHOOL

Nadifa Ibrahim picks up her hammer and strikes down on the chalk white stones at the quarry where she works with her family and other children displaced by Somalia’s years of civil war, drought and poverty. This seemingly un-ending crisis has displaced 1 million school-aged children and left an estimated 3.4 million girls and boys out of school.

Nadifa’s 12-year-old hands are hardly big enough to hold the hammer – and she makes less per day than the bigger boys and adults who are able to smash bigger stones – but in order to survive and support the family she needs to work.

Nadifa isn’t alone. Most of Somalia’s internally displaced children are out of school because they need to work to feed themselves and their families, or they need to spend a big chunk of their days fetching water or simply scavenging for food.

To make things even more complicated, these children living far from their homes face ever-increasing risks of child marriage, sexual assault and recruitment into armed groups.

These destabilizing forces are like a ticking time bomb that threatens the future of an entire generation.

Over the last year, violence and instability fueled a sharp increase in the number of displaced people in Baidoa District, where the majority of Somalia’s displacement camps are found. In the Diinsor District – largely controlled by the extremist group Al Shabaab – the situation is even more dire.  There are no secondary schools and only two primary schools available to educate and protect the growing influx of displaced children. Food and safe drinking water are hard to come by, and 1.5 million people face acute food insecurity.

Nadifa back in school. Photo: Zakaria Awil Sirad/Intersos
Nadifa studying in her new classroom.  Photo: Zakaria Awil Sirad/Intersos

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR COMPLEX CHALLENGES

Getting children like Nadifa out of the quarry and back in school requires a unique approach that looks not just at access to education, but also at the intersections of conflict, crises, poverty and hunger, and the root causes that force children into the quarries, into armed groups and out of school.

To reach these children, Education Cannot Wait partnered with the Italian humanitarian organization Intersos in a fast-acting 12-month first emergency educational response programme designed to expand access to quality education services for the children of the Baidoa and Diinsor Districts and enhance community coping mechanisms and resilience to crisis.

The project came to a close in August 2018, increasing school enrollment by 13 per cent for boys and 17 per cent for girls, and reaching 4787 children in all, 41% of whom were girls. In Somalia, fewer than 50 per cent of girls attend primary school, and the last countrywide survey from 2006 showed that only 25 per cent of women aged 15 to 24 were literate.

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REVERSING THE CYCLE

Now there’s a chance to reverse this cycle, and Nadifa, and other children like her, are back in school, and no longer need to work in the quarry.

Mohamed Nur is an 11-year-old boy that worked in the quarry. His hands are blistered and aged from his time blasting rocks apart with a hammer. With support from the investment, Mohamed is back in school and has a brighter outlook on life.

“At least the pen is softer than the hammer,” the affable boy jokes. “I never ever want to go back to the quarry again, I felt bad seeing other children go to school, but there was nothing I could do.”

Students are receiving warm, healthy meals.
Students are receiving warm, healthy meals through the programme. Photo: Zakaria Awil Sirad/Intersos

A MEAL PER DAY

Unlike many schools in Somalia, the schools for displaced children supported by Education Cannot Wait are free. Through the investment, the children also receive a warm, healthy meal each day – sometimes the only food they will get. The delivery of food is managed by the headmasters, to ensure food doesn’t go missing, and to provide an incentive to keep children in school.

The investment also set up innovative water and hygiene programmes that support healthier children and easier access to safe drinking water.  Safe drinking water is being delivered in 13 schools through the investment. Project personnel indicate that three months after the project close, the water trucks, donkey carts, and permanent connections to water systems are still working. Hand-washing stations and girls-only latrines were also developed.

“Educating girls is educating a nation,” said Isaq Abdi Hussein, head teacher at the Warsan school for displaced children. “Many girls and boys were unable to attend school, due to poverty, but with the introduction of school feeding, the school enrolment has significantly improved.”

Girls find a safer learning environment. Photo: Zakaria Awil Sirad/Intersos
Girls find a safer learning environment. Photo: Zakaria Awil Sirad/Intersos

REVERSING THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE

To deal with the scars of displacement and early childhood trauma, the children have access to improved psycho-social support from teachers that have received advance training through the programme and also receive a US$100 monthly stipend.

“These schools have saved the lives of many children. Their future was uncertain, and this is how they become vulnerable to abuse and bad elements in the community who enlist them in armed conflict. But now they are settled in school and this is also good for us as a community,” said Ibrahim Adan Ali, head teacher at the Al-Amin school.

Providing water has helped encourage parents to send their children to school. Photo: Zakaria Awil Sirad/Intersos
Providing water has helped encourage parents to send their children to school. Photo: Zakaria Awil Sirad/Intersos

KEEPING CHILDREN IN SCHOOL

To entice families to send their children to school, the investment created a “back to school” campaign that included community forums, home visits and sensitization on the value of education, especially for girls and children with special needs. Learning materials and books were also distributed, along with the introduction of other recreational activities designed to make learning fun and engaging.

Education stakeholders in Somalia are currently developing a multi-year resilience programme funding proposal for Education Cannot Wait. This programme will build on the success of this first emergency response and other Education Cannot Wait-funded investment and ensure that gains made so far are not lost.

Nadifa dreams of taking her new chance at an education and paying it forward.

“I would like to be a teacher so that I educate as many girls as possible. I have also told my friends in the quarry to come to school as there is everything we need to learn,” said Nadifa.

With ongoing support, less children need to work the quarry. Photo: Zakaria Awil Sirad/Intersos
With ongoing support, less children need to work the quarry. Photo: Zakaria Awil Sirad/Intersos

LINKS

Also available in Italian on the Intersos website.

EDUCATION IN CRISIS: AN INHERENT HUMAN RIGHT

There is a US$8.5 billion funding gap for education in crisis that has left some 75 million children in some of the harshest living conditions on the planet without access to safe, reliable education. That’s more than the total population of Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands combined.

As we mark the first International Day of Education, the global community has a responsibility to invest in the inherent right of these children and youth.

Shofika is a nine-year-old refugee in Bangladesh that's benefiting from timely education responses funded by Education Cannot Wait. 'I love learning the songs and the dances in the learning centre.' Photo Dafhnee Cook/Save The Children
Shofika is a nine-year-old refugee in Bangladesh that’s benefiting from timely education responses funded by Education Cannot Wait. ‘I love learning the songs and the dances in the learning centre.’ Photo Daphnee Cook/Save The Children

WE NEED TO STEP UP GLOBAL SUPPORT TO FILL THE US$8.5 FUNDING GAP FOR EDUCATION IN CRISIS

By Yasmine Sherif

There is a US$8.5 billion funding gap for education in crisis that has left some 75 million children in some of the harshest living conditions on the planet without access to safe, reliable education. That’s more than the total population of Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands combined.

As we mark the first International Day of Education, the global community has a responsibility to invest in the inherent right of these children and youth.

Failing to do so will derail our efforts to end hunger and poverty by 2030, and build a more peaceful, more humane and more constructive world.

It may not be easy, but it is possible. By breaking down barriers, connecting coalitions of the willing, investing adequate financial resources, and making a value proposition that underscores the outstanding return on investment that education funding brings – especially in crisis contexts – we can reach our goals.

The socio-economic value of education in crisis

The persistent absence of timely responses to deliver quality education in crisis settings exposes children and youth to risks of psychological trauma, gender-based violence, child trafficking, forced recruitment in armed groups, early marriage and pregnancy.

Education is the best investment we can make to save their lives and end the cycles of poverty, hunger, inequality, violence, instability and unspeakable human suffering they live with every day.

Girls are even more at risk. An estimated 39 million girls living in crisis lack consistent access to education. To make it even worse, girls in crisis are two and a half times more likely to be out of school than boys, and we need to take affirmative actions to ensure these girls are not left behind.

This is where our value proposition comes in. The economic returns for investing in education in emergencies and protracted crisis are significant.

According to the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, for each dollar invested in education, more than US$5 is returned in additional gross earnings in low-income countries and US$2.50 in lower middle-income countries.

The World Bank estimates that if every girl worldwide were to receive 12 years of quality schooling, irrespective of whether there’s a crisis or not, the human capital wealth represented by their lifetime earnings could increase by $15 trillion to $30 trillion.

Translating moral values into action

If we deconstruct these numbers, we can fill this gap by mobilizing just US$113 per year per child.

Less bureaucracy and more accountability, and placing people above process, are essential. It requires speed to be responsive and depth to be inclusive and sustainable.

An illustrative example is the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh. With the support of donors and implementing partners on the ground, Education Cannot Wait allocated US$3 million to support a 12-month educational emergency response.

Last year, the Fund announced an additional US$12 million allocation for a multi-year program that builds upon the short-term emergency response to ensure continuity, quality and sustainability. By connecting national co-finance, other donor contributions, this seed funding will be leveraged to reach the US$60 million needed. In doing so, it brings together partners to align efforts towards collective learning outcomes.

No single stakeholder has the capacity to meet the full scope of needs to ensure we achieve education for all girls and boys in crisis settings by 2030. Collaboration is key.

Missing this mark has potentially catastrophic impacts on our world’s economic and social future, and, eventually, on our sense of moral responsibility. Nelson Mandela once said: “To deny people their human rights means denying their humanity.” Education is an inherent human right and the 75 million children and youth in crisis are a test of our true values and sense of humanity.

About the Author

Yasmine Sherif is the Director of Education Cannot Wait. A lawyer specialized in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law, she has 30 years of experience with the United Nations (UNHCR, UNDP, OCHA) and international NGOs. Follow Yasmine on twitter. Education Cannot Wait, a new multilateral global fund hosted by UNICEF, was set up with the special mandate to address the funding gap for education in crisis. By 2021, the Fund aims to mobilize an additional US$1.8 billion in finance to reach approximately 8.9 million children.

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INTERNATIONAL DAY OF EDUCATION – MESSAGE FROM THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL

Education DayToday we celebrate the first International Day of Education.

Education transforms lives. As United Nations Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai once said: “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”. Nelson Mandela rightly called education “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Long before I served at the United Nations or held public office in my own country, I was a teacher. In the slums of Lisbon, I saw that education is an engine for poverty eradication and a force for peace.

Today, education is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals.

We need education to reduce inequalities and improve health. We need education to achieve gender equality and eliminate child marriage. We need education to protect our planet’s resources. And we need education to fight hate speech, xenophobia and intolerance, and to nurture global citizenship.

Yet at least 262 million children, adolescents and youth are out of school, most of them girls.  Millions more who attend school are not mastering the basics.

This is a violation of their human right to education. The world cannot afford a generation of children and young people who lack the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy, nor can we afford to leave behind half of humanity.

We must do far more to advance Sustainable Development Goal 4, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Education can also break and reverse cycles of intergenerational poverty. Studies show that if all girls and boys complete secondary education, 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty.

Let us prioritize education as a public good; support it with cooperation, partnerships and funding; and recognize that leaving no one behind starts with education.

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Twitter #EducationDay

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Dutch Minister Sigrid Kaag highlights the vital importance of education in crisis

The Netherlands is a core contributor to Education Cannot Wait, with US$24 million in signed contributions to date. At the heart of this partnership between the new global fund for education in crisis and the Netherlands is the work of the charismatic Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag.

37238388254_f6d2e9b1d9_kPARTNER VOICES Q&A

‘In times of crisis, education offers stability, security, prospects for the future, and opportunities to acquire vital knowledge and skills’

As part of its efforts to tackle the root causes of poverty and instability – and improve young people’s prospects the world over – the Netherlands plans to expand its activities to support education in protracted crisis and emergencies.

In partnership with Education Cannot Wait, the Dutch Government is focusing its educational support on global hotspots, including targeted efforts in West African Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa, along with continued support to the Africa’s Great Lakes region, and Afghanistan and Bangladesh in Asia.

The Netherlands is a core contributor to Education Cannot Wait, with US$24 million in signed contributions to date. At the heart of this partnership between the new global fund for education in crisis and the Netherlands is the work of the charismatic Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag.

A leading and high-profile global advocate for education in crisis with a broad and deep experience in development and multilateralism, Mrs. Kaag was appointed as the Dutch Minister in October 2017 after working for 25 years as a senior leader in the United Nations.

Minister Kaag went to university in Utrecht, Cairo, Exeter and Oxford. After finishing her studies – which resulted in a M.Phil. in International Relations and a M.A. in Middle East Studies – she worked for Shell International in London and at the UN section of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs before joining the United Nations in 1994.

A well-informed leader, Minister Kaag has served in numerous senior positions with the United Nations, starting with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Among others, she served as the Chief of Staff with UNICEF, and as Assistant Secretary-General for UNDP in New York. Minister Kaag subsequently was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General to serve in two successive political leadership positions.

From October 2013 to September 2014, as UN Under-Secretary-General, she led the mission to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria. In 2015, she was appointed the UN Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator in Lebanon.

Learn more about Minister Kaag’s development cooperation agenda in her policy document on Investing in Global Prospects.

Girls learning in an Education Cannot Wait supported classroom in Afghanistan (Photo ECW).
Girls learning in an Education Cannot Wait supported learning space in Afghanistan (Photo ECW).

Why must education in crisis be made a priority in order to achieve gender equality, the Sustainable Development Goals, peace and stability?

In times of crisis, education offers stability, security, prospects for the future, and opportunities to acquire vital knowledge and skills. If we forget the 75 million children and youth who are living in countries affected by emergencies and crises, we will not only fail to attain SDG 4 (to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning and opportunities for all) but also fall short of other SDGs. Education gives people greater economic opportunities. Access to quality education is also key to gender equality: it helps us combat child labour, child marriage and sexual and gender-based violence, and enhances the ability of women and girls to make decisions about their own lives and bodies.

In places like Afghanistan, where 2.2 million girls have been left behind and lack reliable and safe access to education, Education Cannot Wait is a timely global fund as it bridges the humanitarian-development divide and places gender as a priority of this pioneering work. The empowerment of girls and adolescent girls during an emergency and crisis through quality education is essential to achieving all the other Sustainable Development Goals. It is also essential in advancing peace processes and sustaining that peace.

Elisabeth, 52 years old, teaches 4th graders at a temporary learning space in the Kaga Bandoro’s IDP site where Education Cannot Wait is currently deploying educational support for displaced children. (UNICEF/Sokhin)
Elisabeth, 52 years old, teaches 4th graders at a temporary learning space in Kaga Bandoro’s IDP site in CAR, where Education Cannot Wait is currently deploying educational support for displaced children. (UNICEF/Sokhin)

As a former senior UN official, can you explain the contribution that education makes to realizing the UN’s values and to pursuing multilateral efforts? Specifically, how will Education Cannot Wait, a new global fund hosted by UNICEF that seeks to mobilize US$1.8 billion by 2021 to reach 8.9 million children and young people living in crisis, help us achieve these goals?  

Education makes a particular contribution to a UN core value by giving children and young people the opportunity to live decent lives and find decent jobs. Education is also a human right, so investing in education is the right thing to do. Furthermore, education brings prosperity: one extra year of education raises individual income by 10 per cent.

In times of crises, education provides safety and hope. As a rapidly growing fund with a focus on results, Education Cannot Wait contributes to multilateral efforts to be more responsive and to working together across the humanitarian and development spectrum to achieve lasting impact. As a broker and catalyst for change, this new Fund will be an essential actor in working toward more inclusive and equitable education for all. With the support of Education Cannot Wait’s donors, including the Netherlands, this is happening in places like the Lake Chad region, where 3.5 million children are at risk. That’s more people than the populations of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague combined. To address this issue, the Government of Chad is demonstrating a strong willingness to provide educational support for refugees.

But there simply aren’t enough resources to deal with the influx. To avoid negative cycles of poverty, violence and extremism, the international community needs to come together, in partnership with organizations like Education Cannot Wait, to address this issue. And we must address it not as a series of individual challenges, but as an interlinked problem that requires coordinated responses across the human-development spectrum. This is one of the unique advantages of a global fund such as Education Cannot Wait. They can bring these stakeholders together and foster more agile and integrated approaches to our educational responses to crisis.

How can the New Way of Working, through joint programming and linking humanitarian aid to development, be used to deliver education in crisis and emergencies? And what role can Education Cannot Wait play in linking relief to development in the education sector during protracted crises?

Displaced people are displaced for an average of 17 years, so this is not a short-term challenge. There is an urgent need for humanitarian and development actors to join forces. I value Education Cannot Wait’s role in meeting this need and prioritizing education. By fostering development in humanitarian settings, Education Cannot Wait invests in young people’s values, skills and capacities. Their generation has a crucial role to play in shaping post-crisis societies. That makes them crucial actors in development. Think about the Rohingya children that are living in dire conditions in the refugee camps of Bangladesh. Around 400,000 children here lack access to education and live in dangerous environments where an education can mean the difference between safety and peril, and where sometimes the only food they will get in a day will be at a learning center. With Dutch funding and the contributions of growing group of donors, Education Cannot Wait is working with a multiple partners including UNICEF, UNCHR, UNESCO, Save the Children, Friendship and BRAC to expand learning centers in Bangladesh. This means children will have safe places to learn, play and grow. But we need to go beyond just first response, and the new US$12 million allocation from the Fund that will support 88,500 refugees will be central in efforts to create a long-term resilience programme in Bangladesh.

You are a champion of education – especially education for the world’s most vulnerable children. Can you explain the importance of education to the Dutch development strategy?

Dutch policy takes SDG 4 as a starting point. Not only is education a human right; it should also lead to empowerment. By increasing people’s autonomy and capacity for self-determination, education should provide equal opportunities for all. My policy gives priority to the poorest people and the most marginalized and excluded, including women and girls, young refugees and refugee children. It focuses on appropriate education that includes three sets of interrelated skills: basic numeracy and literacy (foundation skills), life skills (transferable skills), and technical and vocational skills. All three skill sets are necessary for the personal development and empowerment that make it possible to find a decent job and have a decent life. It is important that transferable skills are included in education in humanitarian situations through Education Cannot Wait-financed programmes.

Girls are being supported in Chad with Education Cannot Wait funding. (Devaki Erande/JRS)
Girls are being supported in Chad with Education Cannot Wait funding and the contributions of the Dutch Government. (Devaki Erande/JRS)

As a government minister and former senior UN official, can you share some reflections on education and SDG 4 in achieving the 2030 Agenda for those left furthest behind: refugees, girls and children with disabilities?  How is SDG 4 connected to the other SDGs?

In my opinion, a great injustice is being done to those left furthest behind. I believe that education, decent work and gender equality, particularly for young people, are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.

I would like to congratulate Education Cannot Wait on its strong gender strategy, especially with regard to SDG 5 (to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls). I look forward to seeing this strategy implemented over the upcoming months and years as the Fund brings its initial efforts to scale and expands its reach with both expanded first emergency responses that are responsive to the unique needs of girls, as well as multi-year programming that will empower girls for generations to come. This can only happen by increasing women’s participation in political decision making and leadership, by increasing economic empowerment and improving the economic environment for women and girls, by preventing and eliminating gender-based violence, and by strengthening the role of women in conflict prevention and peace processes.

On the way to school in Chad (Devaki Erande/JRS)
On the way to school in Chad (Devaki Erande/JRS)

Do you have any additional comments?

Because we know that the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved without partnerships, I would like to stress the importance of SDG 17 (to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development). I look forward to seeing even more complementarity and partnership between Education Cannot Wait and other key actors such as the Global Partnership for Education. Only in partnership can we ensure that every child and young person has access to appropriate, quality education by 2030.

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Follow Minister Kaag on Twitter

REVERSING THE CYCLE

IN ETHIOPIA PIONEERING PROGRAMME GIVES ADVANCED EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIPS TO TRAIN REFUGEE TEACHERS

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Poch Jackson Petov has been a refugee all his life. Energetic, determined and fearless, the 25-year-old Poch has created opportunities for himself – seemingly out of nothing. Photo © UNICEF

IN ETHIOPIA PIONEERING PROGRAMME GIVES ADVANCED EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIPS TO TRAIN REFUGEE TEACHERS

We live in a world where millions of people will live their entire lives as refugees. Living in camps, settlements and urban contexts, too often on the edge of society. These victims of conflict and crisis remain caught in a hard-to-fathom cycle of exclusion, despair and socio-economic marginalization.

For children and youth, this negative cycle is only made worse by a lack of continuous, safe and quality education, limited resources, and unqualified teachers.

Ethiopia has a long tradition of welcoming refugees. Currently it hosts Africa’s second largest refugee population and has one of the largest refugee populations in the world. Despite its generosity as a host-country, Ethiopia’s estimated 925,000 refugee population has put a strain on the country’s coping capacity to meet their needs. This is the frontlines of the refugee education crisis in Africa.

Only half of the refugee children living here have access to education. Girls are left further behind, with only 45 per cent attending school. For many of these refugee children, there are no classrooms, no books to read and few qualified teachers.

UNHCR notes that just 50 per cent of Ethiopia’s refugee schools fulfill minimum standards for safe and conducive learning environments.

But this is about to change.

The Government of Ethiopia has taken a strong stance to improve the rights and services enjoyed by refugees in the country. As part of the 2017 Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, Ethiopia has made nine pledges, including to “increase enrollment of refugee children in preschool, primary, secondary and tertiary education, without discrimination and within available resources.”

To support delivery of the response framework, and help Ethiopia achieve its goals of ending poverty and hunger, and ensuring equitable education for all by 2030 as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals, Education Cannot Wait partnered with UNICEF, UNHCR and the Government of Ethiopia to create a far-reaching US$15 million intervention that has already surpassed its goal of providing over 68,000 refugee children with quality education, quality school settings and quality teachers.

Somali refugee children share a meal inside a tent in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. Fleeing drought and famine in their home country, thousands of Somalis have taken up residence across the border in Dollo Ado, where a complex of camps is assisted by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Somali refugee children share a meal inside a tent in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia in 2011. Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

TEACHING THE TEACHERS

One promising achievement coming out of this initial two-year programme is an innovative initiative to provide advanced education to train teachers working in refugee education centers.

Only a minority of those who teach in refugee primary schools in the intervention area are qualified professional teachers holding teaching diplomas. Many of these teachers are refugees themselves. Providing advanced education for these teachers not only improves the quality of education in the camps, but it also provides a real chance to reverse the negative cycle that perpetuates poverty traps and limits opportunities for refugees young and old.  In all, the project targets training for 1,000 teachers and education professionals, of whom 444 will be women.

Poch Jackson Petov has been a refugee all his life. Energetic, determined and fearless, the 25-year-old Poch has created opportunities for himself – seemingly out of nothing.

Poch’s father died in South Sudan before he was born and he was separated from his mother when he was in the second grade. He fled the violence in his home country to seek refuge in Ethiopia. Against all odds, he managed to gain a primary and secondary education and learn Amharic while living in the Sherkole Refugee Camp in Ethiopia.

Community-minded and driven, Poch became a “volunteer teacher” for the camp, making around US$25 a month to teach primary school.

Sudanese refugees Anur, Sami, James and Abdalaziz © UNICEF Ethiopia/ 2018/Amanda Westfall
“I am proud of this programme. It will enable me to improve the knowledge of my community.” – James. Sudanese refugees Anur, Sami, James and Abdalaziz © UNICEF Ethiopia/ 2018/Amanda Westfall

“We had a meeting with school principals. We asked them, ‘Why can’t we get training to improve our skills?’ We are stuck in one position. Then we waited,” said Poch.

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, scholarships were created for Poch and others to attend college. This is a key component of Ethiopia’s focus on inclusion and empowerment for refugees as outlined in the Comprehensive Response Framework to “increase enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education to all qualified refugees without discrimination and within the available resources.” The “full-ride” scholarships include education, room and board, health care, and transport between the refugee camps and the college.

Some 343 refugees are now enrolled in college through the scholarships. The courses are taught in English, and students can study along a variety of tracks from physical education and integrated sciences to math, social science and English.

“Finally, [the opportunity] came and we have a partner to help us continue education,” said Poch.

South Sudanese refugees and current college students, Poch Jackson Petov and Hamid Abdallah Hamad in front of Gilgel-Beles College of Teacher Education. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Amanda Westfall
South Sudanese refugees and current college students, Poch Jackson Petov and Hamid Abdallah Hamad in front of Gilgel-Beles College of Teacher Education. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Amanda Westfall

PROMISING RESULTS

The Education Cannot Wait programme in Ethiopia has already exceeded targets for the number of children reached. Thus far over 82,000 children of the targeted 68,000 have been reached. Girls are often the most vulnerable. Of the targeted 28,000 girls, now over 32,000 have been reached with formal and non-formal education initiatives. Of the 157 classrooms targeted for support with equipment, infrastructure and classroom materials, 73 have been reached thus far, while additional infrastructures are being built.

Sami Balla is another refugee who is receiving training through the programme.

“Now, we can go back with the diploma and say we are teachers and we are professionals! I now have pride to work at the school,” said Sami, who has been a refugee for seven years now.

With their diplomas, Posh, Sami and hundreds more like them will return to the refugee camps to use their new skills to improve the quality of education for their communities. With improved teaching skills, and renewed self-determination, these educators are pioneering a new path for refugees living in Ethiopia – and a bold example for the rest of the world on the value of education.

Learn More

Based on the original story by Amanda Westfall.

 

 

CHILDREN OF HOPE

HALF A MILLION REFUGEE AND HOST-COMMUNITY CHILDREN WILL BENEFIT FROM UGANDA’S EDUCATION RESPONSE FOR REFUGEES.

UNHCR estimates that 4 million refugees worldwide (aged 5 to 17) are not enrolled in school, with 61 per cent attendance in elementary schools and 23 per cent in secondary schools. The Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Migration provide the substantial political backing to enhance educational opportunities and support for refugee children and youth fleeing war, persecution and disasters. Some host countries, such as Uganda, are already making great strides in ensuring quality and inclusive education for refugees. Photo © World Vision
UNHCR estimates that 4 million refugees worldwide (aged 5 to 17) are not enrolled in school, with 61 per cent attendance in elementary schools and 23 per cent in secondary schools. The Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Migration provide the substantial political backing to enhance educational opportunities and support for refugee children and youth fleeing war, persecution and disasters. Some host countries, such as Uganda, are already making great strides in ensuring quality and inclusive education for refugees. Photo Children of Hope in the Imvepi refugee settlement © Jesuit Refugee Service.

HALF A MILLION REFUGEE AND HOST-COMMUNITY CHILDREN WILL BENEFIT FROM UGANDA’S EDUCATION RESPONSE FOR REFUGEES.

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT STEPS UP EFFORTS TO PROTECT CHILDREN AT RISK.

Uganda has received more than a million refugees from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the last two years. War, conflict and drought are pushing families and unaccompanied children to flee neighboring countries. Girls and boys are being pushed to the edge. And their future is at risk.

The Government of Uganda, backed by a broad international coalition including Education Cannot Wait, is stepping up to resolve this crisis, building from immediate first-emergency responses to an innovative multi-year response plan to deliver sustainable results across the scope of humanitarian and development aid efforts.

The progress in Uganda sets an example on how host countries with the support of international aid stakeholders can respond to such refugee crisis at a time when the need for emergency education response worldwide is growing. According to UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people hit a record of 68.5 million in 2017. This means that one person is displaced every two seconds. Of the 19.9 million refugees currently under the protection of the UNHCR, more than half are under the age of 18.

In all some 4 million refugee children are not enrolled in school. That’s about the total populations of New Zealand or Croatia.

Numeracy has improved thanks to the programming. Photo ©Jesuit Refugee Service

LAYING THE GROUNDWORK IN UGANDA

Huge steps have already been taken to create better educational environments for girls, boys, unaccompanied minors and adolescents arriving from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Somalia, among other places.

According to UNHCR, approximately 265,000 school-aged refugee children were enrolled in primary education in Uganda as of the end of 2017.

To reach all the refugee children living in the country, Education Cannot Wait facilitated the development of a 3.5-year Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda, contributing US$11 million in seed funding to support the launch of the plan. The comprehensive plan looks to raise a total of US$389 million in total contributions to reach more than 560,000 refugee and host community children and youth. Girls and children with disabilities will be especially targeted in the response.

 Photo © Jesuit Refugee Service
Juma Mawa is proud to be attending class. Photo © World Vision

PUTTING LEARNERS FIRST

Young children and girls are some of the most vulnerable to migration. Not only does being a refugee take its toll on young bodies, it can also be extremely detrimental for young developing minds, and future educational outcomes.

Thanks to the support delivered in 2017-2018 by a coalition of aid actors including World Vision and UNICEF, with funding from Education Cannot Wait’s initial first emergency response, five-year-old Juma Mawa now attends school at the Hope for the Children Early Childhood Development Center in the Imvepi refugee settlement in Uganda’s Arua District.

“In South Sudan, I was not going to school but when we came here, the school was near and my father brought me here and I joined top class,” said Juma.

Like Juma, thousands of children have been reached with early childhood development program activities, psycho-social support and conducive play environments that are vital for the well-being of children and to help them overcome the trauma of their migration.

“There’s great improvement in children’s ability to identify letters, numbers and write. This has shown great improvement in their numeracy and literacy skills. Through the construction of permanent classrooms, Education Cannot Wait has boosted the ability of the caregivers to adequately plan and deliver their lessons… without having to worry about rain or the sun,” said Lucy Evelyn Atim, the World Vision child protection coordinator in Imvepi refugee settlement.

Around 5,000 children – half of whom are girls – have been enrolled in six Hope for the Children Schools. Two schools in the Odupi host community have also received support.

Photo © Jesuit Refugee Service
Teachers prepare lesson plans in the new building constructed with ECW funds. Photo © Jesuit Refugee Service

PUTTING GIRLS FIRST

Kojo Nancy is a 15-year-old refugee from South Sudan attending school at the Itula Secondary School.

“I first jointed Itula secondary school in February 2018. But there were a lot of challenges. Girls were sleeping in the classrooms, which led to a shortage of classrooms for learning. Girls were bathing in one shelter,” said Kojo Nancy.

With funding from Education Cannot Wait and support from Jesuit Refugee Service, Kojo Nancy and other girls like her now have a two-room dormitory (reserved just for girls), there are separate bathing facilities, a four-room classroom, incinerator and teacher’s quarters. Electricity comes from a solar panel, ensuring the school isn’t just safe for girls, but it’s also green and they can have light to study by.

“All these things they have done will lead to a great improvement in our health and performance. Not only for girls, but for the entire school,” said Kojo Nancy.

VIDEOS

Video features images from UN Photographers and Jesuit Refugee Service.

Video courtesy Jesuit Refugee Service. Jasmine Poni is a refugee from South Sudan. She is finding new chances for safe, reliable education thanks to support from an Education Cannot Wait-financed  project implemented by Jesuit Refugee Service in Uganda. With the construction of classrooms and a dormitory, girls and adolescent girls living here have a new safe space to learn, play and grow.

IN THEIR WORDS

‘EDUCATION IS AT THE HEART OF YOUNG PEOPLE’S FUTURE, THEIR COMMUNITIES AND OUR PLANET’ – SARAH BROWN, CHAIR THEIRWORLD & EXECUTIVE CHAIR, GLOBAL BUSINESS COALITION FOR EDUCATION

GLOBAL EDUCATION ADVOCATE SARAH BROWN EXPLORES PRIORITIES FOR EDUCATION IN CRISIS AND A NEW REPORT ON SAFE SCHOOLS AND LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

Sarah Brown connecting with children in the field. Photo © Theirworld
Sarah Brown connecting with children in the field. Photo © Theirworld

GLOBAL EDUCATION ADVOCATE SARAH BROWN EXPLORES PRIORITIES FOR EDUCATION IN CRISIS AND A NEW REPORT ON SAFE SCHOOLS AND LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

Sarah Brown is a passionate advocate for global education and health issues. One of the true leaders in advocating for improved resource mobilization to reach the 75 million children and youth living in crisis today that need support in accessing safe and reliable education, Sarah’s work brings together the worlds of business, philanthropy, social media and charity campaigning.

She is the Chair of the children’s charity Theirworld and Executive Chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education. At the nexus of humanitarian relief, development and private-sector engagement, Sarah’s work through Theirworld and other charities is paving the way to mobilize more funds for the girls and boys living in the midst of war, conflict and protracted crisis that need immediate and lasting support to ensure no one is left behind in our global efforts to provide inclusive and equitable education for every child on earth by 2030.

Sarah has been a long-time champion for Education Cannot Wait. We caught up with the education luminary to get her perspectives on education in emergencies, lessons learned from the new Theirworld report ‘Safe Schools: The Hidden Crisis,’ the need for partnerships and a number of related topics.

Photo © Theirworld
Photo © Theirworld

Can you tell us why education in emergencies and crisis must be a priority for the international community to advance gender-equality, the SDGs, peace and stability?

SB: Education is at the heart of young people’s future, their communities and our planet – and never more so than for those caught up in crises rarely of their own making.

Theirworld has just completed a eye-opening report on safe schools and learning environments which underscores the scale of the challenge, and highlights exactly what we can do about it. In 2030, one-third of all school age young people will live in countries affected by conflict, humanitarian disaster and violence.  And shockingly, 75 per cent will not have the most basic skills required for employment. That means the vast majority of young people living in emergencies will be left behind and without hope for a brighter future. That is why education in emergencies is so important.

Residents at a Syrian refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley of eastern Lebanon. Photo © UN/Mark Garten
Residents at a Syrian refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley of eastern Lebanon. Photo © UN/Mark Garten

Why was Education Cannot Wait created and how did the Global Business Coalition for Education and Theirworld contribute to make it a reality?

SB: Education Cannot Wait was the positive response to the void in the global architecture of financing for education in emergencies. The history of humanitarian relief has been to act to deliver to short-term needs – food, shelter, emergency medical support – but there was no plan for education. Now that it is the norm for a crisis to last years and not just weeks or months, we need to offer education in emergency situations with a  bridge to the future.

As much as development organizations wanted to help they were unable to work with the speed needed in an emergency — and most are not able to operate in some of the countries where the largest numbers of refugees were living. This means that children were waiting years before education was funded and deprived of all hope.

I remember when Theirworld published a report a few years ago laying out the plan for delivering education to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. We had all of the major actors in the room — but there was no one capable of delivering the plan despite the willingness to help. That became the basis for the Lebanon RACE initiative — which started a new way of working between partners to deliver education in emergencies.

It was immediately clear at that point that we needed to create something to deliver education in emergencies with humanitarian speed and development depth wherever it is required in the world.  We were hearing strong messages from Theirworld’s cohort of Global Youth Ambassadors that this was a top priority — so we put our energy and resources into a campaign to create a new fund specifically for education in emergencies.

At the start, it wasn’t the most popular idea to campaign for (too difficult, too dangerous, too different- the Global Youth Ambassadors heard it all) but today, one million of young people are being given a chance at education because we all came together and stood up for the most marginalized children and youth.

At Theirworld we also wanted to make sure the business community plays its part to deliver free, quality education as a valued partner. So we made a pledge to bring business behind Education Cannot Wait. We helped ensure there was a business representative on the High-Level Steering Group and then really focused on how to make practical use of business assets to solve challenges alongside governments, international organizations and delivery NGOs.

Julie Cram of USAID and Justin van Fleet of the Global Business Coalition for Education, an initiative of Theirworld, are chairing the group which has made significant progress on private-sector engagement in support of Education Cannot Wait — with both practical examples of progress as well as the innovative thinking that seeks out the high-hanging fruit of real, lasting improvements.

Children in Afghanistan schools. Photo © Education Cannot Wait
Children in Afghanistan schools. Photo © Education Cannot Wait

Can you explore why Education Cannot Wait’s model is promising in making a difference on the ground, and the progress thus far.

SB: What I admire about ECW is that it is operationally based on results. I am also astonished (in a good way) on its speed of delivery. It truly lives up to its name: Education Cannot Wait.

Education is a human right and the passion and creativity with which Education Cannot Wait is operating is impressive.  At times, people heads spin a bit because it is such a new way of working — but that is what we need if we are to achieve SDG 4.

The multi-year programs — which are now crowding in funding in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Uganda — are basically replicating and improving on Lebanon’s RACE model in the various emergency contexts and building a bridge to development while protecting development funding.

I could not be prouder of Theirworld’s role in pushing for the innovation for Syrian refugees education in Lebanon, and now seeing this same idea replicated in other parts of the world welcoming in refugees fleeing from conflict and seeking education for the children. We often both say that our organisations are full of ‘next generation actionists’ and these new programmes are the proof of that.

IMG_20180508_084949
Children in Chad. Photo © Devaki Erande/JRS

Please help us explore the importance of partnerships with Education Cannot Wait, including development donors, humanitarian donors as well as the private sector and foundations.

SB: Partnerships lie at the core of all success stories in the humanitarian world – to deliver education in emergences as rapidly and successfully as Education Cannot Wait, partnerships are needed with donors of all kinds from governments to philanthropists to business.

In Theirworld’s new Safe Schools report, we set out three categories to help actors identify interventions that reflect their areas of interest, organisational objectives, and comparative advantages – and they are immediately relevant to Education Cannot Wait:

1. Prioritise safe schools and learning environments in organisational and government policies

2. Invest in safe schools and learning environments by ensuring adequate financing is available and supports best practice

3. Deliver results for children and youth through safe schools and learning environment programming which scales up best practice through direct engagement with affected communities

At the Global Business Coalition for Education, the new REACT platform with private sector and foundations is being developed to map out who can deliver what, where and how fast for education in an emergency. This exists to work with Education Cannot Wait projects and is a great example of partnership in rapid action.

Delivering emergency school supplies with Education Cannot Wait funding. Photo © Devaki Erande/JRS

Any other points and messages you would like to make?

SB: Like all good action plans, this approach to delivering education in emergencies is rooted in the philosophy that only through next-generation partnerships, and working together in non-traditional ways, can we collectively rise to the challenge of creating a greater impact for the next generation and to enable children to reach their full potential. At Theirworld we stand by that, and are privileged when we work with Education Cannot Wait that we find a like-minded partner.

Sarah Brown. Photo © Theirworld
Sarah Brown. Photo © Theirworld

ON THE CONTACT LINE

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT STEPS UP TO HELP CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS IN UKRAINE DEAL WITH THE SCARS OF WAR
Imagine going to a school where every day you hear bombs exploding. Imagine riding your bike to class past thousands of rounds of unexploded ordnance, blown out buildings and land mines.

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT STEPS UP TO HELP CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS IN UKRAINE DEAL WITH THE SCARS OF WAR

The testimonies from children cited in this story were collected by UNICEF and photographer Ashley Gilbertson for the December 2017 story Scars of War, and the May 2018 UNICEF story Schools on the Firing Line.

Imagine going to a school where every day you hear bombs exploding. Imagine riding your bike to class past thousands of rounds of unexploded ordnance, blown out buildings and land mines.

Continue reading “ON THE CONTACT LINE”

OUT OF THE SHADOWS AND INTO THE LIGHT

‘MORE THAN 1 BILLION PEOPLE IN THE WORLD LIVE WITH SOME FORM OF DISABILITY. IN MANY SOCIETIES, PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES OFTEN END UP DISCONNECTED, LIVING IN ISOLATION AND FACING DISCRIMINATION.’ – MESSAGE FROM THE SECRETARY GENERAL ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.

By Aida Orgocka

“If you are a girl, 11 years old, and disabled, you may not as well exist.” It was a blunt comment to my remark that I did not see any disabled children in the schools I visited last week in two refugee settlements in the West Nile region in Uganda.

Worldwide, one in every 10 children has a disability – and the proportion is even higher in areas with armed conflict, protracted crises or disasters. But, unless we ask about them, they are invisible. Cut off from the world, cut off from their education, play and laughter. Children with disabilities are perhaps the least serviced community when it comes to providing inclusive, accessible, reliable and safe access to education for children living in crisis.

Education Cannot Wait is investing to reverse this phenomenon. Making a difference in the lives of disabled children living in crises can be challenging, but it should not stop us from doing it. As part of a global movement to bring education to all vulnerable children living in crises, we are investing in solutions to make a positive change and pull disabled children out of the shadows and into the light.

DISABILITY IS REVERSIBLE

Impairment can be a lot of irreversible issues, congenital, an illness, an injury. But disability is about inaccessible environment, discrimination, poverty, lack of opportunities, all human made. And it can be reversible.

Having said that, the reality of living in a refugee or displacement camp or in the midst of crisis can be harsh. Most disabled children in crises settings live in tough places – rough terrain, no electricity, distance to travel to access water, few ill-equipped schools, limited access to health services. Even healthy children struggle to survive, to access education, to find toys to play with, and to find hope. For girls, it’s even harder. Now imagine being a girl in a wheelchair?

For this girl – and the millions more like her – accessing education is extremely difficult.

Let’s start with the basics. If you are in a wheelchair and live in a displacement camp in Uganda way out in the countryside by the border with South Sudan, just getting to school is a challenge. Most wheelchairs and accessibility devices are ill-equipped for this rough terrain. And wheelchair ramps? Forget about it.

Let’s say, however, that your parents overcome the stigma of having a disabled child and figure out a way to get you to class. From there, you risk facing the brutality, bullying and ridicule of your peers – children can be pretty tough on their peers sometimes, especially if there are no measures in place to address discriminatory attitudes and behaviors.

In one of the refugee settlements in Uganda, some teenage refugee boys from South Sudan suggested we could get them bicycles and they would ride children with disabilities to school. Sure, I thought, great idea.

But they added that they would rather these kids be set apart in different classrooms. They felt that in these already congested classrooms with more than 50 students vying for the teacher’s attention, they would be left out.

This is a real challenge. In fact, teachers in these settings are undertrained, underpaid and ill-equipped to deal with students with disabilities. Sometimes their own knowledge, attitudes and beliefs towards disability are also part of the problem.

We have a problem of stigma, a problem of access, a problem of capacity. So how do we deal with it?

A WHOLE-OF-SYSTEM APPROACH

This is what people call a wicked problem. And the only solution to wicked problems are courageous solutions, not one-off stints. That means a whole-of-system approach.

We can’t just give children souped-up wheelchairs. We have to create behavior change across society, and we have to engage with all the actors across the human-development-education-emergency-response field to create integrated solutions.

Our friends at UNICEF have been working on this problem for a long time. Some solutions are presented in their guidance on Children Living with Disabilities in Humanitarian Crisis.

In order to do this, Education Cannot Wait is investing in programs that mainstream gender equality and equity including disability. We collectively work to make inclusive quality education a reality for disabled children. They cannot be an after-thought.

Inclusive education is a government policy in Uganda. As one colleague remarked deliberate efforts for inclusive education come with a cost but this should not deter us.

In the refugee settlements in Uganda it starts with understanding and creating a culture of inclusion. To push this, teachers (our frontline ambassadors for engagement with children with disabilities living in crisis), need to be sensitized to the value of inclusion, need to be trained on dealing with children with special needs and need to be given the tools they need to address the issue.

Yes, engaging with parents and communities is important, but let’s not forget to make young girls and boys key agents of change. What a wonderful world it would be to see a child biking with a friend with a disability to school and sharing notes as they prepare for school exams!

And how about inviting organizations that provide disability services to sit in the same aid coordination fora with those who specialize in providing education services? They would have so much to say about what inclusive education is and how to help children with disabilities live a normal life.

No matter how we look at the problem, as we connect to reach the Sustainable Development Goals for inclusion, universal access to education and peace, it is certainly clear that we need to take immediate action. One-off responses are no longer enough, we need a collective response to ensure that being in a wheelchair, developmentally challenged or having special needs is not a sealed fate. No girl or boy living in crises should be left behind.

About the Author

Aida Orgocka is the Gender Advisor for Education Cannot Wait.

Photo: Geofrey Arum, Save the Children.
Children in Uganda. Photo: Geofrey Arum, Save the Children.