ECW is marking World Mental Health Day by re-affirming our commitment that mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) is and will continue to be a vital component of every country investment ECW funds. Without addressing the mental health and wellbeing of girls, boys, adolescents and teachers in crisis contexts the international community falls short on its commitment to provide meaningful and relevant education to the world’s most vulnerable children. ECW and other key partners, including the Inter-Agency network of Education in Emergencies (INEE) and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), are leading the charge in ensuring that mental health is finally given prominent focus in humanitarian and education responses.

To advance this agenda, ECW is proud to announce 3 new MHPSS-related global-level partnerships that have formed in the past 3 months.

COVID-19 presented a challenge to the EiE sector like one we have not seen before.  Immediately at the onset, IASC’s MHPSS Reference Group, co hosted by IFRC’s PS Centre and WHO, rapidly produced MHPSS COVID-19 guidance documents, programmes, trainings and communities of practice to ensure MHPSS was included in the response to school closures. ECW reached out to IACS’s co-chair, IFRC’s PS Centre, in order to join other donors to fund this life-saving work, and is proud to have engaged in a formal partnership in July 2020.

Teacher Wellbeing (TWB) and teachers’ mental health is a topic that has long been neglected. As of August 2020, ECW is funding INEE’s psychosocial support and social emotional learning (PSS/SEL) and Teachers in Crisis Contexts (TICC) Collaboratives to continue their ground-breaking work on TWB and, together with INEE members, create a practical toolkit so education teams can put concrete interventions in place to better support teachers in displacement, conflict and natural disaster contexts.

In order for the ECW Secretariat’s technical team to continue providing country teams evidence-informed guidance and research on best practice approaches to MHPSS in EiE, ECW entered into a Letter of agreement with Columbia University’s Protection and Care (CPC) Learning Network in September 2020. This agreement enables CPC and ECW to collaborate on MHPSS in EiE research to inform the technical support ECW provides to partners in the field.

Along with these new partnerships, the ECW Secretariat has published its first ever MHPSS Technical Guidance Note, to walk grantees through developing MHPSS aspects of FER and MYRP proposals. Along with that, a MHPSS in EiEPC Theory of Change and Indicator Library was also crafted to encourage grantees to use structured, goal-oriented, evidence-informed MHPSS interventions, tailored and targeted to meet the unique MHPSS needs of the most marginalized groups.

Through these new initiatives, and ensuring MHPSS is part and parcel of education– ECW and partners are believe we are helping tap into and unleashing the unlimited potential of girls, boys and adolescents in forced displacement, armed conflict and natural disaster settings.


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world, jeopardizing the education of 1.18 billion learners in 191 countries, some are even more severely affected than others. These are the 75 million children and young people, including 39 million girls, already marginalized by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters – and whose numbers continue to increase.

By Yasmine Sherif, Director, ECW, and Coalition Education

Available in French

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world, jeopardizing the education of 1.18 billion learners in 191 countries, some are even more severely affected than others. These are the 75 million children and young people, including 39 million girls, already marginalized by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters – and whose numbers continue to increase.

Beyond endangering the continuity of education, closing schools increases the risk of abuse and exploitation, including child labor, forced marriage and gender-based violence. It is also likely to have serious psychosocial consequences for children, especially the most vulnerable, including girls and the disabled. Today, the future of an entire generation is in question.

Faced with a challenge of such magnitude, only joint mobilization and a coordinated response can make a difference. Education Cannot Wait has therefore responded to the crisis within the framework of the humanitarian appeal of the United Nations and has participated since the beginning of the crisis in the global coordination group for education led by UNESCO. But to succeed, all actors, including governments and civil society organizations, must come together in a spirit of humanity and multilateralism to mobilize the financial resources required to provide a future to 75 million children and youth left behind.

ECW commends the work of Coalition Education, a coalition of French organizations defending the right to education, which recently published a report on French aid to education. This report highlights the central role of education for peace and development, especially in crisis contexts. Quality education is today more than ever the central vector for accelerating development, strengthening the protection of human rights and enabling the current generation to live a life of dignity, productivity and opportunity.

France was one of ECW’s first partners and shares with ECW a strong commitment to education and gender equality. France’s support to education issues in the global South is essential, both in response to COVID-19, but also for strengthening education systems in the longer term. France’s leadership and influence are even more important in contexts of crisis and fragility where education already suffers from a lack of visibility and investment.

Thanks to the support of France, ECW has piloted in partnership with UNESCO and the Lebanese Ministry of Education innovative learning solutions to respond to COVID-19 to improve access to education for vulnerable children, including refugee and displaced girls and boys, in Lebanon. But we must go further. Education, already underfunded in emergency and protracted crisis contexts, risks being further undermined by the COVID-19 crisis, as development and humanitarian funding may decrease due to economic recession. It needs not be like that if we chose to focus on our hope, rather than our fears.

Some regions are also more vulnerable than others. As highlighted by the report published by Coalition education, the Sahel region and more generally sub-Saharan Africa have a very large number of children and young people out of school, and for these children, access to a protective learning environment means hope for a better future. These regions are at the heart of ECW’s investments, with more than 16 million USD already invested in the Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger) in 2019, and an additional 15 million USD planned for 2020.

Education Cannot Wait looks to France as a great strategic partner to help the collective efforts to succeed in delivering education to children and youth in Chad, Central African Republic, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, just to mention a few countries in urgent need. More broadly, ECW aims to raise $ 1.8 billion by 2021 to reach 9 million children and youth in crisis-affected countries. Maintaining the right to education is essential to prevent crises, fight poverty, and reduce inequality. It is the foundation for sustainable development. Without education, there will be no foundation.

Provided that we all come together to reach the 75 million children and youth left furthest behind in conflicts and forced displacement – now doubly affected by COVID-19 – it is not impossible to transform their lives and that of the world. In any case, we must make the impossible possible.


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many different issues across societies, while further exacerbating disparity and inequity by driving millions of already vulnerable people even further to the margins. Nowhere is this more evident than the Greek Islands where thousands upon thousands of refugee children are forgotten – and downright ignored – by the international community.

Photo © Theirworld

By Justin van Fleet, President, Theirworld & Executive Director, Global Business Coalition for Education

While it may be a different summer than most – with precautions in place to stave off the coronavirus pandemic – Greece is opening up for tourists.  Starting on 15 June, travel restrictions were lifted and tourists were able to begin going to their favorite islands to soak up the sun.  While this is a good thing for the Greek economy, it underscores an even deeper crisis of humanity: disparity and inequity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many different issues across societies, while further exacerbating disparity and inequity by driving millions of already vulnerable people even further to the margins.  Nowhere is this more evident than the Greek Islands where thousands upon thousands of refugee children are forgotten – and downright ignored – by the international community.

Unlike tourists getting ready to visit, over 42,000 refugees did not travel to Greece on chartered flights or ferries.  Instead, they were forced by circumstance to make a dangerous trip across the Mediterranean Sea, in many cases fleeing violence and risking drowning and death in hope of a better future.  Instead, many have found themselves in what can only be described as a ‘hell on earth’ confined to overcrowded camps in the Greek Aegean islands, their point of entry to Europe.

When I visited the Moria Camp in Greece last year with Theirworld’s Chair, Sarah Brown, Education Cannot Wait’s Director Yasmine Sherif and the People Postcode Lottery Country Director Annemiek Hoogenboom, I was horrified by the conditions. What was intended to be a temporary shelter for 2,500 refugees is now one such ‘hell on earth’ for nearly 20,000 people – the many of them children and unaccompanied minors.  Open sewage, no running water, lack of tents or proper shelters and reports of violence against women and adolescents.  These were just some of the things we heard and saw.

In humanitarian crises, children are the most vulnerable group – and education is often the first institutional victim – further exacerbating their vulnerability.  For the 31,000 refugee children in Greece, and about 10,000 on the Islands where less than 15% have any access to education –this is certainly the case. Creating school spaces for 10,000 children doesn’t require rocket science.  Neither is integrating the additional refugee children on the mainland into the education system. Many countries have done so against far greater odds (e.g. Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, for instance, who have done so with millions (not thousands), of refugees.

With political will and sufficient financing, doing so is a relatively easy and cost-effective process – with many successful examples from around the world having proved this already, offering excellent guidance and lessons to learn from.  Research conducted across regions have proven without doubt that the benefits of doing so far outweigh any possible burden to society. In fact, investing in education is one of the soundest investments with the highest rate of return that any government can make, under virtually any situation.

The right to education – particularly for children in refugee contexts  –  is essential for a young child to develop, thrive and reach their full potential. It is also a humanitarian obligation recognized in the 1951 Refugee Convention, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and is enshrined in the humanitarian priorities stemming from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.

Photo © Theirworld

So why have too many have failed to listen?

The recently appointed European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, has stated that one of his top priorities is to support people in need as quickly as possible, with full respect of the humanitarian principles. And within the EU, there is an opportunity to quickly achieve this objective for vulnerable refugee children. The humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and operational independence boil down to the following: protecting and respecting individuals; prioritizing the most urgent cases of distress; making no distinctions based on nationality; and, taking timely action independent from political, economic or other objectives.

And it’s with the spirit of humanitarian principles that the Dutch Postcode Lottery and Theirworld have joined forces for these refugee children.  What I love about Education Cannot Wait is that it brings together diverse partners for a common purpose. In the absence of public funding, Theirworld  –  in partnership with the Dutch Postcode Lottery and Education Cannot Wait – – works alongside UNICEF, UNHCR and local NGOS to help thousands of these children realize their fundamental human right to education. By doing so, they are able to benefit from a sense of normalcy, learning and playing with their friends, and simply having a childhood with all the hope and dreams that come with it.

Our recent Theirworld report highlights a three-point action plan to effectively deliver refugee education in Greece:

  1. Mobilize an immediate €20 million in urgent financial support for 2020–2022, providing a scale up of education over two years.
  2. Cultivate international support for a comprehensive refugee education plan across Greece.
  3. Invest in the region and tackle the refugee problem closer to home.

Once again, the Dutch Postcode Lottery has stepped up to the plate so that existing education centres do not shut down this month. Their new, generous and urgently needed contribution will bridge the divide between in-person and remote learning opportunities, aiming to reach about 20,000 children with formal and distance learning, as well as in non-formal education centres adjusted to COVID-19 measures.  It will prepare education centres with preventative measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19 upon reopening.  This will include hygiene and medical items.

Photo © Theirworld

But for this to be a true public-private partnership, it’s time for governments to step and do their part.

It has never been acceptable to hide, ignore or conveniently forget child and youth refugees in need of humanitarian assistance in Europe. We must work together now to provide them with the most basic, but important, humanitarian rights, including their inherent right to education, while the broader politics are sorted out.

Why? It is good for children, who can learn, grow, develop their skills to be prepared as productive members of society.  It is good for Greece, as increased funding will support Greek organizations and teachers, creating more jobs and fostering better relations between host and refugee communities. And it is good for Europe to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe within its borders which can be addressed with the right investment and commitment.

So, while many Europeans and other tourist begin to travel to Greece this week on holidays, let us not only remember to respect the dignity thousands of refugee children on the Islands, let us also take collective action to give them the education support they desperately need.

About the Author

Justin van Fleet is​ the President of the global children’s charity Theirworld and Executive Director of the Global Business Coalition for Education.

Coordinating Education in Crises

We are delighted to announce the launch of the Overseas Development Institute’s (ODI) suite of reports on strengthening coordinated education planning and response among humanitarians, and with development actors. Independently researched and produced by ODI, the reports were commissioned in partnership by the Global Education Cluster (GEC), the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, with funding from the Education Cannot Wait global fund for education in emergencies (ECW).

Education is a powerful tool and a source of hope for children and youth affected by humanitarian emergencies, providing knowledge, skills, and competencies for a better future. Yet over 75 million children currently have their education disrupted by humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises – a situation further compounded by the current COVID-19 pandemic. With this in mind, generous support from ECW enabled the GEC, INEE and UNHCR to come together to strengthen joint planning, coordination and response, with the ultimate goal of supporting the education of children and youth living in emergencies and protracted crises contexts.

ODI was commissioned to undertake independent research to develop this evidence base, comprising of an analytical framework, 6 country case studies covering Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Bangladesh, Chad and Syria, and a synthesis report which outlines recommendations for action from key stakeholders and actors across diverse contexts.

Read the full suite of reports here (English only):


Individual reports can be downloaded at the following links:


Earlier this year, Norwegian Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein and ECW Director Yasmine Sherif met in Geneva to discuss ECW’s results achieved and our priorities for 2020 and beyond; a great way to kick off the Decade of Action.

Earlier this year, Norwegian Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein and ECW Director Yasmine Sherif met in Geneva to discuss ECW’s results achieved and our priorities for 2020 and beyond; a great way to kick off the Decade of Action.

With a total contribution of US$80.3 million, Norway is ECW’s second largest donor, after the United Kingdom. Norway has also helped generate additional political and financial support for education in emergencies and protracted crises, not only by setting an example (Norway devotes more than 8 per cent of its humanitarian aid funding to education), but also by earnestly advocating for more support to, and engagement with, ECW from other donors and partners.

Indeed, Minister Ulstein has been a staunch supporter of ECW ever since he took office in early 2019, assuming a key role on education in emergencies and protracted crises from the day he became responsible for Norad, Norec and Norfund – and the better part of Norway’s aid portfolio.

For Norway, supporting ECW is not only about trying to reach the foundational Sustainable Development Goal, SDG4 – inclusive, quality education – and by doing so, helping to achieve all the other SDGs as well. Moreover, it is closely linked to Norway’s efforts to meet other humanitarian needs as part of a rights- and resilience-based approach. After all, schooling not only gives children and youth the skills and knowledge they need to rebuild their society once a conflict, natural disaster or crisis is over, it also offers them the crucial protection and a much-needed sense of normalcy they need to survive and cope during abnormal, chaotic and often traumatic situations.

As such, the meeting provided an excellent opportunity to discuss and agree upon ECW’s priorities for 2020 and beyond. By the end of 2019, ECW had reached nearly 2 million children and youth through the different formal and non-formal emergency education programmes it supports. Although almost half of them were girls (49%), ECW aims to further increase its investments in girls’ education to help close the gap in access to education during conflict and crisis. Similarly, ECW wants to ensure a much stronger focus on the identification of and services for children with disabilities.

Moving forward, ECW will continue to increase attention and delivery of education in emergency responses to refugee and IDP contexts. Taking the Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda as a model, ECW is committed to facilitating and investing in similar multi-year resilience programmes so that refugee and other forcibly-displaced children and youth – as well as children and youth from affected host communities – have access to quality education.

The meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss how Norway can help generate even greater political and financial support for education in emergencies and protracted crises: in addition to kindly agreeing to host the next meeting of ECW’s Executive Committee in Oslo, Minister Ulstein welcomed the idea of jointly organizing a symposium in Geneva later this year with other strategic partners. Moreover, Minister Ulstein and Ms Sherif discussed the possibility of organising a dedicated EiEPC (Education in Emergencies & Protracted Crises) event in the context of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2020.

Photo Gallery
Education Cannot Wait Director, Yasmine Sherif and Norway International Development Minister, Dag Inge Ulstein, mission to Mali.



This partnership looks beyond getting children back in school, focusing on learning, child development and well-being. Ethiopia will be one of the pilot countries for the partnership. Photo UNICEF Ethiopia.

Education Cannot Wait and Porticus announce new partnership focused on measuring holistic learning outcomes for children and youth caught in protracted crises and emergencies

27 February 2020, New York – To improve learning outcomes for girls and boys caught in emergencies and protracted crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is now partnering with the global philanthropic organization Porticus to develop, test and document fit-for-purpose solutions towards measuring the learning of children in crises-affected countries.

The pilot programme will be implemented in three countries between 2020 and 2022, as  part of ECW’s Acceleration Facility. Bangladesh and Ethiopia are shortlisted, and a third country is in the process of being selected.

“There is a growing global movement to address the pressing needs of the 75 million children and youth caught in crises who do not have consistent access to a quality education. This partnership looks beyond getting children back in school, focusing on learning, child development and well-being. This includes the measurement of progress in academic learning, but equally gives attention to psycho-social, as well as social and emotional domains of learning and development. With this focus on measurement we can better understand whether and how children being exposed to multiple risks and adversities can develop the academic, social and emotional skills and competencies needed to achieve their full potential. The results of measurement can inform concrete program design, as well as policy,” said Gerhard Pulfer, Porticus representative for Education in Displacement.

Porticus’ goal in the field of Education in Emergencies is to “to promote a transition towards holistic, quality education for displaced learners and host communities.” According to Pulfer, Porticus seeks education systems for displaced children that take responsibility for learning outcomes, and that encompass both academic and social and emotional learning.

Holistic Approaches

Learning is different and vastly more complex for children and youth caught in crises and emergencies, including armed conflict, forced displacement and climate-change induced disasters. Stress, trauma, fear and anxiety make it hard for them to concentrate in school and learn. Of greater concern, too many girls and boys are simply left behind and excluded from the hope, opportunity and protection that a quality learning environment provides.

To address these challenges, ECW supports Multi-Year Resilience Programmes (MYRPs) that use a ‘whole-of-child’ approach to deliver quality education to children and youth affected by emergencies and protracted crises.  These MYRPs focus on increasing access, teaching capacity, conducive school environments, more relevant curricula, tailored learning material, physical and emotional safety, as well as other aspects related to school feeding, and water and sanitation in schools.

Together with its partners – including host governments, United Nations agencies, public and private donors, civil society organizations and non-profits – ECW has launched MYRPs in 10 crisis-affected countries to date and plans to expand its support to a total 25 countries by 2021.

The new partnership between Porticus and ECW will measure the effect of these initiatives and provide a better understanding of what is working and is not working for children caught in emergencies and protracted crises to learn.

To do so, the partnership will take a holistic approach to measure learning outcomes, looking beyond academic achievements in literacy and numeracy to also include aspects of social-emotional learning. The social-emotional aspect is often overlooked in stable settings and requires specific attention for children affected by conflict. These skills include self-awareness, emotional regulation and respect for others, as well as interpersonal skills such as listening and conflict resolution. They also include skills such as critical and creative thinking, goal setting, study skills, teamwork and time management.

“Every child and young person have a right and need to enjoy an education that is holistic and addresses the full spectrum of developmental needs. The fact that they are caught in war zones, forced displacement or natural disasters does not remove their right to a quality education. On the contrary, a quality education is the only hope and viable solution left,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “As we supercharge ideas to create solutions as part of the UN’s Decade of Action, we must  improve our evidence base and adjust approaches accordingly. This is part of our global promise to leave no one behind, and to ensure not just universal and equitable access to an education, but also universal and equitable access to a quality education.”

Partnerships for the Future

Porticus and ECW will work in close collaboration with in-country partners as well as global actors to ensure broad exposure, inclusive feedback and close collaboration as the partnership is implemented. Lessons learned through the partnership will be shared across a broad group of relevant stakeholders.

To kickstart the partnership, Porticus is granting EUR1 million (approximately US$1.1 million) to ECW. ECW will co-fund this valuable partnership with a US$500,000 investment.

As the partnership develops, both Porticus and ECW intend to broaden and grow the collaboration, to mainstream and accelerate best practices and help ensure children and youth caught in crises benefit from improved learning outcomes.

Bangladesh, where ECW supports a multi-year resilience programme for Rohingya refugees and host communities, is also targeted as part for the partnership. Photo UNICEF.


Refugee children in Ethiopia. Photo ECW
View original on World Education Blog

16 December 2019 – The first Global Refugee Forum, which kicks off in Geneva today, comes at the end of a tumultuous decade in which the number of refugees has risen to more than 26 million people worldwide.

Having fled their homes in search of protection, the vast majority of refugees – some 85 per cent – live in the world’s poorest countries. As a result, many struggle to access essential services in their new homes.

Access to education is a case in point. More than half the world’s refugees are children, and some 3.7 million of them have not only lost their homes but their opportunity to go to school.

As a result of discrimination, exclusion and a lack of funding, refugee children are five times less likely to attend school than other children in the countries to which their families have fled. Only 61 percent attend primary school, 22 percent have access to secondary school and just 1 percent benefit from higher education. Refugee girls are out of school at higher rates than boys.

Education is a top priority for refugees

These circumstances stand in stark contrast to the priority that refugees themselves place on education. ‘Education against the odds’, the largest analysis of what children say they need during humanitarian emergencies, revealed that children affected by crises are more than twice as likely to rank going to school as their top concern over other needs.

They and members of their communities know that education transforms lives, paving the way to better work, health and livelihoods. Moreover, in times of crisis, education can play a life-saving and life-sustaining role. It is a building block of recovery, resilience and long-term development.

Responsibility must be shared

Countries that receive and host refugees and include them in their national education systems, often for extended periods, make an immense contribution from their own limited resources to both the collective good and to the rights and dignity of refugees. However, despite the tremendous generosity of host countries, the gap between the needs and the resources available to meet these needs, including for education, continues to grow.

Guided by the Global Compact on Refugees, the first Global Refugee Forum provides an opportunity to address this challenge and translate the central principle of international responsibility-sharing into concrete action.

As three multilateral organizations committed to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all, we recognize the urgent need for more and better financial resources to ensure that countries hosting refugees can deliver the promise of quality learning opportunities made in the Global Compact.

Promising developments

We are, separately and jointly, already responding to the immense challenge the global refugee crisis presents to host country education systems.

As the largest financier of education programmes in the world, the World Bank continues to finance refugee and host country support operations through both IBRD and IDA financing supporting the integration of refugee education into the education of the host community while strengthening the overall education system of the host country, ensuring displaced children and youth can access inclusive and safe schools, and learn the necessary skills and competencies to thrive in their communities and beyond.

Education Cannot Wait was established to turn around the historically low levels of humanitarian funding for education and is pioneering new approaches to close the funding gaps for education in emergency contexts including Multi-Year Resilience Programmes.

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) works in nearly 70 developing countries to ensure that all children have access to a quality education.  In refugee-hosting countries, GPE mobilizes financing and provides technical support to build resilient, effective education systems so that all children have the opportunity to learn. Currently, GPE is providing $1.1 billion in grants to support quality education in more than 20 countries where refugees have access to national schools.  

Through its accelerated funding mechanism, the partnership also provides rapid funding for education in crises. In mid-December 2019, the GPE Board made a major commitment to scale up this mechanism, unlocking up to $250 million over the next two years in funding for countries facing crises.

Delivering more and better by working together

We recognize that there are also opportunities for our organizations, working together, to provide more effective, efficient and aligned support. At the Global Refugee Forum today we will pledge to improve the coordination and financing of our efforts.

We will support governments and country-level partners to coordinate and align the planning, financing, and delivery of education assistance to refugees and their host communities.

We are committed to publishing a strategy outlining how this commitment will be operationalized next year and to reviewing our efforts annually and publishing an overview of progress detailing where, when and how we have worked together. We pledge to report on these efforts at the second Global Refugee Forum in 2023.

But international organizations working better together will not on their own deliver on the promise of the Global Compact on Refugees to ensure that host-country national education systems provide access to education for all refugees.

More funding still required

The international community needs to mobilize additional funding to respond to the refugee crisis, especially for education. Between now and 2021 an additional $1 billion in funding must be secured to meet Education Cannot Wait’s agreed goals to support 8.9 million children caught up in crises.

The World Bank continues to support refugee education. The active World Bank education portfolio in fragile settings and refugee hosting countries is $5.65 billion, out of which $4.54 billion is IDA (International Development Association – one of the largest sources of concessional  funding to eliminate extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries.) An additional $2.6 billion in operations are under preparation and expected over the next year.

As the world’s largest fund for education in developing countries, the Global Partnership for Education’s forthcoming replenishment will be a further test of the donor community’s commitment to supporting education in the world’s most needy countries. Since its last replenishment in 2018, GPE has raised $2.6 billion in international finance and leveraged $30 billion in domestic financing to support education for the world’s most marginalized children. However there is still an enormous financing need. GPE’s next replenishment, in mid-2021, will be crucial to ensure continued support for inclusive, quality education, including for refugees and host communities.

Despite commitments by some donors, such as the European Union which now spends 10 percent of its humanitarian funding on education, the global figure still stands at just 2 percent. The poor cousin of an underfunded and overstretched humanitarian system, education urgently needs more support.

Progress is possible

We all share a collective obligation to the 3.7 million refugee children who are not in school. They are not responsible for the conflict that has driven them out of their respective countries. And they have a legal right to an education – a right that doesn’t end in times of emergency.

We are confident that it is possible to provide a quality education to every refugee child and we are committed to supporting countries hosting refugees in securing the necessary financing to do so.

On the occasion of the Global Refugee Forum we urge countries to support the world’s refugees and the countries which host them in committing to do everything we can to deliver the commitments to education in the Global Compact on Refugees.



Forced to Flee. Displaced with a Dream. Time for Action.

This blog was originally published in our newsletter and on IPSNews

Maicao, Colombia: 12-year-old Genesis had to flee Venezuela. She now attends an ECW-funded school in Colombia and dreams of becoming a lawyer to ‘resolve problems’

Genesis smiles and holds her hand up proudly to answer questions in class. She claps her hands in support of her classmates when they answer the teachers’ questions correctly. “I miss my cousins and aunts in Venezuela, she says.” Her smile fades and her lips tighten. She struggles to hold back her tears. “I can’t return. I want to stay here in my school, with my new friends.” Her smile returns, as she resolutely states: “I want to become a lawyer, so I can help solve problems.” 
Genesis is too serious for her 12 years of age. Like millions of displaced children, she suffers from being uprooted and she dreams of solving problems that no one that young should ever experience. Genesis is at a crossroads. We can ensure she takes the road of a continued quality education that offers her a pathway towards achieving her dream. Without our support, she will be forced the other way, risking to succumb to the very problems she wants to resolve: conflict, violence and abject poverty.
Genesis is one of the millions of forcibly displaced children around the globe. She attends class at the ‘Centro Etnoeducativa Indigena’ school in Maicao, in northern Colombia. The school is supported by World Vision through Education Cannot Wait’s First Emergency Response investment implemented by Save the Children, PLAN, IRC and World Vision. As we leave Genesis, we are acutely aware of the urgent need for funding to allow her to continue her education. Education Cannot Wait’s US$7 million emergency support to the region – without which Genesis would not have gone to school – will come to an end in June 2020.
The urgency for continued funding prompted ECW, UNICEF, Save the Children and INEE to conduct a joint mission to Colombia and Ecuador. These are two of the countries at the heart of the Venezuelan regional crisis, which is projected to be the world’s largest forced displacement crisis in 2020 – exceeding the Syrian crisis. The mission concluded that Education Cannot Wait must seek to extend its support through a multi-year investment for quality education. Today, the ECW Executive Committee approved this recommendation. Now, ECW and partners have to mobilize the resources. 

The Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan for 2020 calls for US$1.35 billion, of which US$57.1 million (4 per cent of the total appeal) is required to deliver quality education to 244,000 children, only 17 per cent of the actual number of children in need. Yet, how do we mobilize this amount for one crisis for one year, alone? And how do we explain a failure to respond to those minimum requirements to Genesis?
Globally, a total of 68.5 million people are forcibly displaced, of whom over half are children in need of an adequate education. Of this number, 25.9 million are refugees, including some 13 million children. The majority of refugee children struggle with disrupted or poor education, 75 per cent of adolescents do not attend secondary school and 3.7 million refugee children are completely out-of-school.
Beyond the Venezuelan regional crisis, forcible displacement continues to grow in the Sahel region of Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and Ethiopia, just to mention a few. In the Arab region, despite representing just 5 per cent of the global population, the Arab states account for 32 per cent of the global refugee population and 38 per cent of the internally displaced global population.
In the same vein, the number of people across the globe who need humanitarian assistance is rapidly escalating with a total of 168 million people (of whom over half are children). The total financial requirements for one year alone amount to nearly US$29 billion, according to the just launched Global Humanitarian Overview 2020.
168 million people on our globe are dependent on humanitarian aid! How is this possible in the 21st century? What have we done to our world? What are we leaving to the next generation as our legacy? It is time to act. If not now, when?
In two weeks, the world will gather in Geneva for the Global Refugee Forum. Will this be an opportunity to turn the tide, at least for the millions of refugee children and youth forced to flee, yet holding on to a dream?  Let us hope that the Global Refugee Forum becomes a turning point for action. That leaders see things from afar and within, and recognize the relation between themselves, those in need and universal values.
These are values grounded in international law and manifested in political will to action. Because in resolving problems of human suffering in the face of conflict and forced displacement one has to translate values into action. This means comprehensive action matched by financing to produce sustainable outcomes.
Together with our partners in the United Nations, host-governments, strategic donors, civil society and private sector, Education Cannot Wait has just reached close to 2 million girls and boys. Another 7 million children and youth must be reached by 2021.  In Uganda, the government just announced that the Education Cannot Wait investment in the Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities for South Sudanese refugees is a success-story. Still, another $80 million will be required in 2020 for Uganda alone to prevent disruption of this positive model.

Indeed, much more needs to be done. To deliver on the Education Cannot Wait target of quality education to 9 million children and youth in forced displacement and protracted crisis by 2021, US$1.8 billion is required
Is it possible? Yes, provided that we are driven by the same intense desire as Genesis: that all we want to do is to solve problems, alleviate human suffering and empower the next generation.
The Global Refugee Forum may be the test.

Yasmine Sherif
Education Cannot Wait

In the Arab region, education cannot wait

View the orginal article on the global media platform openDemocracy.

Teacher Samah Sawaf with her students at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan


New Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report published by UNESCO shows forced displacement holding back a generation of learners across the Arab region.

Yasmine Sherif
3 December 2019

Hassan is 16 years old. He fled Syria five years ago with nothing but a school bag on his back. For the last two years he hasn’t stepped foot in a classroom. Since the age of 14 he has been working to support his mother and three little sisters.

I met Hassan earlier this year. His positive spirit made a deep imprint and continues to inspire me. He hopes that soon he will re-join school and dreams of becoming an architect. He is one of millions of children forced to flee their homes across the Arab region, yearning to return to school, reclaim their dignity and realize their dreams.

According to the GEM Report, Migration, displacement and education: Arab States, published in November, there is no place on earth affected by migration and displacement to the same extent as the Arab States.

Despite representing just 5% of the global population, the Arab states account for 32% of the global refugee population and 38% of people displaced within their own borders.

Forced displacement on this scale has had a devastating impact on education and the trends revealed in UNESCO’s report are deeply concerning. They paint the picture of a region lagging globally, one that has seen the pace of education development stymied by decades of conflict and crisis.

For a region draped in so much history, innovation and discovery, it is heart breaking to read these figures.

Providing quality education to all young people is not just a human right, it is an investment in the social fabric of a country. It is the vehicle by which crisis-affected children and youth shape their identity and discover their potential.

If the ‘Arab Spring’ and years that followed have taught us one thing, it is that young people across the Arab region need to be reminded of where they come from, their history and culture, and its contribution to today’s civilization. They need to be given an opportunity to understand their true identity, rebuild their lives and contribute to their societies. This can only be done through quality education.

Evidence has shown that if the upper secondary school enrolment rate is 10% higher than the average, the risk of war in a country drops by 3%. Today’s report shows the Arab region is doing just the opposite: the upper secondary enrolment rate for the region has fallen 5% against the global average.

If governments are serious about addressing the root causes of forced displacement, this trend must be reversed. Adolescent girls and boys have the potential to drive the change the region needs, but they won’t if they are denied their right to learn, discover and develop.

Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent every year on national security in the Arab region, but only a fraction of that on education. The GEM report makes a compelling case for why governments, donors and the private sector must step up their political and financial support for education. Time has come to make responsible choices for a whole generation of children and youth in a region which once gave so much to our own education elsewhere in the world, be it in math, medicine, astronomy or the arts.

Another worrying trend that stood out as I read the report was the scale of internal displacement and its impact on education systems. The crisis in Syria often invokes images of dangerous Mediterranean crossings and refugees in the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

It often surprises people to know that there are just as many Syrians displaced within Syria as there are internationally. 36% of the Syrian population is internally displaced.

In Yemen, it’s 8%. Iraq, Palestine and Sudan have all seen at least 5% of the population displaced internally, as a result of ongoing conflicts.

In the north of Syria, where 60% of the country’s 6 million internally displaced people reside, 1 in 3 schools are unusable because of the war, children are in desperate need of psychosocial support and teachers are often not paid because of breakdowns in local administration.

In Sudan, where conflict over the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states has persisted for many years, internally displaced communities are forced to construct and reconstruct temporary learning spaces on an annual basis. One in five schools are unusable and there are far too few teachers.

The GEM report calls on donors to ‘link their short-term humanitarian response with long-term development system-strengthening interventions’. At Education Cannot Wait, this speaks to the core of our mission.

Our unique approach working with, not through, governments, means we respond where governments are either unable or unwilling to deliver. This allows Education Cannot Wait to apply humanitarian speed, while also investing in capacity development in supporting the governments to become able. In doing so, ECW also aligns its investments with broader system strengthening interventions.

In Yemen, a country split in two by the ongoing war, a $14 million ECW investment is rebuilding schools, providing learning materials to 31,000 children and allowing almost 1.3 million children to sit their annual exams.

Over the years I have travelled widely across the Arab region. Despite the challenges I’ve witnessed, one thing always stays with me: hope. They give me hope and I try to return it by reminding them of who they are.

Because their identity is not the dirt and the mud under their temporary tent in the Bekaa Valley. Their identity is not to stand in line for food all day in the reception centre in Moria. Their identity is not the violence and injustices wrought upon them by the wars in the region.

Rather, their identity dwells in a history of ground-breaking science and breath-taking art. Their identity is rooted in knowledge and contribution to new discoveries in medicine, culture and philosophy.

Only through education can they reclaim that identity. Only then can they fully tap into their resilience and transform into a force of productivity, innovation and service. For their sake and for the sake of all of us, their education cannot wait.