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.

Opinion: World leaders can and must do more for girls’ education in emergencies

That’s why we’re calling on the U.K. government to build on its leadership to date, including by increasing support for the Education Cannot Wait fund to £75 million ($94.7 million) over three years and supporting the fund to increase the amount it allocates to secondary education.

Multiple crises in neighbouring countries has triggered an influx of 450,000 refugees into Chad over the last several years, critically burdening an already strained education system. Recent analysis indicates ECW investments have already reached over 180,000 children in Chad alone. Photo © Devaki Erande/JRS

By Yasmine Sherif and Stephen Twigg

Originally published on Devex

16-year-old Kwanye’s education came to an end after militants started kidnapping girls from her school. She lives in the Lake Chad Basin, where one of the world’s most severe and underreported humanitarian crises has left 2.2 million people displaced, half of them children. The conflict has already claimed her parents and siblings and left her struggling to survive.

Now she reads her old school books so that she doesn’t forget. “I always thought education would give me a better life,” she said. “I can’t go to school when I can barely afford to eat.”

Right now, around the world, there are 39 million girls, who, like Kwanye, have had their education disrupted as a direct result of humanitarian crisis. Of these, 13 million have been forced out of school completely. That’s the equivalent of three girls for every girl in school in the U.K. — three girls whose full potential may never be realized.

World leaders are starting to listen, but more can be done to tackle this. In 2015, they launched the Sustainable Development Goals, promising that every young person completed a good quality education by 2030. Yet a new report published this week by Plan International UK warns that they are way off-track. At current rates of progress, it will be a further 150 years before the goal is reached. By 2030, 1 in 5 girls in crisis-affected countries still won’t be able to read a simple sentence.

For girls affected by crisis, education is a lifeline — and it mustn’t just be primary but a full 12 years of education. Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable in times of disaster or conflict due to their age and gender. They’re more likely to be married by 18 than to finish school. They’re at greater risk of exploitation, gender-based violence, and early pregnancy. In fact, there’s a two in three chance they won’t even start secondary school.

Education can offer these girls a safe space to learn and develop the skills they need to thrive and contribute to the peaceful recovery of their communities. Secondary education also provides an entry point for girls to access health services including mental health support and information about staying safe during natural disasters.

There are some signs of progress. In 2016, the Education Cannot Wait fund, which delivers life-changing education for girls and boys living in humanitarian crises, was established and continues to receive strong and growing support, including from the U.K. government.

Nevertheless, funding for education in emergencies remains much too low, especially for secondary education. As Plan International UK’s report shows, governments and the international community need to take much bolder action if they are to deliver on their promises.

That’s why we’re calling on the U.K. government to build on its leadership to date, including by increasing support for the Education Cannot Wait fund to £75 million ($94.7 million) over three years and supporting the fund to increase the amount it allocates to secondary education.

However, this is a global challenge and requires a global response. All governments and donors must play their part.

In times of crisis, girls want to be able to go to school. They want to be doctors, pilots, and engineers. They want to rebuild their countries. But too often their dream remains just that.

Right now, millions of girls are being left behind, and without committed political leadership, increased resourcing, and targeted action, their chance for a decent education may be lost forever. We can and must do more. Their right is our obligation.

About the authors

Yasmine Sherif
Yasmine Sherif is the director of Education Cannot Wait, a global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crisis established at the World Humanitarian Summit and hosted by UNICEF. A human rights lawyer with 30 years of experience in international affairs, Yasmine joined the United Nations in 1988 and served in New York, Geneva, and in crisis-affected countries in Africa, Asia, Balkans, and the Middle East.

Stephen Twigg

Stephen Twigg is a Labour MP and chair of the U.K.’s International Development Select Committee. He was previously shadow secretary of state for education and served as a government minister from 2001-2005, first as deputy leader of the House of Commons and later as an education minister.



A frontlines champion for education in emergencies, Maria Alberto is incorporating disaster preparedness into school lessons to help children recover from the devastating cyclones. Photo Manan Kotak/ECW

In Mozambique, communities are reeling from the devastating Cyclones Idai and Kenneth which caused widespread destruction affecting 1.5 million children across the country. In the wake of the disaster, Education Cannot Wait is supporting the swift resumption of education services to ensure children get back to safe and protective learning environments. Teachers are returning to their classrooms with an eye on the future, serving as a beacon of hope for their communities, nurturing young minds and helping them to heal and recover a sense of normalcy in their lives.

By Manan Kotak, Education Specialist at Education Cannot Wait

 “I want to support these children more and more. I want to be able to help the people of our town and the children in need.”

As she sits in her classroom and gets her lesson plan done before the class starts, 42-year-old Maria Alberto talks about her dedication for her pupils and the traumatic experience of the recent disaster.

“I always wanted to be a teacher, I think a teacher is the foundation of a child’s education,” she says.  “We have never seen this type of cyclone before and were not prepared for this disaster.”

The mother of five, whose house was partially destroyed by the cyclone, stresses how this ordeal has transformed her perspective on teaching, community engagement and disaster preparedness.

“After a week, we were still recovering from this loss and I got a message from school headteacher that we had to resume school and all the teachers should come and start teaching.”

Maria Alberto and her family had already lost a lot. But she decided to return to school.

She wasn’t alone in dealing with the stress, anxiety and uncertainty of the disaster. At least nine teachers and more than 100 students in her school had lost their homes to the brute-force winds, rains and floods.

Rather than do nothing, Maria Alberto decided to push her sorrow to the side and work to restore a normal life for herself and for her students.

“Children and individuals need to cope with the current situation,” she says.

As they dug through the rubble and went to returning to normalcy, the sheer devastation of the cyclone hit home. Eight out of 11 classrooms had lost their roofs, and most of the desks and school materials were totally damaged. There wasn’t even a place for children to sit.


Maria Alberto and her colleagues, alongside with school’s headteacher and district education offices mobilized some basic resources and started classes outside. Children resumed their educational paths, and Maria Alberto and her counterparts were able to do what they do best: teach. 

With support from teachers like Maria Alberto, community organizations, the government and non-profits, children are slowly beginning to return to a normal life.

“Once [children] started to regain their confidence – despite the difficult situation – it is now our duty as teachers to help them to take the next steps and bring them back to a normal life and continue their education with bright future prospects,” Maria Alberto says.


“If I were more prepared for this nature of disaster and knew what to do before and during the cyclone, I could have helped more people in my town,” she says.  

Through Education Cannot Wait’s funding to the emergency response in Mozambique – and in other countries affected by the devastating cyclones – teachers like Maria Alberto are receiving training to teach children about disaster preparedness and facilitate the psychosocial support needed to help children recover. Thanks to the Fund’s support, partners on the ground have already begun rehabilitating classrooms, establishing temporary learning spaces, distributing teaching and learning materials, and training local teachers and community members.

To date, Education Cannot Wait has allocated close to US$15 million to support children affected by the cyclones in Mozambique and in the neighboring countries of Malawi and Zimbabwe.





‘Foundations along with both governments and the private sector can play a critical role in achieving the SDGs by sharing information, resources, and capabilities. Therefore, collaboration is key to fulfill the goals; it’s not the sole responsibility of one entity – we should altogether join our efforts for the common good.’ Tariq Al Gurg, CEO Dubai Cares. UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha
‘Foundations along with both governments and the private sector can play a critical role in achieving the SDGs by sharing information, resources, and capabilities. Therefore, collaboration is key to fulfill the goals; it’s not the sole responsibility of one entity – we should altogether join our efforts for the common good.’ Tariq Al Gurg, CEO Dubai Cares. UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha


By Johannes Kiess, Innovative Finance Specialist, Education Cannot Wait

To fill the estimated US$8.5 billion annual gap for education in emergencies that has left millions of children behind, we need to accelerate our work and engagement with a wider range of partners. A key group of partners that possess vast potential, resources and know-how are found in the foundations space.

Education Cannot Wait has engaged with foundations since its inception. Dubai Cares, the foundations’ representative on our governance structures contributed US$6.8 million to ECW so far and was a major force in establishing the Fund. Dubai Cares also is one of the main private funders of education in emergencies.

“The establishment of Education Cannot Wait as a new global fund for education in emergencies allows foundations like us to support a mechanism that enables improved delivery of education to children and young people displaced by conflicts, epidemics and natural disasters through a coordinated and collaborative effort that minimizes transaction costs and maximizes impact,” said Dubai Cares CEO Tariq Al Gurg.


Our new policy brief “Foundations’ Engagement in Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises” outlines that education in emergencies is becoming a priority for an increasing number of foundations. It’s an evolving space, but our analysis indicates a good potential for growth, strengthened coordination and mutually beneficial partnerships.

This isn’t necessarily news. The International Education Funders Group has hosted a group on education in emergencies for some years. This group took significant steps towards a more purposeful collaboration in 2018, and will be essential in any future planning.

We are also seeing a substantial increase in engagement from foundations. In 2017, the MacArthur Foundation awarded a US$100 million grant to Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to educate young children displaced by conflict and persecution in the Middle East. In 2018, the LEGO Foundation awarded US$100 million to Sesame Workshop to bring the power of learning through play to children affected by the Rohingya and Syrian refugee crises.

In our policy brief – prepared with substantive inputs and data from members of the Education in Emergencies subgroup of the International Education Funders Group – we explore strategies to expand and strengthen our engagement with foundations for delivering quality education in emergencies.


  • Education in emergencies is an important theme for several major foundations but not the only focus of their work. We are also witnessing new foundations entering the education in emergencies sector. This increasing engagement may be just the push needed to grow the pool of resources invested on education in emergencies beyond what traditional donors are giving. This engagement is expected to grow modestly with established funders and may increase with some large entrants from foundations previously not involved in the space.
  • Overall, foundation grantmaking to education in emergencies increased slightly between 2008 and 2016, the years for which data was available. Total contributions are estimated to be US$294.5 million over the past 9 years. Graph
  • About 5.4 per cent of all foundation funding to countries in emergencies went to education. This is above the global target of 4 per cent and above the actual proportion of 3.9 per cent of education funding as a share of humanitarian aid in 2017.
  • Foundations gave on average 39 per cent of funding directly to local recipients and not through international organizations. This exceeds the 25 per cent target for humanitarian aid under the Grand Bargain commitment.
  • Compared to official donors, foundations granted relatively more funds to secondary and early childhood education. Other priorities included ‘child educational development’ for children of all ages to foster social, emotional and intellectual growth, educational services, and equal-opportunity education.
  • Foundations’ giving modalities are in line with recent developments in humanitarian finance to provide less earmarked funding, invest in data and evidence-driven programme management, and support broader systems reform and collaboration.


These findings lead to a number of conclusions and recommendations for continued engagement and partnership with the foundations space.

First, while foundations already provide a significant financial contribution to overall humanitarian aid across education levels and for important priorities such as gender equality and equity, the enormous need to mobilize US$8.5 billion annually for education in emergencies requires foundations to rethink the scale and speed of their giving.

Second, foundations increasingly see funding as just one and not the only tool in their toolbox. They sometimes have deep roots in a country that go back well before a crisis started. If the education in emergencies community reaches out to foundations narrowly as just another source of funding, then it is unlikely to engage the foundations to their full potential. Taking this to heart, the education in emergencies community should engage with foundations in a way that shares and builds knowledge, networks and systemic capacity.

Third, closer collaboration, cooperation, and co-financing with other humanitarian and development actors – both non-profit organizations and UN agencies – may lead the way forward to strengthen the role of foundations in contributing to education in emergencies. Engagement in the multilateral funding system can help influence the global agenda.

Fourth, in order to operationalize coordinated financing on the ground, all education in emergency actors should develop and/or review their operating procedures and frameworks. This would enable public-private partnerships between foundations, governments, and multilateral organizations including global funds.

Fifth, going local is key for foundations. Foundations tend to work more directly with local actors than government and multilateral donors, according to the policy brief. This offers a clear value-add to potential partnerships. Foundations could help the wider education in emergencies community to better implement the localization agenda.

Sixth, foundations are a crucial voice in advocating for education in emergencies. They can play an important role in joint advocacy, engaging private sector champions, and lifting the profile of education in emergencies on the global agenda.

Finally, foundations have implemented education innovations – such as socio-emotional learning, development of soft-skills, learning through play, empathy, leadership skills, teamwork, conscientiousness, and creativity – supporting a holistic approach to children’s well-being. These are crucial for addressing some of the challenges faced by children living in crises.

By working more closely with official donors, foundations could share their knowledge, help scale up what works and ensure these programs are available to a much larger number of learners in emergency situations by integrating them into the larger programmes of official donors.

Taken from a 50,000-foot perspective, investing in education in emergencies offers plenty of opportunity for foundations to have real impact. As we step up engagement and convene dialogue and partnership between foundations and key education-in-emergency actors, it’s clear that there is a tremendous amount of growth potential. Only through strengthened collaboration and joining forces towards collective outcomes will we, as a sector, be able to meet the full scope of needs, and ensure every child, everywhere – even the ones most at risk that are living in war zones, conflict and crisis – has the hope, opportunity and protection of a quality education.


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 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. Photo UNICEF/Bangladesh.
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 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. Photo UNICEF/Bangladesh.


Special contribution by Yasmine Sherif, Director Education Cannot Wait to the Commonwealth Education Report 2019

The 75 million children and youth in humanitarian crises have challenged us to make good on our promise to leave no one behind. The Commonwealth is neither immune, nor shies away from this challenge. It is afflicted by emergencies and protracted crises due to conflict and natural disasters. It is also the place where solutions are produced. Countries such as Canada and the UK are the driving force behind the historic 2018 Charlevoix Declaration on the quality of education for girls, adolescent girls and women in developing countries. At Education Cannot Wait (ECW), a global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crisis established by the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, we embrace the ethos of the Declaration and commit to reaching eight million children and youth in crises with quality education by 2021.

Having served for 30 years in some of the most conflict-affected areas in the world and led ECW since 2017, I am convinced that quality education for children and youth in crises is key to unlocking the Agenda for Humanity and the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030. At present, some Commonwealth countries are coping with significant humanitarian challenges. In Uganda, 1.3 million refugees, of whom half are children, are displaced due to conflict in South Sudan and neighbouring countries. Since 2017, Bangladesh has struggled to provide education for over 400,000 Rohingya refugee children and youth. As of early 2018, in Cameroon, more than half of the 3.3 million people in humanitarian need are children. In Nigeria, more than six million people – of whom 45 per cent are under the age of 15 years old – are now displaced due to protracted conflict. In Papua New Guinea, more than 23,000 school children were challenged to stay in schools affected by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake in February 2018. Safety, dignity and the right to thrive are at risk for these children and youth.

While survival requires access to clean water, adequate food, decent shelter and medical attention, survival also depends on education and attainment of human potential. Education is vital for the next generation to move beyond crisis mode and prepare for a productive future. The notion that no children and youth are deprived of learning opportunities because of crisis, is a constant reminder of the kind of future that the Commonwealth aspires to achieve: one of fairness and inclusion that ensures every child has at least 12 years of quality education. Understanding the full spectrum of challenges faced by these children and youth in accessing quality education, and hence their role in building stable and productive societies based on democratic governance, the rule of law and social cohesion is imperative to ECW.

Humanitarian crises do not only create, but also perpetuate inequality and exclusion. Yet, meeting the needs of children and youth in humanitarian crises is often seen as adding to the deficiencies of the education system; many are perceived as burdening the already overcrowded schools and contributing to high student-teacher ratios.  Teaching methods, curriculum and staff may not address the specific challenges these children and youth face, including trauma and loss of sense of purpose and self-worth. Refugee children and youth tend to experience low levels of educational attainment in their country of origin, constant mobility due to repeated displacement, being over age for their grade level and having little hope for upward professional and social mobility due to interrupted education. Girls are more likely to be excluded from education than boys, and few complete secondary education due to a host of barriers. These include, but are not limited to, violence associated with unsafe travel to schools, rape as a means if warfare, schools without sanitation facilities, teachers who demand sex for grades and early marriage. All of these factors represent very real barriers to girls’ education and need to be holistically addressed. This requires analysis that is more specific than disaggregation of data by gender, to include factors such as: age, ethnicity, marriage status, sexual orientation, disability, educational attainment, and time lived in a protracted crisis.

Solutions to reducing vulnerabilities and increasing resilience through education cannot be one dimensional. They require crisis sensitivity and connecting the dots in tackling crisis-induced vulnerabilities and threats. As such, ECW’s approach resonates fully with the approach of the Commonwealth in implementing 12 years of quality education and learning with girls’ education at the forefront. Together, we address the gendered and environmental dynamics of the complex needs of those left furthest behind. We focus on learning outcomes and prioritise gender, protection and disabilities through coordinated joint programming across the human-development nexus. We tap into the expertise and added value of host governments, multiple UN agencies and nongovernmental organisations and strengthen local capacity to respond to education needs. This multi-prong approach allows us to achieve quality education for greater impact, honour the Grand Bargain (an agreement between more than 30 of the biggest donors and aid providers, which aims to get more means into the hands of people in need) and nurture the resilience of those left furthest behind, through collective action.

In the words of a young Rwandan woman, Amelie Fabian, who recently spoke at the 73th UN General Assembly: “When you give us education, you give us power to decide our fate”. Previously a refugee, she completed her primary and secondary education in Malawi, graduated from university and now works in one of the most-renowned business firms in Canada. As her journey of empowerment shows, collectively, we can and must enable the Commonwealth’s children and youth who are coping with crises to attain the future they deserve – by accessing the opportunities we owe them.


May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day, which connects people across the globe ‘To create a world in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence and without shame, where no woman or girl is limited by something as natural and normal as her period.’
May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day, which connects people across the globe ‘To create a world in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence and without shame, where no woman or girl is limited by something as natural and normal as her period.’


Special Contribution by Rachael Corbishley, Save the Children

Imagine being in the middle of your science class and your period starts. There’s no clean water to wash, no proper toilet to use, and you don’t have any pads. Sadly, that’s the reality for many refugee girls in Uganda.

As we call on education leaders, countries and other key partners to take action on Menstrual Hygiene Day, it’s important to remember the specific needs and risks for refugee girls, displaced girls, and girls whose dignity and access to the safety and opportunity of an education are being pushed aside by taboos, misconceptions, and lack of proper training and materials.

Uganda is home to 1.25 million refugees. Inadequate access to clean and safe hygiene facilities, shame and embarrassment while on their period, and lack of sanitary materials are some of the main reasons that adolescent refugee girls give for why they do not attend school regularly here.  Girls across the country do not attain success at primary school at the same rate as boys. In the Primary Leavers’ Exam, a national examination that all children in school sit at the end of Primary 7, boys consistently pass at a higher rate than girls. Education disparities between boys and girls increase as they get older, as is seen in the Accelerated Education Programme (AEP).

The Accelerated Education Programme is an approach funded by Education Cannot Wait and other donors to help children that previously dropped out of school to attain a basic education. It provides age appropriate learning for children aged 10 to 18 that had their education interrupted due to poverty or conflict, and condenses seven years of the Ugandan Primary curriculum into three years. Data from the programme shows that girls are less likely to sit for the Primary Leavers’ Exam in the first place (72 per cent of all learners that sat for the exam across 13 centres in December were boys) and then are less likely to pass when they do sit (48 per cent of girls passed the exam, as opposed to 72 per cent of boys).

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, NGOs in Uganda are working to address these challenges and reverse these trends. Uganda’s Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities includes activities for “menstrual hygiene management” to enable girls to stay in school.


Globally, half a billion women and girls lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management. If those girls and women were to join hands, they would stretch clear around the globe – 10 times!

We need some no-nonsense approaches to ensure universal menstrual dignity – especially for girls living in crisis settings. First, schools need to have appropriate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, but in poor rural environments sometimes this isn’t the case. At a bare minimum,  it is critical that toilets are separate and clearly sign-posted for both boys and girls and male and female teachers; that the doors have locks and are well lit; and that there is a space and clean water for washing and changing, and that there is a means for girls to dispose of sanitary materials.

Next, girls need to have access to suitable sanitary materials. The Education Cannot Wait-funded programme is bringing together a range of different approaches to menstrual hygiene and different partners across Uganda are trialling different methods. One approach is to distribute reusable sanitary materials to girls. The packs often come with soap and knickers to ensure that the user is able to hygienically wash the pads. Another approach is to train girls and their teachers on how to make their own reusable sanitary pads from locally available materials. Menstrual cups are a relatively new approach in northern Uganda, and through this programme girls will be introduced to the cup and trained on its use.

These different options are not mutually exclusive. Girls have the right to be provided with a choice between options and enough information and counselling to make a well-informed choice. Thanks to Education Cannot Wait’s support for these menstrual hygiene management activities, more than 18,000 girls in Uganda will access these rights.


It is really important that we do not just hand out sanitary materials, without accompanying this with training, counselling and guidance. Girls need to understand what is happening to their bodies during menstruation – and why. It is also critical that boys, as well as male teachers and members of school management have a good understanding of menstruation as well as the needs of girls. This programme will train all stakeholders in the school community on menstrual hygiene through information sessions. By bringing boys and men on board, too, this can reduce stigma, embarrassment and shame. Involving the whole community has also then resulted in school management committees taking steps to ensure that sanitary materials are included in school budgets and school improvement plans.

When this all happens it can make a huge difference not just to girls’ attendance and attainment at school, but also their self-confidence and active participation in class.

‘If my period being unexpectedly, I don’t feel nervous or embarrassed anymore. I don’t miss school anymore because of my period. I am now able to attend every day.’ - Mary attends the Accelerated Education Programme supported by Save the Children in the Palorinya refugee settlement. Through the Education Cannot Wait-financed multi-year educational response in Uganda, 18,000 girls like Mary will be provided with the dignity and essential human right of safe menstrual health. Photo: Save the Children
‘If my period being unexpectedly, I don’t feel nervous or embarrassed anymore. I don’t miss school anymore because of my period. I am now able to attend every day.’ – Mary attends the Accelerated Education Programme supported by Save the Children in the Palorinya refugee settlement. Through the Education Cannot Wait-financed multi-year educational response in Uganda, 18,000 girls like Mary will be provided with the dignity and essential human right of safe menstrual health. Photo: Save the Children



Rachel Corbishley is the Education Corsortium Manager for Save the Children in Uganda


Learn more about Global Menstrual Hygiene Day |#MHDAY2019

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Children at one of Save the Children’s temporary learning spaces in Qayyara Airstrip IDP Camp, Iraq © Dario Bosio/DARST/Save the Children
Children at one of Save the Children’s temporary learning spaces in Qayyara Airstrip IDP Camp, Iraq © Dario Bosio/DARST/Save the Children


By Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait, and Leslie Snider, Director MHPSS Collaborative for Children and Families

‘Suicide bombs, landmines, unexploded ordinance, air strikes and other forms of explosives account for three quarters of child deaths and injuries across the world’s deadliest war zones.’

Humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises currently affect millions of children around the world with serious consequences for their ability to learn, grow and develop. 420 million children – nearly one-fifth of children worldwide – are living in a conflict zone. Children are especially vulnerable in conflict situations, because a child’s experiences during the earliest years of life have a lasting impact on their physical and mental development.

Save the Children’s new research shows just how much bombs and explosives in the world’s worst war zones are hurting children both mentally, as well as physically. Suicide bombs, landmines, unexploded ordinance, air strikes and other forms of explosives account for three quarters of child deaths and injuries across the world’s deadliest war zones. Our research shows how children are uniquely injured and impacted by explosive weapons compared to adults, and that children exposed to explosive weapons are at increased risk of long-term physical and psychosocial disabilities and mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and agoraphobia.

For children in conflict, the combination of exposure to bombs and explosive weapons, grave violations of their human rights and chronic adversity, insecurity and deprivation can lead to ‘toxic stress.’ Furthermore, many children impacted by conflict do not have access to the protective environment of schools and to quality education. As a result, conflict imposes yet another significant cost on future generations and severely undermines the potential for peaceful, prosperous societies.


Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for children in conflict is essential to overcome the impact of toxic stress and gives children the chance to develop to their full potential. Integrating MHPSS programming into the existing structures that support and protect children, such as educational systems, is essential to ensure children can access opportunities for healing, recovery and learning at larger scale. Education, delivered in safe, nurturing environments, is critically protective for children in conflict, and has the potential to support their healing and recovery.


However, the huge need borne from protracted crises and mass displacement are not being matched with funding and support to ensure the inclusion of MHPSS services

An 8-year-old refugee from Afrin in Syria now living in Iraq. Despite huge needs, mental health services for children affected by conflict are very limited, with just one psychologist per one million people in Iraq. © Panos/Save the Children, 2018
An 8-year-old refugee from Afrin in Syria now living in Iraq. Despite huge needs, mental health services for children affected by conflict are very limited, with just one psychologist per one million people in Iraq. © Panos/Save the Children, 2018

in emergency responses. Mental health care treatment gaps are greater than 90 per cent in the least resourced countries, and for child and family MHPSS, there is a lack of targeted, evidence-based programmes, workforce capacity and sustained funding.


The MHPSS Collaborative for Children and Families, hosted by Save the Children, serves as a global platform for research, practice, learning and advocacy, that aims to build meaningful partnerships to address the critical MHPSS needs of children and families in fragile contexts at scale. Education Cannot Wait has partnered with the Collaborative in order to support the Global Education Cluster and other interagency partners to mainstream evidence-based, contextualized MHPSS into education in emergency programmes – closing the critical gap in treatment and providing safe and healing learning environments for the millions of children affected by conflict.


There are practical actions all countries can take to provide the help that children affected by conflict need to make a full recovery. This must include ensuring there is the mental health support on the ground to help children recover both in the immediate aftermath, and through the crucial months afterwards.

Education Cannot Wait, together with the MHPSS Collaborative and its partners, are calling on governments, donors, private sector companies, philanthropic foundations and global leaders to support efforts to increase the provision and quality of MHPSS via education in emergencies with US$50 million in dedicated financing to be channeled through Education Cannot Wait over three years through 2021. Immediate additional funding for MHPSS services will ensure the development and demonstration of the UNICEF and WHO MHPSS ‘Minimum Service Package ‘ within education, and also support the implementation of the package in five Education Cannot Wait Multi-Year Resilience Programme countries between now and 2021.

The MHPSS Minimum Service Package will build capacity across the education sector to deliver lifesaving MHPSS for an estimated 9 million children by 2021, and ensure educational systems are effectively linked to health, protection and social services, ensuring a critical safety net for children and their caregivers. For the millions of children around the world exposed to bombs, explosive weapons, conflict, insecurity, and toxic stress, this support is urgently needed to ensure their learning and wellbeing.

For more information, read the full briefing Healing And Recovery Through Education In Emergencies

www.stopwaronchildren.org | #STOPTHEWARONCHILDREN



Photo Aida Orgocka/ ECW
Refugee Children from South Sudan in Ethiopia. Photo Aida Orgocka/ ECW


By Aida Orgocka

“If I was not educated, I would be one of the people that would cause problems for South Sudan now,” says Victor Dut Chol, the Director of Research Policy Development and Sustainable Development Goals/Peace Education Focal Point in the Ministry of Education of South Sudan.

I met Victor in Juba during my last field mission to South Sudan where Education Cannot Wait is supporting the development of a multi-year programme aiming to provide education to the country’s most vulnerable children and youth.

Victor is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Like many of the boys who fled the violence of the civil war in the ’80s and trekked enormous distances to find safety in Ethiopia, the capital and other places, Victor doesn’t actually know how old he is. Birth registration is very low in South Sudan, and only about half of children are registered at birth.

But Victor never gave up. He pursued education with tenacity throughout his journey as a person uprooted by violence, from Ethiopia, to Kenya and then to the United States of America. Having graduated with a Master’s in Public Administration, he is now back in South Sudan because he believes it is his time to give back. He is part of the Task Team that will put together the Multi-Year Resilience Programme led by the Government of South Sudan.

South Sudan is one of the six countries where the Fund will invest in such programmes in 2019 – bringing ongoing Multi-Year Resilience Programmes supported by Education Cannot Wait to a total of 11 countries by the end of the year. Designed to strengthen linkages between emergency response and longer-term strengthening of education systems, these programmes bring together a wide range of international, national and local stakeholders to deliver quality education to the most marginalized girls and boys.

Photo Aida Orgocka/ ECW
7 out of 10 children are out of school in South Sudan. Protection of Civilian site outside Juba. Photo Aida Orgocka/ ECW


More than 2.2 million school-aged children in South Sudan have been dropped out of school due to the continuous conflict. This is one of the highest rates in the world. In some areas, girls make up to 75 per cent of the children outside the education system. The gender gap widens with age, according to the Global Initiative On Out Of School Children report (May 2018). While 10.6 per cent of boys were in secondary school at age 16, this was the case for only 1.3 per cent of 16-year-old girls.

Victor fears that if education is not provided for these children, they will grow up thinking like he did when he was out of school, that people of tribes other than the Dinka were out there to harm him. Without the opportunity an education provides, Victor believes these children would choose taking up arms instead of making windows, chairs and benches for classrooms, or pursuing other productive activities to build the social and economic fabric of the young nation.

We need to prepare the next generation of workers in South Sudan – and across the globe in countries affected by disaster, emergency and protracted crisis. As outlined in Education Cannot Wait’s Case for Investment, 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.

Education is the key.

South Sudan cannot be self-sufficient if it does not have its own educated workforce. It all starts with having an opportunity to go to school and stay in school. For girls, meeting the education challenge means lifting socio-cultural barriers including eliminating child marriage and sexual violence, and building the confidence, knowledge and power needed to take their place in economic and social life. For boys, the alternative would be a future of joining armed groups or being victimized during cattle raids. For the nation, realizing the education imperative means the hope of peace, the hope of security, and the hope of reducing poverty and hunger South Sudan signed up for, along with 193 countries, when it committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Photo Aida Orgocka/ ECW
These boys are lucky to have basic services at the Protection of Civilian site outside Juba. In all 30 per cent of schools in South Sudan are damaged, destroyed or occupied. Photo Aida Orgocka/ ECW


How difficult can it be to keep children in school? Parents in South Sudan are selling cows to bring children to school because they are realizing the importance of an educated child.

Anyone who knows the country would say this is a huge investment. Cows symbolize income generation, status and the promise of a family life in a context where communities exhausted by conflict are saying: “This is enough.”

But even when the desire is there, there are no schools, and when there are schools, they lack trained teachers.

At a Protection of Civilians site outside of Juba, one teacher told us that while “back to school campaigns” try to increase enrollment numbers of girls and boys in school, what’s also really needed is a “back to teach campaign.”

Above all, women teachers should be recruited and trained. These women educators will serve as role models for girls like Vicky in Hossana Primary School who told me she wants to be a pilot.

Having worked in the field of education in emergencies for some time now, I sometimes get impatient with ideas that evolve around building more schools and training more teachers.

Haven’t we done enough? No, we haven’t.

In South Sudan when you see a poster that reads “You should never try to hit your friends with a metal or big stick,” you wonder why in the first place you would hit a friend.

As one of the countries that endorsed the Safe School Declaration, South Sudan places a lot of faith in schools and teachers to be the entryway to peace. As Victor puts it “we cannot afford to fight now and get educated later.”

Aida Orgocka is the Gender Specialist at Education Cannot Wait. She visited South Sudan March 24-31, 2019 with Michael Corlin, Education Cannot Wait Senior Advisor as part of the Fund’s support to the development of a Multi-Year Resilience Programme to be launched this year.

Photo Aida Orgocka/ ECW
The largest group of out-of-school children in South Sudan are girls. Poverty, child marriage and cultural and religious views all hinder girls’ education, according to UNICEF. Protection of Civilian site outside Juba. Photo Aida Orgocka/ ECW