Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today a US$1 million grant to ensure refugee children and youth arriving from the Central African Republic receive access to quality learning in Cameroon.

UNHCR will implement new grant in partnership with Government of Cameroon and other key stakeholders to respond to spike in children and youth arriving from Central African Republic

French Version

5 May 2021, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today a US$1 million grant to ensure refugee children and youth arriving from the Central African Republic receive access to quality learning in Cameroon.

Recent estimates indicate that approximately 6,700 refugees (over half of whom are children) from the Central African Republic (CAR) have fled into Cameroon following violence around the December 2020 election. With newly arrived refugees entering Cameroon through various entry points, there is an essential need to identify and document non-registered refugee girls and boys to ensure they can enroll in government-run schools.

School attendance among CAR refugee children has increased in Cameroon over the past years – from 40 per cent in 2014 in primary education to 46 per cent in 2020. Nevertheless, the number of girls going to school has not significantly increased due to socio-cultural barriers. Disability and poverty also keep too many children out of school.

Implemented by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in partnership with the Government of Cameroon, the 12-month ECW-financed first emergency response will provide over 6,000 refugee children and youth (including 3,500 girls, 2,400 boys and 250 children with disabilities), with access to safe learning environments. Over 1,000 host community children and youth will benefit from the new investment.

“The Government of Cameroon is stepping up efforts to bring these refugee girls and boys into the national education system. With expanded international support, we can help ensure no girl or boy is left behind. We urge world leaders, donors and the private sector to join our movement to support vulnerable children and youth in Cameroon and beyond. Education Cannot Wait urgently appeals to donors for US$400 million so we can deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and leverage the power of education to build a more peaceful, more prosperous world,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations’ global fund for education in emergencies.

“When refugee girls and boys have access to education, they can contribute meaningfully tomorrow to the society in which they live and to peace between nations. As UNHCR Representative in Cameroon, I want to believe that giving access to education to all refugee children is not a utopia but a possible and realistic dream. Education Cannot Wait’s support contributes to making this dream true,” said Olivier Guillaume Beer, UNHCR Representative in Cameroon.

The new investment will build 10 new classrooms in the village of Nandoungue, where a sizeable number of newly arrived refugees is expected to be transferred. Water and sanitation facilities will be upgraded to ensure girls and boys are able to wash hands and prevent the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. Learning materials, hygiene kits and other school materials will also be provided through the new grant.

To get refugee girls and boys into the classroom, the investment will deploy a mobile registration team to identify, register and provide documentation to all CAR refugee children.

With a lack of qualified teachers, the grant provides incentives to recruit and retain new teachers. Teachers will be trained to provide recently arrived refugees, unaccompanied children and survivors of gender-based violence with the psychosocial support they need to learn, grow and thrive.

The response builds on ECW investments in both Cameroon and the Central African Republic. In May 2020, ECW approved a US$1.5 million COVID-19 education in emergencies response in Cameroon. The ongoing investment reaches 3.9 million children and youth. Approximately 900,000 children and youth benefit from an ECW-financed multi-year resilience programme in CAR.


Approximately 100 million children are out of school in the Middle East and North Africa as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts and protracted crises. To provide these girls and boys with the mental health and psychosocial support they need to deal with the trauma and stress of these multiplying crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today US$250,000 in new funding to support the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Better Learning Programme in the Middle East.

New $250,000 ECW Acceleration Facility grant will enhance Norwegian Refugee Council’s Better Learning Programme

4 May 2021, New York – Approximately 100 million children are out of school in the Middle East and North Africa as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts and protracted crises. To provide these girls and boys with the mental health and psychosocial support they need to deal with the trauma and stress of these multiplying crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today US$250,000 in new funding to support the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Better Learning Programme in the Middle East.

The nine-month ECW Acceleration Facility grant will provide school-based mental health and psychosocial support, strengthen regional capacity to integrate the Better Learning Programme into education programming, advocate for enhanced mental health services for children, and ensure the Better Learning Programme is available as a public good that can be taken to scale and replicated across education in emergency projects.

“Many girls and boys in the Middle East have lived through unspeakable traumas. They have hidden in basements during bombings, been forced to flee their homes, or lost loved ones. For these children and youth, education represents a safe place to learn, grow and thrive,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations’ global fund for education in emergencies. “With this new grant, we are accelerating our work to provide whole-of-child solutions that include access to education, access to remote learning tools during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and access to the mental health and psychosocial support these children need to recover from these terrifying traumas and grow up to be productive members of society.”

The Norwegian Refugee Council’s Better Learning Programme focuses on improving learning capacity by integrating techniques for coping with stress and adversity into daily teaching and learning. This encourages a natural recovery for children and youth who are struggling to recover from the impacts of violence, displacement and the disruptions to regular school routines caused by the COVID-19 school shutdowns. Evidence-based multi-layered approaches provide targeted psychosocial support in the classroom and through small-group interventions for academic under-achievers. The programme also provides specialized services for children experiencing nightmares, a chronic symptom of severe stress.

In the region, ECW supports education in emergency responses in Iraq, Lebanon, the State of Palestine and Syria, providing children with protective learning environments along with the psychosocial and mental health support they need to cope with stress and adversity.

A recent Norwegian Refugee Council investigation indicates that the fear of COVID-19 is leading to an alarming rise in stress levels amongst refugee and displaced children in the Middle East. Without reliable access to the internet or other remote learning tools, many of these children have spent months now without access to the safety and consistency that quality learning environments provide.

“Children who were once forced to flee hunger, bombs and bullets, now face an epidemic of fear caused by the global coronavirus. With no end to the outbreak in sight, toxic stress poses a major health threat to the Middle East’s most vulnerable children. This poses a significant threat to the future prospects for this generation of learners, who will enter adulthood without the necessary cognitive and social-emotional skills to meaningfully participate in society, perpetuating cycles of violence, displacement, poverty and hunger,” said Camilla Lodi, Regional Psychosocial Support Advisor at the Norwegian Refugee Council.

About NRC

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is an independent humanitarian organisation helping people forced to flee.

We work in crises across 31 countries, providing emergency
and long-term assistance to millions of people every year. We stand up for people forced to flee, advocating their rights. NORCAP, our expert deployment capacity, supports the UN and other authorities in crises. NRC also runs the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Geneva, a global leader in reporting on and advocating for people displaced within their own country.

Additional information available at:


Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today a new US$1 million grant that will provide some 7,800 Central African Republic (CAR) refugee children and youth fleeing violence in CAR, and children in host communities welcoming them in Chad, with the safety, protection and opportunities of quality learning environments.

Implemented in partnership with the Government of Chad and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the ECW first emergency response will enhance protection and learning opportunities for 7,800 refugee and host community children and youth

French Version

3 May 2021, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today a new US$1 million grant that will provide some 7,800 Central African Republic (CAR) refugee children and youth fleeing violence in CAR, and children in host communities welcoming them in Chad, with the safety, protection and opportunities of quality learning environments.

Violence associated with the December 2020 elections in CAR has forcibly displaced over 200,000 people within and outside of the country, including another 2,000 who recently fled into Chad. Out of the 117,000 CAR refugees who fled their country in the wake of the post-electoral violence to neighboring countries, Chad currently hosts close to 11,000. This brings the total number of refugees from the Central African Republic in Chad to close to 105,000 persons.

Among the newly arrived refugees registered by UNHCR in Chad, more than 3,000 school-aged children have been settled in two refugee camps and three host villages. An additional 4,000 refugee children and youth were already living in the refugee camps in the host villages of Beakoro, Don and Bekan, in the South Province of Chad.

“Innocent children and youth are fleeing unspeakable horrors. We hear reports of pillaging, extortion and other violent acts at the hands of rebel groups. Families must flee in the night, wading through rivers with few personal belongings. Their situation poses severe protection issues for girls and boys. Without the safety that quality learning environments provide, girls are at risk of sexual exploitation, early child marriage, child labor; boys are at risk of recruitment by armed groups. Many of these children and adolescents have never even had the chance to attend school. They are the ones left furthest behind,”  said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies. “We must act together with urgency: their education cannot wait. I urge world leaders to step up to fund the education in emergency response in CAR, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon and other countries impacted by this ongoing crisis.”

Implemented by UNHCR in partnership with the Government of Chad and the NGOs ACRA (Associazione di Cooperazione Rurale in Africa e America Latina) and ADES (L’Agence de Développement Economique et Social). ECW’s 12-month first emergency response $1 million grant focuses on: ensuring access and continuity of education; improving educational infrastructure with the rehabilitation and building of new classrooms; and community mobilization to get vulnerable children back to the protection of safe learning environments. To ensure access to and continuity of education for newly arrived refugees, the strategy specifically aims to support all new refugees with accelerated remedial classes, with targeted interventions for girls and children with disabilities.

“Education is nothing less than a life-saver for crisis-affected boys and girls. The opportunity to continue going to school not only protects children in the present emergency, but also gives them a hope to change their life in the future. Only education can do the magic of transforming lives,” said UNHCR Chad Representative, Papa Kysma Sylla. “These Education Cannot Wait funds will enable UNHCR to support the Chadian Government in providing quality education to the Central African Republic refugees and to the host communities welcoming them in the south of Chad.”

The ECW investment targets a total of 7,790 children including 3,871 girls, refugee and host community children as well as 600 out-of-school girls. The preschool level includes 600 children, the primary level includes 5,212 children, and lower and upper secondary levels include 1,978 children. A total of 2,364 host-community children, including 1,120 girls, will benefit from the ECW-financed activities.

The Government of Chad has committed to offering refugee children the right to access the national education system through its 2030 Refugee Education Strategy for Chad. While refugee camp schools are integrated into the official Chadian educational system, the intervention remains insufficient to respond to the needs of the local host population and the increasing refugee community. The Government of Chad has also endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration in July 2015, which outlines commitments to strengthen the protection of education during armed conflict.

The COVID-19 pandemic further affected access to education in the past year. Schools were closed from March 2020 to October 2020, and less than a quarter of children have returned to schools. The grant builds on existing ECW investments in Chad. In 2020, the Fund announced US$21 million funding in support of Chad’s multi-year resilience programme. An additional US$1 million grant was allocated in April 2020 for COVID-19 education in emergency. A further US$30 million is still required to fully fund the programme, which is designed to reach a total of 230,000 crisis-affected girls and boys.

The new funding is part of ECW’s regional response to the crisis in CAR, which includes newly announced funding for DRC, as well as a multi-year resilience programme in the Central African Republic, which will reach an estimated 900,000 children in the next three years.


Education Cannot Wait (ECW) Director Yasmine Sherif today called on world leaders to urgently support the children and youth in desperate need of education support in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), affected by new emergencies and multiple protracted crisis.

ECW Director Yasmine Sherif visits the Modale ‘Settlement of Hope’ with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

4.7 million refugee, displaced and host community children and youth in urgent need of educational support

French Version

23 April 2021, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) Director Yasmine Sherif today called on world leaders to urgently support the children and youth in desperate need of education support in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), affected by new emergencies and multiple protracted crisis.

An additional US$45.3 million is required to reach 200,000 children and youth impacted by the large-scale, complex and protracted crisis in the DRC through Education Cannot Wait’s multi-year resilience programme. The programme was launched with US$22.2 million in catalytic seed funding from ECW in December 2020, and is delivered by UNICEF as grantee, through a joint programme with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UN agencies and civil society organizations.

Sherif, the Director of ECW – the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies – made the appeal after meeting this week with senior government officials of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, key donors, UN agencies, and international and National NGOs in Kinshasa and visiting refugees from the Central African Republic in a settlement located 30 kms outside of Yakoma, Nord-Ubangi province, DRC.

“We can no longer turn a blind eye to this crisis and away from those left furthest behind. We have a global responsibility, moral imperative and commitments to honour before those suffering the most in this world. We urgently call on donors, the private sector and other partners to mobilize an additional US$45.3 million to reach 200,000 children and youth impacted by this crisis in DRC by 2023,” said Sherif. “The world must respond to this pressing crisis of profound human suffering. Girls face significant risks of child marriage, early pregnancy and sexual gender-based violence. Many children may never return to school, be forced to find work, join armed groups and pushed even further to the margins, of no return,” said Sherif. “Education provides these children and youth with learning, safety and protection, it provides them with hope to arise from the ashes of human misery and create a better future.”

Children and youth face significant protection risks in this escalating humanitarian and long-standing development crisis. According to recent estimates by local authorities, over 90,000 refugees have arrived in the DRC since the December 2020 presidential elections in neighboring Central African Republic, which displaced nearly a third of the country’s population.  This has occurred on top of ongoing crises in other parts of the country, such as in the provinces of Ituri, Tanganyika and Kasai Central. Throughout the country, the impact of COVID-19 and epidemics such as Ebola and cholera have been disastrous. School closures have resulted in at least six months of missed learning.

Education Cannot Wait and global partners have responded to the escalating humanitarian crisis in the DRC and neighboring countries with a number of education emergency investments in addition to the triple-nexus multi-year resilience programme delivered by UNICEF and partners.

An additional US$3.8 million has been allocated for ECW’s COVID-19 education in emergency response, and an ongoing multi-year resilience programme in the Central African Republic will reach an estimated 900,000 children in the next three years.

During this week’s visit, Sherif and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, announced an additional US$2 million ECW first emergency response grant to provide educational support for the influx of refugees.

Despite these ongoing support and efforts by all partners in DRC, funding is a major obstacle to ensure the right to a quality education for the children and adolescents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Education Cannot Wait Director Yasmine Sherif and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi announced today a US$2 million emergency education grant in response to the rapidly-escalating humanitarian crisis in the border region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).

New emergency grant will provide learning opportunities for refugee and host community girls and boys in DRC settlements near the border of both countries

Available in French

21 April 2021, Modale Village, Nord-Ubangi Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo – Education Cannot Wait Director Yasmine Sherif and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi announced today a US$2 million emergency education grant in response to the rapidly-escalating humanitarian crisis in the border region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Local authorities estimate that more than 90,000 people have fled from CAR into DRC since December 2020 after elections kicked off a new round of violence and mass displacement in the Central African Republic, including those who have fled to the Modale refugee site, located 30 kms from Yakoma, DRC.

“These refugee girls, boys and their families have faced horrible violence and insecurity. Thousands have walked for weeks and hid in the forests desperately seeking safety. Many have witnessed and experienced violence and soul-shattering trauma,” said ECW Director Yasmine Sherif following today’s visit to Modale. “They urgently need our support. We call on donors to urgently fund the remaining US$4 million gap for the education component of UNHCR’s response in this forgotten crisis. These girls and boys are the ones left furthest behind. We must provide them now with the safety and hope of quality education so they can survive and build a better future.”

“We have an urgent, shared responsibility to ensure that refugee children and youth are able to access quality education, delivered in a safe environment, at the earliest point possible during a crisis. We commend Education Cannot Wait for their commitment to providing targeted investments to support the response to the CAR crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including strengthening the national education system for the inclusion of refugee learners in a way which also benefits host community children and youth,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

This new, 12-month ECW ‘first emergency response’ grant of US$2 million will support UNHCR’s education response to the crisis, helping to ensure access to quality education for crisis-affected children and adolescents impacted by these forced displacements. The investment will be delivered by UNHCR in partnership with the Government of DRC and with local organizations such as AIRD (African Initiatives for Relief and Development) and ADSSEE.

The emergency response grant builds on ongoing support from ECW, UNHCR, United Nations agencies and global donors in DRC and neighboring countries. In December 2020, ECW announced a US$22.2 million catalytic grant to reach over 200,000 children and youth in DRC. An additional US$3.8 million has been allocated for ECW’s COVID-19 education in emergency response, and an ongoing multi-year resilience programme in the Central African Republic will reach an estimated 900,000 children in the next three years. In the education component of its humanitarian appeal, UNHCR is calling for US$7.8 million for its ongoing education programme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today US$1 million in emergency education grant financing to benefit 20,000 children and youth impacted by the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

UNICEF will implement first emergency response grant in coordination with the Government of Ethiopia, Save the Children, and local civil society

19 April 2021, New York/Addis Ababa – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today US$1 million in emergency education grant financing to benefit 20,000 children and youth impacted by the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

The 12-month grant will be implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education, Save the Children and local civil society, and responds to the  risks posed by displacement, violence, COVID-19 and other factors that are pushing families from their homes and children out of school.

The new investment targets 2,000 pre-primary, 12,000 primary and 6,000 secondary school learners, as well as 250 teaching personnel. Overall, 52 per cent of beneficiaries are girls and 10 per cent are children with disabilities.

Across Ethiopia over 2.3 million children require education assistance, according to the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for the country. In Tigray and the bordering regions, recent analysis indicates approximately 1.4 million girls and boys are being deprived of their right to an education. Approximately 2,500 schools have been closed due to violence in Tigray. Many schools are now being used to house displaced families. The COVID-19 pandemic had already made matters even worse, pushing over 26 million learners out of school for more than 9 months across the country.

“Without the safety and protection of continued education during the crisis, girls face increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence, early pregnancies, child marriage and other atrocities. Boys are exposed to being recruited into armed groups and some are forced into child labour. Without immediate support, they risk never returning to school, and their future will be lost,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in emergencies.

“The Education Cannot Wait investment in the future of our children in Tigray is welcomed as we work to bring children back to school. The Ethiopian Government has already invested more than US$3 million for the rehabilitation of school infrastructures that have been damaged since 4 November 2020. Education must be protected in all its forms to enable children to learn in a safe and protective environment since it is an important means of promoting tolerance and conflict resolution. The additional financing by ECW is a great addition for the restoration of schools in the region,” said H.E. Getahun Mekuria (DR.-ING.), Minister of Education, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

“Children in most of Ethiopia have returned to school following COVID-19 restrictions – but not the 1.4 million school children in Tigray and bordering woredas (districts). This funding from Education Cannot Wait will be key in restoring and continuing the education of the children of Tigray,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative in Ethiopia, Michele Servadei. “UNICEF, along with Save the Children, will continue to work with the Ministry of Education and local education partners and stakeholders to provide protective learning environments and inclusive quality education to girls and boys.”

“Schools in Tigray have not been functional since the start of the conflict in November 2020, just one month after most schools re-opened across Ethiopia. Despite the challenges to reopen schools safely, first responder partners are continuously engaging with the Regional Education Bureau and the different clusters to expedite the process. It is key to train school principals and teachers, and work with the Relocation Task Team under the Shelter Cluster to relocate displaced families from schools that they currently live in,” said Ekin Ogutogullari, Country Director for Save the Children in Ethiopia.

The investment will improve equitable access to learning opportunities in a safe, protective and gender-sensitive environment, increase school and community engagement, build and rehabilitate temporary learning spaces, train teachers to address the unique psychosocial needs of girls and boys displaced by violence, and strengthen education services and coordination across the multiple agencies and partners responding to this crisis. Teachers and students will also benefit from improved access to water and sanitation facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The current funding builds on the impact of ECW’s US$27 million catalytic investment for Ethiopia’s multi-year resilience programme, and a US$15 million grant that helped raise the primary gross enrolment ratio for refugee children from 62 per cent in 2018 to 67 per cent in 2019. Across the border in South Sudan, ECW and partners are responding to the needs of refugees with a US$2 million investment announced in January 2021 and a multi-year resilience programme.

A large funding gap still exists to support ECW’s multi-year resilience investments in both Ethiopia and South Sudan.

“We are calling on world leaders to urgently and fully fund our global investments for children and youth impacted by the converging crises of climate change, conflict and COVID-19. With US$400 million in additional resources, we can ensure that we leave no one behind in their most difficult time of crisis and can instead restore hope,” Sherif added.


Nujeen Mustafa is a Syrian refugee, youth advocate and champion for children with disabilities for the UN Refugee Agency.

At just sixteen years old, Nujeen Mustafa made the 3,500-mile journey from Syria to Germany in a steel wheelchair. Nujeen was born with cerebral palsy and spent the majority of her life confined to her apartment in Aleppo, Syria, where she taught herself English watching shows on TV.

As war broke out, she and her family were forced to flee – first to her native Kobane, then to Turkey. Her family didn’t have enough money for them all to make it to safety in Germany, where her brother lived, so her parents stayed in Turkey while she set out with her sister across the Mediterranean, braving inconceivable odds for the chance to have a normal life and an education.

Nujeen’s optimism and defiance when confronting all of her challenges have propelled this young refugee from Syria into the spotlight as the human face of an increasingly dehumanized crisis. Since moving to Germany, Nujeen has continued to tell her remarkable story and to capture the hearts of all who hear her speak.

ECW: Your story of triumph over struggle has inspired people around the world. Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like growing up as a girl not able to go to school in Aleppo, Syria, and how you worked to ensure you got an education?  

Nujeen Mustafa: Growing up and not being able to go to school, I realized pretty early on that my life was unusual – but I kind of wanted to do the best with what I had. I mostly noticed it when the kids in the building would go and I wouldn’t, but I was surrounded by a very supportive environment that just made it so easy to live with the fact that there was something missing in the routine of my life.

When I turned about 6 or 7, my older sister taught me how to read and write in Arabic and then it was left up to me to practice. This was when I kind of used television as a way of educating myself and learning how to read and write. Then these mechanisms evolved and the things I wanted to learn also evolved, so I moved on to other things with English – a bit of general knowledge, and a bit of background in every subject and topic that I could find. Of course, my sisters also brought me the schoolbooks for each year when I was growing up. I would finish them in one day because I turned out to be such a bookworm! From then on, when I was old enough to start being self-taught, I just did it.

Of course, I still recognize it was not fair that I was not able to go to school but, as I said, I tried to do the best with what I had. I think this was my way of defying the circumstances that I was in, and it kind of gave birth to this desire to prove myself and prove that I can overcome all these obstacles, even if they are hard. To this day, I think one of my most fundamental traits is the desire to prove that I can do things and that I can accomplish a lot of things that are not expected of me.

ECW: Today, 75 million children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises are not able to go to school. Education Cannot Wait and its partners are working to get them back to learning. Why do you think this is so important, particularly for perhaps the most vulnerable: refugee girls with disabilities?

Nujeen Mustafa: I found this question quite strange because it shouldn’t even be a question as to “why” we should educate our children. It just has to be a fact of life, because everyone should know “why.” Children are always emphasized as the future of their countries and communities. But when you do not invest in a portion of the population, which is the population that has a disability, this is just not right. This is a violation of your rights as a human being, your right to education. It is discriminating against you on the basis of your disability, if you don’t get an education. It’s very unfair treatment of young people – of people who should be planning and thinking out the future.

There have been a lot of pledges and resolutions about the importance of education, especially for young people and people with disabilities. To live in this kind of cognitive dissonance, where there is this acknowledgment that this is important and yet there is nothing being done to carry it out, is very concerning. We can all agree that it has very dire consequences on our society and even the living standards of any country.

Education of the public and of youth are factors in all of these things. A prosperous and educated youth means a prosperous and thriving country. There is no logical reason as to why any country would want to ignore its children, its youth, and people with disabilities. It’s really disturbing that I even have to say that. They are not a burden on anybody. They can contribute and they are this kind of untapped treasure, untapped resource, that is not being used sufficiently.

From a human rights point of view, no one has the right to discriminate against you on the basis of something that you have no control over. You don’t make a choice to be born with a disability just as you don’t make a choice to be of a certain ethnicity. So even from that point of view, there is no logical reason as to why this should be happening.

ECW: What key message(s) do you have for world leaders about the urgent, important need to address and fund education for refugees and for children with disabilities in emergency and protracted crises settings?

Nujeen Mustafa: I think the most important thing for decision makers to know is that education needs to always be a priority, even in emergency situations and crisis response. It is not enough to ensure basic living conditions for survivors of conflict or people who are now living through a pandemic. There needs to be an awareness that the future of the entire generation is on the line and their need for an education needs to be prioritized. I know that it can be overwhelming at times, but I think that education needs to be viewed and seen as something as essential and crucial to the well-being of everyone – especially people with disabilities – as providing shelter, food, or water. It needs to be prioritized in emergency situations, whatever they may be. There needs to be an acknowledgement of the vitality of education to their futures and to their lives.

Of course, the situation with COVID-19 is unprecedented in this century, but we should have been better equipped to deal with such an unexpected change in our daily routines and such disruptions in our lives. That just goes back to the point of making sure that education is accessible to all and that everyone, wherever they may be and whatever their circumstances may be, has access to it and is able to smoothly transition from one mode of education to the other. It should have been essential everywhere around the world. We see that countries with a colder climate (where some children are unable to attend school during the winter months) are much better equipped, already having this kind of digital form of attending lessons and school. So, I think that countries all around the world should strive to be on that same level, ready and prepared for any kind of unprecedented situation.

When it comes to people who have fled conflict regions, refugees, and refugees with disabilities, it is not enough to make sure that they survive, but that they live and thrive as individuals. Receiving an education is a building block of that. You can’t say that you are doing them right if you don’t provide them with access to education as soon as possible. Prioritize education as a part of the essential means of survival – prioritize it in every plan of action.

ECW: You wrote an inspiring, best-selling book about your amazing journey: Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair. Could you tell us the three books that have influenced you the most personally and/or in your current studies, and why you’d recommend them for other people to read?

Nujeen Mustafa: One of them is The Time Keeper by one of my favorite authors, Mitch Albom. It tells a story of the first person to measure time. It comments on humanity’s obsession with time, being late, and having clocks all over your environment. People have forgotten to enjoy their lives and actually live them because they’ve become obsessed with time; everyone wants to get everything on time and not be late, to the point where we have forgotten how to enjoy living in the moment. There is a quote that is very inspiring and memorable for me, which is, “when you are measuring time, you are not living it.” It’s a very inspiring and soulful book about enjoying the moment, truly experiencing it, and not being worried about whether you are late or too early. As we see in nature, only humans measure time. Nature and animals are not plagued by worries about being late to the meeting, or being too early, or what the social standard is.

The second one would have to be 1984 by George Orwell… We see it in the way that our phones watch us and how essential they have become to our lives. Even I am guilty of it. I spend my day on an iPad. But there is this voice nagging in the back of my head for my life not to turn into 1984 – using technology in that sense and giving everyone access to my thoughts. Every time we Google Search, there is some kind of record of the question that we thought about at that moment, so I think it’s very unsettling but it is necessary in this day and age.

The third one, a fairly recent read, is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. That book is just a must-read for everyone about perseverance and resilience… even in the most dire and horrifying circumstances. That you could still maintain your humanity, even in a concentration camp. It tells of a lot of horrible, horrifying things and the lengths that we humans can go to. But it was also a message of hope that we could thrive and rise above all that and become better people because of it. So, I think it appeals to me because it essentially says that we are stronger than we thought – even in the most unimaginable, horrifying, terrible circumstances, we can be better and we don’t have to succumb to the desperation and the helplessness. It also talks a good deal about grief and how you can emerge as a stronger person from it; how suffering is also a part of life and that it initiates a part of you and builds you as a person. Your response to it is so crucial. Its essential message, I think, is that there is still hope for humanity. You’re a human being, even in situations of genocide. There are still heroes out there who have lived through it and survived. Not only physically – but emotionally and morally and every other sense of the word. And I just thought that that was inspiring. I think everyone should read it because it gives a message of silver lining, of hope, and just that you can be that person that overcomes these challenges.

ECW: What were the common misconceptions about children with disabilities that you faced as you were growing up?

Nujeen Mustafa: The fifth question is just my favorite. I love to talk about this aspect of having a disability because, where I grew up, disability meant that you were expected to just live on the sidelines and not grow at all as a person – be it academically or personally. I absolutely despised meeting people for the first time because there would be a recount of how I was born and how it was discovered that I had a disability. And then I would see the looks of just people feeling sorry because they thought that I would have no future and no life. That I would just be there, not being an active member of society or contributing anything to my family or to anyone. Just be someone that wouldn’t be of use to anybody. So, I think the misconception that people may have is that we are expected to play into these expectations and act as though we were doomed – but that, of course, is not the case.

I recognize and realize that it depends on the mentality that your first caregivers and family has, and my family was absolutely adamant about me receiving and having what they had. And being as equal to them as possible. I would be hammered on to do homework and learn how to read and write and advance my education and learn English… Of course, I did it on my own, later on, in my teenage years. But there was always pressure to learn a lot about math and to enrich myself intellectually. Even if I couldn’t do it physically. Of course, many of these children didn’t have this kind of supportive and encouraging environment. How society perceived them might have damaged their sense of self and made them very insecure and have a low self-esteem. I consider myself lucky that I grew up in a family that pushed me to be better – that didn’t view me as a kind of a nuisance or as a girl who didn’t have any potential.

So, I think the biggest misconception that society has of these people is that it expects us not to have any ambitions or dreams. That the mere fact of us having a disability should eradicate any glimmer of hope inside of us that these dreams might come true. I encountered that even on my journey here. I would meet people who would be surprised that I spoke English or that I was socially active – and, you know, not at all awkward or hiding from anyone. Even when I was younger, I limited my exposure to that kind of negativity. I just surrounded myself with mostly adults and people who loved me and appreciated me for who I am. And I think that helped. I kind of eliminated any possible person that I thought, okay, this person doesn’t really like me, he is just pitying me or looking at me in a very condescending way. The secret to that was that we, as a collective family and everyone around, were able to kind of stay away from that type of negativity and that kind of mentality that “okay, this person has a disability, so he is useless—he or she is useless.”

ECW: From your own experience, what does inclusive education mean to you and what makes a school accessible for all boys and girls with disabilities?

Nujeen Mustafa: Inclusive education, for me, has a lot of meanings. I only experienced it when I arrived here in Germany and realized how smooth and easy it can be to make education inclusive. Of course, inclusive education means not just enrolling someone with a disability in a school, it’s about accommodating their needs without making them feel isolated or separated or something different than the other students who may not have a disability. It’s not just about making the restroom or making the building accessible, it’s about capacity building.

For example – I always laugh and find it very encouraging and impressive about what I experience here – there is nothing that I do, or that I go through, that people my age do differently. I’m also applying for apprenticeships, filling out applications, filling out paperwork, and working in accountancy. I study business, that’s what we do. And I don’t think that the experience of a person who doesn’t have a disability differs so much from mine. There’s no discrepancy—there’s no, “this level is for you and this level is for that person.” It’s more about accommodating your needs and making sure that you have full access to whatever you may encounter in your professional life and you are well-versed in whatever it is that you are trying to specialize in. I would say that I have the same amount of experience in business as anyone in the same grade, or level, as I am now. So, having a disability, they wouldn’t level it down for someone who is disabled. They would accommodate your needs in such a way that you get the full content and that you grasp everything that is needed of you and that you learn about.

That, for me, is what inclusiveness means. It’s about finding methods that would make your working environment better—and equal to your non-disabled peers. It’s about making sure that you receive the same kind of treatment and that you understand the same curriculum. That your needs are accommodated. For example, if somebody’s disability is in speech, there would be all kinds of assistance to him or her, using iPads or specific programs on their PCs, and it’s very encouraging because we know – I personally know – that nobody is dumbing stuff down for me to grasp and nobody’s going a level down just to teach me about it. I know that I would be as equally qualified to a co-worker that is not disabled. So, this, for me, is what inclusive education means. It’s about accommodating the needs of a person with a disability so that it’s integrated into a non-disabled structure or a curriculum that might not originally be for people with disabilities.

For me, the key point is not isolation—I don’t want to be taught separately—it’s about the merging of education, ideas, and concepts, so that everyone can benefit and absorb information equally and effectively. And that would be the main goal – the optimal option – for everyone, just to merge these ideas and methods so that every school in the world can and would receive a person with disability.

I also think that integrating people with disabilities into schools with people who have no disability is essential in changing any misconceptions that non-disabled people might have about people with disabilities. Because exposure lets you know how that person lives. You’ll know that he’s not pathetic, he doesn’t want you pity. You learn that he’s just like you—he or she is ambitious, is working on his plans, has career plans, has dreams he wants to achieve, and that he can be independent. He or she can have fun and dance and do stuff. And they will go far in life.



As the world marks the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic on 11 March 2021, initial progress reports on Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) COVID-19 emergency responses to date show that the Fund and its partners have already reached over 9 million vulnerable girls and boys in the midst of the worst education crisis of our lifetime.

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency education programmes supported by Education Cannot Wait are providing hope and protection to girls and boys in over 30 emergencies and protracted crises world-wide  

This press release is also available in Spanish, French, and Arabic.

10 March 2021, New York – As the world marks the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic on 11 March 2021, initial progress reports on Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) COVID-19 emergency responses to date show that the Fund and its partners have already reached over 9 million vulnerable girls and boys in the midst of the worst education crisis of our lifetime.

Within days of the declaration of the pandemic one year ago, ECW rapidly allocated $23 million in COVID-19 emergency grants to support continuous access to learning opportunities and to protect the health and wellbeing of girls and boys living in emergencies and protracted crises. Shortly after, ECW continued to scale up its response with a second allocation of $22.4 million – specifically focusing on refugee, internally displaced and host community children and youth.

“During COVID-19, our investments have been life-sustaining for children and youth enduring crisis and conflict around the world. Despite the pandemic, our government partners, civil society and UN colleagues have been working hand in hand with communities to deliver remote learning and continued education in safe and protective learning environments,” said Yasmine Sherif, the Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Yet, so many children and youth have been left behind, as financial resources are required to reach them. We risk losing entire generations of young people who are already struggling in emergencies and protracted crisis.”

The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and the Chair of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group, reinforced the urgent need for more funding to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal 4 through Education Cannot Wait – during and after the pandemic: “I call on all education stakeholders to join Education Cannot Wait’s efforts in mobilizing an additional $400 million to immediately support the continued education of vulnerable children and youth caught in humanitarian crises, stressing the need to move with speed. We cannot afford to lose more time, nor to let millions of refugee and conflict-affected children, their families and teachers lose hope.”

In total, ECW’s COVID-19 emergency grants target 32 million vulnerable children and youth (over 50% of whom are girls) in over 30 countries affected by armed conflict, forced displacement, climate-related disasters and other crises.  For these girls and boys, the pandemic has generated a ‘crisis within a crisis’, further entrenching pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequalities. Without access to the protection and hope of an education, they face multiple risks, including child labor, child marriage and early pregnancy, human trafficking, forced recruitment into armed groups, sexual exploitation and gender-based violence.

ECW’s COVID-19 emergency grants to over 80 United Nations agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations working on the ground in 33 crisis-affected countries and contexts support a wide range of interventions ranging from pre-primary (19%), primary (56%) and secondary (25%) education as well as non-formal education. These include:

  • Remote learning: with the total disruption of the usual education systems in emergency-affected areas, ECW grants support alternative delivery models, including informal education materials at the household level, as well as scaling up distance education programmes, particularly via interactive radio.
  • A focus on gender: gender-specific actions were integrated at the design stage of the response, supporting rapid gender assessment and targeted approaches for girls. Over half of the children and youth reached to date are girls and 61% of all teachers trained are women.
  • A focus on forcibly displaced population: 7 million refugee and internally displaced children and youth are specifically targeted through ECW-supported interventions.
  • Safe and protective learning environment: activities improve access to water, hygiene and sanitation to protect children and their communities against the risks of COVID-19. Messaging, tailored to local languages and contexts, provides practical advice about how to stay safe, including through handwashing and social distancing.
  • Mental health and psychological support: this includes COVID-19-specific guidance and training for parents and teachers to promote the resilience and the psychosocial wellbeing of children and youth. ECW also supports all children and adolescents to receive instruction in social emotional learning.

In addition to its 12-month emergency grants portfolio, ECW also invests in multi-year resilience education programmes that provide longer-term holistic learning opportunities for children and youth caught in protracted crises to achieve quality education outcomes.

More information on ECW’s COVID-19 response is available here.

Download ECW’s COVID-19 response factsheet.


Spanish version

Lima, March 2021 – “On behalf of the Government of Peru, I would like to thank the commitment of the United Nations, partner governments such as Canada and civil society organizations for working together on the challenges we face in education, especially those that involve the most disadvantaged children and adolescents, such as migrants”, with these words, Peru´s Minister of Education Ricardo Cuenca welcomed the of the Education Cannot Wait (ECW) Programme, which seeks to respond to the challenges of education in emergencies.

ECW is a global fund dedicated to education in emergencies. “We first worked with ECW in 2019 to respond to the Venezuelan migration crisis and now we are starting a multi-year development programme that will allow us to directly reach the migrant population settled in Lima and the region of La Libertad,” said Ana de Mendoza, UNICEF Representative in Peru.

The multi-year programme called “Promoting Inclusive Education with equal opportunities for migrant and refugee children and adolescents in host communities in Peru” will be implemented from 2021 to 2023. The goal is to improve the education of 30,000 migrant? children, adolescents and their families. The programme starts with a “seed” fund of US$ 7,400,000 and is expected to raise, by the end of the project, a total of US$ 13 million.

Igor Garafulic, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Peru noted that the focus of this multi-year programme is the social integration of refugees and migrants, including the full inclusion of children and adolescents in quality education. “We welcome efforts to open doors for them. The evidence we have from before the pandemic confirms that migration has had a positive impact and can have an even greater positive impact on our economy and our society.”

As the project launch coincided with the celebration of International Women’s Day, Minister Cuenca highlighted that migrant girls and adolescents face a triple challenge to stay in school: “They must ask for permission to study because many times there are no conditions for them to keep doing so; they have to try to insert themselves into spaces that are not theirs; and, finally, they must break with cultural norms that tell them that what is different is scary”.

Ralph Jansen, Ambassador of Canada to Peru, stated that interventions such as this one must have a clear gender approach: “This approach guarantees the fulfillment of other rights and helps to guarantee a dignified life. Everything done for the benefit of migrant children and adolescents has an impact on their emotional health, and this is a fundamental aspect in this intervention”.

The project has five expected outcomes. The first is to achieve better access to an inclusive and quality education, the second is staying in the educational system. The third objective is to develop life skills and socio-emotional capabilities. The fourth is that authorities and officials improve decision-making on access and educational inclusion based on available data and evidence. Finally, the ECW project seeks to promote the mobilization of resources.

This new multi-year ECW programme was designed by a working group made up of the Ministry of Education, RET, Plan International, Save the Children, UNESCO and UNICEF. By joint agreement, UNICEF has led the programme since 4 January  2021.  The Steering Committee is made up of the Ministry of Education, the Embassy of Canada, the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office and the Roundtable for the Fight against Poverty.

 Para mayor información ,o en UNICEF favor contactar a Marilú Wiegold al celular 99757-3218, e-mail y/o a Elsa Ursula al celular 991982525, e-mail y/o a Consuelo Ramos al celular 999089558, e-mail