EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INTERVIEWS AMINA J. MOHAMMED, DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

Ms. Amina J. Mohammed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.

Ms. Amina J. Mohammed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Mohammed served as Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where she steered the country’s efforts on climate action and efforts to protect the natural environment. Ms. Mohammed first joined the United Nations in 2012 as Special Adviser to former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the responsibility for post-2015 development planning. She led the process that resulted in global agreement around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms. Mohammed began her career working on the design of schools and clinics in Nigeria. She served as an advocate focused on increasing access to education and other social services, before moving into the public sector, where she rose to the position of adviser to three successive Presidents on poverty, public sector reform, and sustainable development. Ms. Mohammed has been conferred several honorary doctorates and has served as an adjunct professor, lecturing on international development. The recipient of various global awards, Ms Mohammed has served on numerous international advisory boards and panels. She is the mother of six children and has one grandchild.

ECW. As an inspirational global women leader who has dedicated your life to service, how do you see the progress and challenges we face in advancing gender equality and empowering the next generation of women leaders through girls and adolescent girls’ right to a quality education?

Amina J. Mohammed. I am inspired by the upcoming generation of women leaders who in the face of disasters, conflicts, and health emergencies prioritize their education and use their platforms to advocate for the right of all girls and young women to a quality education. Advancing gender equality and amplifying the voices of these young women needs to be at the center of all our work.

The great progress we have made globally to advance gender equality cannot be underscored enough – more girls are going to and staying in school than ever before and the number of out-of-school girls has dropped by 79 million in the last two decades. Yet, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 132 million girls were still out of school.

Girls – particularly adolescent girls – face significant barriers to a quality education in many contexts. There are risks of sexual harassment, exploitation, abuse and violence – both on the way to and at school. Many girls have competing demands on their time due to care and household responsibilities. Many families face the difficult choice of which of their children will get an education due to financial constraints – and many times, boys are chosen over girls. Girls’ education is particularly under threat in emergencies and for children on the move and we need to continue to empower this next generation of women leaders through a quality education.

All these issues have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Lockdowns and the socio-economic crisis have brought dramatic increases in domestic violence, including for girls and adolescent girls. Furthermore, rates of child marriages have increased, and it is not clear what effects that would have if schools remain closed for a long period.

To tackle the challenges exacerbated by the current pandemic, we need strengthened efforts to not only ensure gender equality dimensions are prioritized in all our work, but also apply targeted measures to ensure girls, and the most vulnerable, do not bear the heaviest burden and are protected.

ECW. There is a global education crisis in the world, and it is increasingly clear that education, or Sustainable Development Goal 4, is foundational to realising the full spectrum of the Sustainable Development Goals. How do you see the interrelation and why is it so important to connect those dots in advancing all of the Sustainable Development Goals?

Amina J. Mohammed. Education is a human right and is central for building sustainable and resilient societies, as well as for achieving personal aspirations and all the other Sustainable Development Goals. There is no doubt that equipping children and youth with relevant knowledge and skills has a catalytic impact on eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities, improving health, driving economic growth and achieving gender equality.

Without investing in youth to create an enabling environment for them to learn and acquire skills for decent work, sustainability, climate change awareness and global citizenship, we will not deliver on our promise for the future we want.

Without ensuring quality and inclusive education for all, we will not be able to advance our efforts for more peaceful and inclusive societies and for promoting respect for human rights. Yet, we have seen warning signs that on current trends, the world is not on track to achieve the SDG4 goal and targets.

Before COVID-19, more than 260 million children, adolescents and youth were out of school. while more than 617 million were not learning, achieving only minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. Now COVID-19 has exacerbated the global education crisis with more than 1.5 billion children who face disrupted education while too many children are still at risk of not returning to school, especially those most marginalized – including girls, children with disabilities, and children on the move. Violence against children is increasing. COVID-19 is not just a health crisis – it is a human crisis and an education crisis.

Indeed, a quality education and lifelong learning is foundational to all other aspects of human development and sustainable development. The foundations for learning start in the womb – maternal health and nutrition is vital for brain development. We know that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critical and set the stage for learning throughout the lifecycle. We know that children who experience stunting also experience difficulties with learning. When children do not have access to clean water and sanitation or life-saving vaccines for preventable diseases, their lives are at risk. Without access to quality and relevant education, young people cannot build the skills needed to succeed in life and work, and consequently they and their communities suffer.

We need to make sure that all children and youth have an equal chance – girls and boys, children and youth with disabilities, children and youth from marginalized communities. In order to achieve real progress on any of the SDGs, our approaches need to put education at the center.

ECW. The UN General Assembly President recently stressed the need to continue to invest in education during the current COVID-19 crisis and pointed out that many governments in the South do not have the infrastructure to provide adequate remote learning through technology, and this risks deepening the already existing global education divide. How do we translate global cooperation into a concrete bridge that reduces the divides, starting with financing, economic cooperation, and socio-economic development and equity?

Amina J. Mohammed. The COVID-19 crisis in combination with the existing global digital divide has posed considerable challenges for addressing the learning crisis. The pandemic has presented an additional risk of deepening the global education divide and losing the gains that have been made so far. With nearly three quarters of learners being affected by the school closures globally, many countries are facing unprecedented economic challenges including how they can ensure the equity and inclusion of their education systems. Reliance on new technologies for the provision of education during the crisis has highlighted the importance of investing more into making all education systems more resilient, open, inclusive and flexible.

The lack of access to technological readiness and connectivity in some developing countries, but also the overall level of their preparedness to adapt the curricula, prepare learners, educators and families, as well ensure efficient assessment and certification processes, would need to be addressed at scale if we are to learn from the COVID-19 crisis.

To address this complex situation, we all need to work together in partnership to ensure that all children and youth continue to learn, maintaining a focus on the those most in need.

The technology to reach everyone everywhere is available. It’s up to all of us to make sure that at all levels we can scale up these solutions empowering teachers to meet every child and young person’s learning needs in every context. Of course, this should be complemented with improving education systems’ preparedness to face global challenges while advancing on the achievement of the sustainable development for all.

ECW. The UN Secretary-General’s Reform places strong emphasis on ‘The New Way of Working,’ the ‘humanitarian-development coherence’ and the principles of ‘less bureaucracy and more accountability.’ These approaches and principles are also embedded in the strategy and work of Education Cannot Wait (ECW), which is hosted by the UN (UNICEF). Having followed ECW’s work closely since its inception, how do you see ECW contributing to UN reform and the SDGs, especially as we accelerate during the Decade of Action, through concrete measures and results.

Amina J. Mohammed. Despite progress on education provision in crisis-affected situations, the persisting barriers to education have worsened due to the pandemic. ECW’s response during COVID-19 has exemplified the ways in which it implements the new way of working with humanitarian speed and development depth. During the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic, ECW and partners mobilized to provide education support at record speed. The quick release and flexibility of funding allowed UN country teams to respond quickly and to implement education interventions in the ways most appropriate for each context.

At the onset of COVID-19, utilizing the in-country education coordination mechanisms, a total of US$23 million was rapidly disbursed to 55 grantees across 26 countries within a period of 9 days between the receipt of initial applications and the first disbursements of funds.  This collaborative approach ensures transparency, and promotes coordinated response and efficiency and effectiveness within the sector.

As an example, in Cameroon, the COVID-19 education response was developed in alignment with the national COVID-19 response strategy in education in multi-stakeholder collaboration with five Ministries of Education. UNESCO and UNICEF received the ECW first emergency response funds for an innovative distance learning platform and the safe protocol for both formal and non-formal education settings. The US$1.5 million allocation in Cameroon for the COVID-19 response will ensure access and continuity of children’s learning, reaching 3.9 million children, of whom 2.2 million are girls, as well as 8,600 teachers, 60 per cent of whom are women.

ECW. With COVID-19, we have all had to adjust and reassess how we operate in the current environment to continue to deliver on the SDGs and will also need to look ahead as this crisis will stay with us for some time. What do you see as the priorities, both in terms of development sectors and strategic approach in mitigating the impact of the global COVID-19 crisis and the people we serve, especially those left furthest behind, such as low-income countries affected by conflict and refugee-hosting countries?

Amina J. Mohammed. Our first and foremost priority really is to address the human face of this global crisis and do it with a global response, which really does need solidarity. Therefore, in the UN, we see the emergency response as threefold. The health response in suppressing transmission of the virus. The Humanitarian response which we have to keep fueling to ensure people are safe in this crisis situation; and an urgent socio-economic response to stem the impact of the pandemic, by helping Governments and people act in a way that builds a better and greener future.

A UN socio-economic response framework was developed to protect the needs and rights of people living under the duress of the pandemic, with particular focus on the most vulnerable countries, groups, and people who risk being left behind.

The five streams of work that constitute this framework include: 1. ensuring that essential health services are still available and protecting health systems; 2. helping people cope with adversity, through social protection and basic services; 3. protecting jobs, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and informal sector workers through economic response and recovery programmes; 4. guiding the necessary surge in fiscal and financial stimulus to make macroeconomic policies work for the most vulnerable and strengthening multilateral and regional responses; and 5. promoting social cohesion and investing in community-led resilience and response systems. These five streams are connected by a strong environmental sustainability and gender equality imperative to build back better.

The UN´s response in the field of social protection and basic services includes supporting governments to adapt, extend and scale-up services to secure sustained learning for all children, and adolescents, preferably in schools. As such, the UN is working with national education authorities and private sector education service providers to support preschools and schools that can safely remain open, while assisting governments to scale up digital and other forms of remote learning.  All efforts need to be put in place to make sure all children and youth remain engaged in remote learning if available and return to school once these reopen.  The UN is also supporting teachers through professional training programmes on alternative learning methods.

The UN recognizes a multilateral response like none ever before is required. One that needs the courage to flip the current orthodoxies because we need new tools, new measures and we need to lift the policy barriers that we often find as an excuse as to why we can’t do things at the speed that it needs to be done.

We are presented with a once in a generation opportunity to reach all children and deliver on the SDGs. To do so, we need to work together and leverage partnerships. Our priority is to ensure that all children are learning – whether that’s returning to school, accessing education for the first time, utilizing digital technologies or sitting in a classroom. We need to reach those that are furthest behind, we need to innovate how we do business, and we need to provide real-time response. Children in emergencies and children on the move are in greatest need of support and must be included in any approach.

ECW. In the face of the global COVID-19 crisis unprecedented to our generation, it is also a time for reflection and a real resolve to building back better. Considering that an inclusive quality education for every child and adolescent is one essential part of the solution, how can all of the UN’s constituencies pro-actively and concretely provide unwavering support to realize the values and commitments made 75 years ago?

Amina J. Mohammed. COVID-19 presents us with an opportunity for countries to build back better with equity and inclusion at the center, anchored in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change. We have an opportunity to reimagine the overall purpose, content and delivery of education in the long term and importantly how the UN system could best support countries in making their education systems more resilient with current and future crises. It is important that we utilize the comparative advantages of each UN entity and other partners for a strengthened, efficient, and comprehensive global response. With UNICEF’s global field presence and education programming in 145 countries, and UNESCO’s network of specialized institutes and mandate to lead the global coordination of the achievement of the education related targets, the UN can utilize inter-sectoral approaches and tap into collective experience and practices from our expertise around the world.

THE POWER OF EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES: INTERVIEW WITH DENMARK’S MINISTER OF DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION RASMUS PREHN

5 May 2020 – Denmark is Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) third largest donor, with US$79.1 million in contributions to date. In this insightful interview with Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation, Rasmus Prehn, we explore the importance of girls’ education and gender equality, the humanitarian-development nexus, expanded engagement with the private sector, education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic and more. A former high school teacher, with a master’s degree in social science, Minister Prehn has been a member of Danish Parliament since 2005, and was named Minister for Development Cooperation on June 27, 2019. Minister Prehn is the former chairman of the Danish Research, Education and Further Education Committee, a tireless advocate for education in emergencies, and a true champion for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG4: inclusive and equitable, quality education for all.

Denmark is a strong political advocate of education and girls’ education in emergencies and crisis countries. How do you see investments in education in crisis countries bringing transformative change for the overall development agenda?

RP: Education holds a huge potential for transformation. Both in respect to giving children the tools they need for a sustainable future and in respect to transforming society as we know it into a place where girls and boys, women and men, have equal rights and opportunities. An educated girl can significantly increase her income as compared to girls with no education. Her future children will have a much higher chance of surviving the first five years of their lives.

Girls living in emergency contexts are of particular risk of being out of school. They are also at higher risk of sexual- and gender-based violence, including teenage pregnancies and child marriage. Their sexual and reproductive health and rights are often under pressure during times of crisis. Supporting education is also a way to address these risks, as education provides a foundation for increased gender equality and for the protection of the rights of women and girls.

Denmark’s investments in education in crises have a two-fold aim: 1) to ensure continuity of learning for children so that they have the tools for a better future 2) to re-define gender and social norms and raise girls and boys to be equal citizens with equal rights and opportunities.

Since Education Cannot Wait became operational in 2017, Denmark has also become one of Education Cannot Wait’s biggest strategic donor partners and has made major investments in Education Cannot Wait over the past years. What are the key incentives for investing in this relatively new global fund?

RP: Denmark is very committed to work more effectively across the humanitarian-development nexus to ensure more sustainable education outcomes in areas affected by conflict and protracted crisis. This was a key incentive for Danish support to ECW right from the start and for the large contributions that have placed Denmark among the largest donors to ECW.

For the same reason, a key priority for Denmark is that ECW focuses on its mandate to bridge the humanitarian-development nexus to secure long-term education impact. This is only more relevant in light of COVID-19, which has led to the close down of schools in more than 190 countries worldwide. When responding to the COVID-19 crisis, there was a need for immediate action to enable continued learning and address protection risks linked to children being out of school, while also supporting resilient education systems.

In response to COVID-19, and as the LEGO Foundation – the philanthropic arm of a Danish world class private sector company – increased its support to Education Cannot Wait – you also decided to frontload financing for Education Cannot Wait. This is a wonderful way for governments and private sector to provide matching support. How would you describe this model example of engaging private sector?

RP: Denmark firmly believes in partnerships and collaboration to solve the challenges faced in the world today. We need to work together at all levels to make sure we leave no one behind. Collaboration across the public and private sector is one important way of ensuring progress towards common goals. We recognize and much appreciate the role and support of the LEGO Foundation towards education in emergencies. The Danish Government and the LEGO Foundation are currently strengthening collaboration in the area of education. Through close strategic dialogue and coordinated actions such as the matching support, the aim of the collaboration is to ensure synergies towards common goals and the realization of SDG4. We hope that this can set an example for enhanced private and public sector collaboration also in other sectors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a global impact upon all areas of virtually everyone’s life. What does Denmark see as the top three priorities moving forward to achieve SDG4 (quality, inclusive education), particularly for crisis-affected children and youth already impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement and natural disasters – and now doubly hit by COVID-19?

RP: For Denmark, quality and inclusive education is key for learning outcomes. At the same time, both quality and inclusiveness in education are impacted by the context in which children are learning. When the surrounding world is unsafe and uncertain, a pre-condition for children to learn is to ensure a protective environment. Therefore one key priority is a holistic cross-sectoral response that includes access to health care, psychosocial support and protection measures as part of education efforts.

COVID-19 has indeed added a double concern to education in emergencies. A concern that only further stresses the need to develop resilient education systems that are able to deliver quality education in crisis contexts. Be it pandemics, natural disasters or wars. A significant element is to ensure that we reach those furthest behind by using innovative and context-specific methods for distance learning. It is also important that we consider that education quality is not only about the number of children accessing education or learning outcomes, but also about teaching methods, curriculum and the social environment in schools between students and teachers, and students and their peers.

A particular concern for Denmark are the consequences that the school closures caused by COVID-19 have for both girls’ and women’s rights. We know that education is one key element to prevent social and gender norms that drive harmful practices. Where pre-COVID-19 projections showed that a decline in harmful practices could be reached, post-COVID-19 projections show that more girls will be exposed to female genital mutilation and child marriage. Therefore, quality education and establishing inclusive conditions for girls in schools through addressing harmful social and gender norms is a key priority for Denmark and also is the reason why we are part of the ECW gender reference group. The classroom reflects the surrounding society and the reverse is also true.  We must work at all levels to create inclusive conditions for girls’ access to school.

As a Member of Parliament, you have been the Chairman of the Committee on Research, Education and Further Education. What does education represent for you on a more personal level? How does this influence you in your work as a policymaker? 

RP: I could not be a bigger champion of education and skills development: this is the key to create the hope for a better future. I have immense respect for the potential offered by education at all levels to change norms in a positive way. This is why I have been preoccupied with education since my early youth. I have myself worked as a high school teacher for 8 years. I have also been a teacher in the Danish folk high schools (“højskoler”), which is an education institution invented in the 1830s with the aim to help people qualify as active members of society with the means to change the political situation and meet across social borders.

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EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INTERVIEWS HENRIETTA H. FORE, UNICEF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

In just a few months, COVID-19 has upended the lives of children around the world. It represents not only a threat to their health — but to their education, as schools close their doors worldwide, and to their safety, as the combined socio-economic impacts of job losses, isolation and containment measures put children at increased risk of abuse, exploitation and violence.

Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF. Photo © UNICEF/UN0154449/Nesbitt

Henrietta H. Fore became UNICEF’s seventh Executive Director on 1 January 2018. She has worked to champion economic development, education, health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in a public service, private sector and non-profit leadership career that spans more than four decades.

From 2007 to 2009, Ms. Fore served as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Director of United States Foreign Assistance. The first woman to serve in these roles, she was responsible for managing $39.5 billion of U.S. foreign assistance annually, including support to peoples and countries recovering from disaster and building their futures economically, politically and socially.

Earlier in her career at USAID, Ms. Fore was appointed Assistant Administrator for Asia and Assistant Administrator for Private Enterprise (1989-1993). She served on the Boards of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. In 2009, she received the Distinguished Service Award, the highest award the Secretary of State can bestow. Read full bio >>

Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, speaks with children at the Umm Battah Girls School in Kadugli, the capital city of South Kordofan State, Sudan.

ECW. Before we talk about education, can you tell us how UNICEF is responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic?

Henrietta H. Fore. In just a few months, COVID-19 has upended the lives of children around the world. It represents not only a threat to their health — but to their education, as schools close their doors worldwide, and to their safety, as the combined socio-economic impacts of job losses, isolation and containment measures put children at increased risk of abuse, exploitation and violence. In communities worldwide, you can find UNICEF staff members working around the clock to provide emergency education kits, distance learning opportunities, lifesaving information about handwashing and sanitation, and psychosocial counselling to affected children. We are also working with governments to strengthen health systems, and better manage the disease as the outbreak spreads. We are sparing no effort to give this global health emergency the attention and resources it deserves.

ECW. You have served all your life leading and championing humanitarian and development issues, not the least education. What drives you?

Henrietta H. Fore. I’m driven by the futures of children. Everywhere I travel, even in the most difficult circumstances — in conflicts and natural disasters, in communities plagued by extreme poverty or discrimination — I meet children and young people whose eyes and faces are lit with hope for the future. They tell me about their dreams and aspirations. They want to contribute to their families and economies. Even those living in the most difficult circumstances are not passive victims. They are determined to build their own futures. But they need the right tools and support. Providing quality education to every child in every context is not only a basic human right — it is essential to bringing their dreams to life and to sustaining progress and even peace for all of humanity in the future.

ECW. What is the scale of the current crisis, and how does it relate to our collective efforts to reach SDG 4?

Henrietta H. Fore. The Sustainable Development Goals’ call for “education for all” must mean exactly that — education for all. Even those children whose education is interrupted by, or non-existent because of, conflicts and natural disasters. As Education Cannot Wait reminds us, there are currently about 75 million children in urgent need of educational support across 35 crisis-affected countries. In fact, the countries furthest away from achieving SDG 4 are all crisis-affected. In other words — we will not reach this goal if we fail to reach precisely these children. In these humanitarian emergencies, children’s education suffers first, when schools are closed or destroyed, and education is interrupted. Also, they are especially vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and exploitation. We must never forget that a generation of young people is at stake — tomorrow’s leaders, tomorrow’s citizens, tomorrow’s caretakers of our world. We cannot afford to let them down — at any stage of their education, no matter what barriers we must overcome to reach them.

ECW. UNICEF oversees multiple sectors and is the lead agency on education in emergencies. Why is delivering education in emergencies so important – as important as water, nutrition, medicine and other services? Why is it important to recognize education as a lifesaving intervention at times of humanitarian crisis?

Henrietta H. Fore. A child’s right to an education does not change because of a crisis. In fact, it is just important as every other need, and can even improve outcomes in other sectors. For example, schools provide a place for children to learn more than reading and math. They also learn healthy behaviours, such as the importance of proper nutrition and hand-washing to prevent disease. Schools also create a safe and secure learning environment during times of insecurity and crisis, providing a needed sense of normalcy, continuity and safety for children that have seen and experienced often traumatic events. So education not only provides a pathway for children to build and fulfil their potential — it can have multiplier effects that can help young people stay safe and healthy.

ECW. We have recently witnessed important steps to present a consolidated UN response to the wellbeing and education of children caught in emergencies and crises. How do you see the role of UNICEF in strengthening co-ordination between relevant UN partners, civil society and private sector to ensure continuity, inclusion and real learning in complex emergencies?

Henrietta H. Fore. UNICEF is uniquely placed to bring partners together to serve children living through emergencies. We have over 790 education staff members spread across 144 countries — the single-largest global education presence of any international agency. This deep presence allows UNICEF to help countries expand access to quality education, even for the most marginalized children, such as those young refugees fleeing conflicts across borders. UNICEF is also the largest provider of education in emergencies in humanitarian response and, together with Save the Children, we are leading an IASC cluster co-ordination group on education. Together, we are working to ensure that all of our national and global partners are working as one to deliver quality education to children in emergencies.

On 3 March 2020 in the Syrian Arab Republic, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore speaks with students at Tal-Amara school in southern rural Idlib.

ECW. UNICEF hosts a number of global funds and initiatives, including the Education Cannot Wait Fund. As a member of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group, how do you see Education Cannot Wait’s contribution to advancing SDG4 in crisis situations?

Henrietta H. Fore. Initiatives like Education Cannot Wait are gathering partners around the urgent and complex needs of children facing some of the world’s worst realities. ECW’s financing efforts are particularly important, enabling partners on the ground to act quickly to fill the gap between humanitarian and development funding, while building stronger school systems for the future. This is critical, especially when we consider that only about two per cent of overall humanitarian funding is currently dedicated to education. We must work to ensure that we use ever dollar for education wisely and strategically, while at the same time turning up the volume on this education emergency to draw even more funding and resources.

ECW. A major priority is that of girls’ education, especially for girls left furthest behind in conflicts, natural disasters and forced displacement. How can we reach these girls by 2030? How can we accelerate our joint efforts during the Decade of Action?  

Henrietta H. Fore. On this issue, we cannot be complacent. Despite progress, 130 million girls are still out of school around the world. Even those who gain a primary education are still vulnerable to dropping out and being unable to continue their education beyond that level. And many girls who finish primary school are contending with poor quality education, and will not meet minimum proficiency in reading by the time they finish. This is not only an injustice — it’s a huge missed opportunity for development. Educating girls not only combats poverty, it also ensures better maternal and child health. That’s why UNICEF is bringing together partners around solutions like flexible learning for girls trapped by crises, and investments in school facilities — like separate toilets and safe learning spaces — to keep them learning. The Decade of Action depends on accelerating our progress through efforts like these, and we will not stop until every girl gets the education she needs and deserves.

ECW. As an inspirational global leader, what is your message to children and youth, many of whom you have met, who dream of an education, as they suffer the brunt of conflicts and disasters?

Henrietta H. Fore. My message to them is simple: education can never be taken from you. It is yours. It is portable. It will give purpose to your hands, hearts and dreams, wherever you may travel. Even as you face these crises and disasters, remember that millions of people are standing with you in your hour of need — donors, governments, activists, organizations like UNICEF, partnerships like Education Cannot Wait, NGOs, businesses and community leaders. Together, we are working around the clock to design, fund and deliver programmes to ensure you have the tools you need to shape your minds and your futures. We will not leave you behind.

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CIVIL SOCIETY: A DYNAMIC FORCE IN THE GLOBAL EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT MOVEMENT

Education Cannot Wait interviews Birgitte Lange, CEO Save the Children Norway and Civil Society Organization Representative to the ECW High-Level Steering Group

Colombian and Venezuelan children involved in play-based learning with their teacher. Birgitte Lange recently visited the Colombia-Venezuela border to see first hand the impact of ECW’s investment being implemented by Save the Children. Photo: Kristoffer Moene Rød /Save the Children

Education Cannot Wait interviews Birgitte Lange, CEO Save the Children Norway and Civil Society Organization Representative to the ECW High-Level Steering Group

Birgitte Lange is a leading champion in the global movement to ensure children and youth living in protracted crises and emergencies have access to the safety, hope, opportunity and protection of a quality education. The CEO of Save the Children Norway, and Civil Society Organization Representative for Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) High-Level Steering Group, recently took part in a mission to the Colombia-Venezuela border to see first-hand the impact of ECW’s investments and partnerships. In this Q&A, Lange explores new ways to partner with civil society to push the movement forward and achieve the commitments from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.

ECW. Our Director Yasmine Sherif always says, “we are all ECW,” that we are working together towards the common goal of improving education for children affected by crisis. What do you think are the biggest challenges we face as a community and what is civil society’s unique role in taking on these challenges?

Birgitte Lange. Our major challenge is that 75 million children are deprived of their right to education as a result of crises and conflict. Even amongst these vulnerable children, some are more marginalized than others. Many factors, such as gender, social and economic status, disabilities and ethnic background affect a child’s opportunity to access quality education in a crisis.

Against the scale of this challenge, education remains significantly underfunded in emergencies.  Although we have seen improvements over the last years – including the establishment and funding of ECW – we are far behind what is needed. Adding to this, a lack of efficient coordination may delay operations and increase costs.

While states are responsible for upholding human rights, they are sometimes unable, or even unwilling, to provide safe, inclusive quality education to certain groups or in some geographical areas. In such cases, civil society often play a strong role in protecting rights and providing support for those in most need. Working with local communities, civil society is often able to bring left-behind children into school, or to work with local and national governments to promote inclusive and quality learning. Moreover, humanitarian organizations work based on the humanitarian principles and may often be the neutral force needed to facilitate access to education for diverse groups of children.

Civil society is also a strong advocacy and campaigning force for increased funding, and our operational experience working with communities, governments and agencies to deliver education in emergencies is valuable when making efforts to improve coordination and efficiency.

One example is the Education Consortium in Uganda, hosted by Save the Children, with 17 partners in the first year of implementation. This was the first ECW Multi-Year Resilience Programme (MYRP) to be designed and implemented and a radical shift from disjointed and short-term humanitarian responses towards more harmonized implementation. Through a joint civil society programme, the Consortium has effectively improved quality, technical harmonization and coordination, aligning with the Education in Emergencies Working Group. The ECW programme is one of the major contributing factors to an increase in the primary gross enrolment ratio for refugee children from 53 to 72 per cent.

On the visit, Lange met with children at a temporary learning centre in Maicao settlement, Colombia. The centre is supported through the ECW-financed multi-country response to the Venezuela regional crisis through Save the Children. Photo: Layla Maghribi / Save the Children

ECW. You were recently at the border between Venezuela and Colombia to see the response to the ongoing migration and refugee crisis. What were your main takeaways from the trip? What left you feeling hopeful about the work we are doing and the role of education?

Birgitte Lange. I was very impressed by the ECW-funded education response I saw at the border. There is an enormous need for access to quality education for migrant and refugee children from Venezuela, but also for children from the host communities. Adding to the complexity of the large and sudden increase in the number of children in the community, many of the refugees lack formal documentation, and children come from different ethnic groups with different cultures and languages.

I feel proud of the joint efforts of civil society and the Colombian government to secure children’s right to education at the border. I was excited to see CSO efforts to ensure bilingual education for children from ethnic minorities. I also got to visit a class where children were involved in meditation and mindfulness exercises. It made a deep impression on me to see these children learn techniques that can help them find a moment of peace in otherwise challenging living conditions. I also want to recognize how the Colombian authorities are welcoming Venezuelan children into their school system. I was left with the impression that the spirit and operational approach in this response is to draw on each other’s strengths and join forces to solve problems and improve the reach and quality of education. Whilst challenges remain, we have a lot to learn from the collective efforts of ECW, civil society and the Colombian government to provide safe, inclusive quality education at the border between Colombia and Venezuela.

ECW. As the representative of civil society organizations, what motivates you to be part of the ECW High-Level Steering Group? What do you hope to achieve?

Birgitte Lange. When we talk with children and parents in some of the toughest places on earth, their answers are clear, unambiguous – and surprising: Even when food is scarce, water is dirty and medical care non-existent, children tell us they want one thing above all else: the chance to go to school. This is an important driver for me.  We must listen to children and be accountable to delivering upon their needs and rights.

I am convinced that ECW is a crucial channel to provide funding for education in emergencies. At the High-Level Steering Group, I have the privilege to show-case the work that civil society undertakes across the world, every day, to ensure children affected by conflict and crises access education. On behalf of civil society, I have the opportunity to take part in shaping ECW’s strategy and priorities so that together we can deliver better education to more children.

What I would really like to see is that it becomes obvious for all humanitarian actors that education needs to be part of a rapid humanitarian response, and that education will receive the financial and human resources to fulfill every last child’s right to an education.

For ECW specifically, right now I find it important that we meet our shared commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 particularly in connection with enabling rapid responses that meet the needs of children through national organizations. We need to adopt ways to ensure more national organizations are clearly involved in decision making and can access ECW funding in the most streamlined and direct way possible. I would also like to see ECW create a stronger feedback and learning mechanism to ensure that good practices and learning are systematically captured, transparently shared or applied by ECW and partners.

ECW. What are civil society’s main priorities for education in emergencies throughout 2020?

Birgitte Lange. One priority globally, is to follow up on commitments ECW made at the Global Refugee Forum at the end of last year. Save the Children played a central role in facilitating the joint pledge from ECW, the Global Partnership for Education and the World Bank, and feel a responsibility to follow up on its delivery.

Civil society will also play our watch dog role when it comes to other commitments, such as donor commitments to the ECW, and we will support ECW in its ongoing resource mobilization. Moreover, we will push for ECW to meet its commitment to spend 10 per cent of its funding on early childhood education, as we know that early care and development lays the foundation for learning in later years.

We will continue to learn from both the successes and challenges of delivering education in emergencies and continue to strive to ensure that tax-payer money is spent wisely to meet our collective goals of delivering quality education to all children and youth in emergencies.

ECW. Why is it so important that we recognise education as a vital intervention at times of humanitarian crisis?

Birgitte Lange. Education is a human right that needs to be fulfilled, no matter where a child lives or under which circumstances. Also, when we ask children themselves, children of all ages tell us that they see education as the key to their safety, their health, their happiness and their future.

Education provides protection in crises. Being in school or a temporary learning center can provide physical protection from armed conflict and possible abuse happening outside the learning site. Going to school can prevent children – typically boys – from being recruited to armed forces, and it can prevent children – typically girls – from being married early or under-age. Quality education also provides psycho-social protection and social-emotional support through activities at the learning site, and by providing a sense of normality in a perhaps otherwise chaotic situation where the regular rhythm of everyday life is disturbed. It strengthens well- being and children’s resilience to cope with the challenging environment. Children also tell us that being able to continue learning gives them hope for the future.

About Birgitte Lange

Birgitte Lange is the CEO of Save the Children Norway. She plays a leading role in Save the Children’s global work for education and child rights.

Birgitte Lange has a background in political science with a Master’s degree in comparative politics. She has held several senior management positions including as Deputy Director General for the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration and Director General of the Ministry of Culture. She has worked in the field of child welfare for several years, both at ministerial level and in another NGO.

Birgitte Lange is the author of several books and is a columnist on management issues in the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv.

Education Cannot Wait Interview with Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown

Interview with Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Steering Group



As the world marks the second International Day of Education on 24 January 2020, Education Cannot Wait’s Director, Yasmine Sherif, interviewed one of today’s most prominent and passionate advocates for the global movement to ensure education for all. In his role as UN Special Envoy for Global Education and as Chair of the ECW High-Level Steering Group, Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown has successfully galvanized financial and political support globally with the hope and opportunity of quality education for every child in this world.



1. You are the leading global advocate for education worldwide. What inspired you to take on the cause of education out of so many issues facing our world?  

I’m just one of many who realized that – as the Education Commission concluded – education unlocks not only individual opportunities, but also unlocks gender equality, better health, better qualities of life and a better environment. The Education Commission’s report illustrates how education is the very foundation for unlocking all other Sustainable Development Goals. For example, I am struck by the fact that infant and maternal mortality can be as much as twice as high among uneducated women compared to those who are educated, and I continue to be shocked by several brutal facts:

  • 260 million school-age children are not in school
  • 400 million children are completely out of education for good at age 11 or 12
  • 800 million children are leaving the education system without any qualifications worth their name 

In fact, it’s even worse than that: In 2030, we could be as far away from meeting SDG4 as we currently are, unless we act decisively together, now. One reason why the situation is so grave is that today there are 75 million children and youth in need of urgent education support in crisis-affected countries, of whom 20 million are internally displaced children and 12 million are child refugees. Indeed, only a fraction – 1 to 3 per cent – of refugees go on to higher education, whereas, for example, in pre-conflict Syria it used to be 20%. That is why Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is so crucial to meeting SDG4. We need action now. It simply cannot wait if we are to meet the target by 2030.
 
2. As the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, what is your vision for some of the key multilateral actions, such the UN, EU and the World Bank to achieve SDG4 by 2030?

We need a renewed focus on education and we need resources, response and reform. We set up the Global Education Forum, working with UNESCO, to ensure that we have maximum coordination of our efforts between the UN, EU and the World Bank and we will soon outline plans for raising the profile of global education in countries across the world. 
 
As humanitarian crises and refugee flows are multiplying at an unprecedented speed, it is critically important to fund ECW’s investments delivering quality education to children and youth impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement and natural disasters. Furthermore, and in partnership with these actors, we have set up the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd). Through IFFEd, we are aiming for $10 billion in extra funds for educational investment. Currently, we are now around $2-2.5 billion. To achieve our goal, we have to secure the support of more countries.   

3. What do you see as the biggest challenges in ensuring that every child and young person has continued access to a quality education and what are the priorities to meet those challenges?
 
Quality education is crucial. As I said, we need resources, speed in the response during crisis and long-term reform to succeed.
 
Children and youth affected by emergencies and crisis cannot be out of school or wait for a decent education for years simply because a crisis has erupted in their country. As a matter of fact, education is their only hope and opportunity to be able to sustain conflicts and disasters. By the same token, every crisis-affected country needs human capital to rebuild and recover.
 
We need to train and properly remunerate teachers. Teachers are so important – no one ever forgets their teachers and teachers are the key to improved school standards. We also need the best school leaders serving as head teachers. We need a more relevant curriculum.  We need to use technology more effectively, especially in outlying areas – to ensure children are not denied the input and the resources they need for a good education. We need to use technology effectively not just for school education, but for higher educational opportunities that could be both on-line and tutor-led.  

4. You are also the Chair of the High-Level Steering Group of the Education Cannot Wait Global Fund, which was created during the World Humanitarian Summit largely thanks to your leadership. Education Cannot Wait is a rather unique name. How did you come up with such name and why did you think this fund was necessary?
 
I saw the urgency and the need for speed in situations of crisis and forced displacement. Education in countries affected by conflicts and disasters was falling between two stools – humanitarian aid, which prioritized health, food and shelter, with hardly any resources allocated for education – AND development aid, which is more long-term and often is slow to react to a crisis. Millions of children and young people were left behind with no education, no hope and no means of bouncing back and plan for their future.
 
Education Cannot Wait was established at the World Humanitarian Summit to inspire political support and mobilize the resources that we lacked. It was also established to bring together both humanitarian and development actors to jointly provide the crucial flow of educational support for children and youth impacted by crises. And so far it has worked! It is a fast moving fund that is focused to bringing education to the most difficult humanitarian contexts. We now have investments in over 30 countries.
 
One example is the comprehensive Uganda Education Response Plan for Refugees to give support to South Sudanese and other refugees – where all organizations have come together and where we are providing support to the government in mainstreaming refugee education. This is important because the common impression people have of refugees is that they are only out of their country for a short time. But in fact, the average humanitarian crisis now lasts more than nine years, and families caught up in conflicts spend an average of 17 years as refugees. For far too many children, this mean being a refugee throughout their entire school age years. So, they need help with education now. It cannot wait until a conflict or crisis has ended and they can return home.



5. How do you see the Education Cannot Wait Global Fund progressing in advancing UN reform, the New Way of Working and making a real difference for children and youth in conflicts, disasters and forced displacement?
 
I think we are learning all the time. We now see that education in emergencies and protracted crises requires joint programming where governments, UN agencies, civil society organizations, and private sector organizations work cooperatively together to bridge the gap between humanitarian and development systems. Education Cannot Wait brings all these actors together through one joint programme whereby humanitarian and development activities are coordinated and complementary towards collective outcomes. This in turn accelerates delivery and strengthens the collective capacity to produce real learning outcomes.
 
Since Education Cannot Wait is situated in the UN, it is well placed to translate the New Way of Working, the Grand Bargain and Humanitarian-Development coherence into very tangible action in-country. It is encouraging to see how education in emergencies and protracted crises is now playing such an instrumental role in setting an example. In Uganda, for instance, the Education Response Plan for Refugees is now modeling response plans and joint programming in other sectors, such as health. Education Cannot Wait has developed a crisis-sensitive formula that is not only aligned with, but also has the potential of supporting the New Way of Working across the SDG Agenda.
  
6. What are the three most important value-adds of the Education Cannot Wait Global Fund?

Education Cannot Wait was born in an era when we couldn’t provide for Syrian refugees an education without new ideas and coordination. One of them was double-shift schools. With refugees dispersed across Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, the idea was conceived to share existing schools, so that in Lebanon 300,000 or so Syrian refugee children are educated in their native Arabic in the afternoons in the same classrooms that Lebanese children are taught French and English in the mornings. We were creating the wheel in developing plans like the RACE plan in Lebanon with all of the donors and partners, and were determined to create a system that could provide rapid education delivery and medium term planning and financing in emergencies.
 
Education Cannot Wait works with governments, while supporting vulnerable populations, such as refugees, internally displaced, war-affected, marginalized groups, girls and children with disabilities. As a global fund, ECW was designed to reduce bureaucracy and strengthen accountability towards these children and youth. Hosted by UNICEF, the fund is able to operate with speed and quickly access those left furthest behind in crisis areas thanks to a business model and support mechanisms designed for crisis-contexts. A major added value is the way in which ECW serves as a catalyst for humanitarian-development coherence in the education sector.  This is quite unique.

7. You also conceived of the International Financing Facility for Education (IFFEd). How did it come about and how can it become a game-changer? What makes it different and how can it be optimized in cooperation with partners?

There are 200 million children in low income countries and what the World Bank has done by enhancing IDA is make more resources available from the international community. In theory, IDA could raise educational aid from $1.6 billion to $3.5 billion over the next few years and we’ve advocated that education in low incomes countries should be 15 per cent of all IDA spent.
 
But there’s a gap that hurts the 700 million children in lower middle-income countries where we have the most out-of-school children and the largest number of refugees. Here, the World Bank provides not 10 or 15 per cent of its resources for education but around 4 per cent, and sadly, the recapitalization of the World Bank – while successful – has also created a ceiling limiting the future availability of new resources.
 
Therefore, with World Bank support, we are creating a new fund for education that will focus resources and financing help for the 700 million children in lower middle-income countries, on similar terms that the World Bank offers, but with far more resources. 
 
We aim to raise $10 billion, which would require $2 billion in guarantees and perhaps $2 billion in grants to create four to five times as many resources for investment in education. This will be of special help to countries where there are large numbers of forcibly displaced persons, including refugees. 
 
8. How do you see the complementarity between the International Financing Facility for Education, the Education Cannot Wait Global Fund and the Global Partnership for Education?

Each of us have complementary jobs to do in a synchronized way. The chair of  GPE, Julia Gillard, was a member of our Education Commission, which recommended the new facility. GPE does important work – thankfully with increased resources after their recent replenishment – and this work, mainly in low-income countries, is complemented by what is offered through IFFEd.
 
Education Cannot Wait provides a different business model. It is grounded in the UN system’s ability to move with speed in crises, while also applying a crisis-sensitive development response, which is so important to reach SDG4 for those left furthest behind. It is no longer a start-up fund, but is growing rapidly in outreach and influence. So funding needs to continue to increase to complement other funds, such as GPE and IffEd. 

9. In your view, where will we be in 2030? Will we still be in a global education crisis or will we have resolved it?

One of the tragedies is that while the numbers of qualified young people have risen, still less than 25 per cent will have any recognizable qualifications by 2030. More than 27 per cent will have left school by the age of 11 or 12 years, or have ever been at school. This educational divide between the ‘education-poor’ and the ‘education-rich’ will only grow and what worries me most in this regard is Africa. I’ve  already shared earlier on in this interview the shocking figures for 2030, but worse still, Africa will see a rise in ‘out-of-school’ and in ‘unqualified school-leavers’, unless we act now. To inspire such action, we must share the data, show how challenging the situation is and propose the solutions that are so desperately need now and which all funds can help provide. 
 
10. Any final thoughts as we enter the Decade for Action? How do we best translate the vision of SDG4 into action in the coming 10 years?

We must become the first generation in history where every child goes to school. 
 
Instead of just developing some of the talents of some of the young people in some of the countries, we must develop all the talents of all young people in all countries. I am very conscious that universal education cannot be achieved unless we include the 75 million crises-affected children and youth whose education cannot wait. Their needs must be met if we are to meet SDG4 and achieve the noble objective that no one is left behind. 
 
I am a great believer in the power of young people. We have seen this in the global march against child labor, by girls getting together to prevent child marriages, and through the work of global youth ambassadors in UNICEF, UNHCR and Their World who are an effective pressure group for change.
 
We must enlist students and parents and we must put pressure on both national governments and international institutions to achieve change. Politicians say that adjudicating is their top priority, but the current state of financing for education does not yet recognize this; some countries spend only 2 per cent of their national income on education.
 
We must have a coalition of education advocates that ensures that governments and international institutions take action when they say education is a priority. This must start by acknowledging how far behind we have been in securing education for crisis-affected children, including refugee and displaced children. Their needs and aspirations must be at the forefront of our thoughts.
 
We know that hope dies when a food convoy does not get through to refugees or a boat carrying them is lost at sea – but hope also dies when education is denied to children who desperately want and need it, and who cannot prepare for, nor plan for, their future. We must restore that sense of hope in the future for every child and young person living in abject poverty, on the margins of their societies or in countries of war, as refugees or affected by sudden disasters. We cannot leave any child or young person behind.  
 

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About Education Cannot Wait

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is the first global, multi-lateral fund dedicated to education in emergencies. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings.

Follow us on Twitter: @EduCannotWait
Additional information is available at www.educationcannotwait.org 
 
For press inquiries:
Kent Page, kpage@unicef.org, +1-917-302-1735
Anouk Desgroseilliers, adesgroseilliers@un-ecw-org, +1-917-640-6820

For any other inquiries: 
info@un-ecw.org  

‘WHY EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES & CRISES IS CRUCIAL FOR CHILDREN’: NORWAY’S MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, DAG INGE ULSTEIN

ECW’s Q&A with a global leader committed to reaching the furthest behind first

Minister Ulstein on his recent visit to the Mopti region in Mali. Photo: Ane Lunde/Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

ECW: Minister Ulstein, you announced a significant new contribution of NOK 500 million (about US$55 million) from Norway to Education Cannot Wait, the Global Fund for Education in Emergencies, during the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York. Can you explain why you think it is important to support this relatively new multilateral funding mechanism dedicated to supporting education for children and youth caught up in crises worldwide?

Minister Ulstein: As Education Cannot Wait (ECW) has highlighted, when a crisis erupts, education is often the first service to be lost and the last to be resumed. We cannot afford to neglect education in emergencies. Schooling not only gives children and youth the skills and knowledge they need to rebuild their society once a crisis is over; it also offers them protection and a sense of normality in an otherwise chaotic and traumatic situation.

I believe there are two main challenges that have to be overcome in order to reach children and youth in emergencies. First of all, the current level of financing is inadequate. Secondly, ensuring quality education for all, in line with SDG 4, is essentially a long-term endeavour and requires both predictable financing and unwavering commitment. ECW is in a good position to address both these challenges.

ECW is a key partner in our efforts to ensure education for the most marginalised children and youth. I am therefore pleased that the Norwegian Government will contribute NOK 500 million to Education Cannot Wait for the period 2019-2022. 

ECW: Just before the General Assembly, you travelled to Mali with the Director of Education Cannot Wait, Yasmine Sherif, where you met communities displaced by the surge of violence in the centre of the country and witnessed the work of the Fund’s partners on the ground to provide education and psycho-social support to children and youth affected by the crisis. What motivated you to undertake such a field visit and what were your main takeaways?

Minister Ulstein: For years, there has been a complex emergency in Mali. The ongoing conflict and a series of natural disasters have led to an education crisis with 285 000 out-of-school children. The Malian Government made it clear that the provision of education is severely affected by the ongoing crisis and that there are substantial unmet needs in this area. The majority of out-of-school children are in the Mopti region, where ECW recently began its first response interventions.

It was important for me to visit Mopti together with ECW’s Executive Director Yasmine Sherif, to learn more about the education situation for children and youth in this region. Listening to the stories of children who had been forced to leave their homes was a real eye-opener. It was evident that education plays an incredibly important role in their lives.

ECW: Despite some progress and increased funding by strategic donors and partners to support education aid in recent years, we are still off-track to ensure quality and inclusive education for every child by 2030, as stated by Sustainable Development Goal 4. How can we turn the tide and deliver learning opportunities to the millions of children and youth enduring armed conflicts, disasters and forced displacement?

Minister Ulstein: SDG 4 is a promise of quality education for all. We will not be able to reach SDG 4 by 2030 unless we increase our efforts to reach children and youth in crisis and conflict situations. While we have many challenges ahead of us, we can see that education has become a greater priority in emergency response. Education efforts are not only about reaching SDG 4, but are also a vehicle for reaching other SDGs and are closely linked to efforts to meet other humanitarian needs. My impression is that awareness of these interlinkages has increased in recent years.

ECW has played a key role in this shift by putting education in emergencies at the top of the agenda. It has mobilised substantial funding and presents new and promising ways of delivering education in emergencies. ECW’s programmes offer predictable and flexible funding, and promote a better coordinated and more holistic education response. At the same time, achieving SDG 4 is a national responsibility and it is therefore important that education aid, including ECW’s programmes, support governments’ work in this area.

Minister Ulstein and ECW Director Yasmine Sherif with children displaced by violence in the Mopti region, Mali. Photo: A. Desgroseilliers/ECW 

ECW: You took office at the beginning of the year as Norway’s Minister of International Development. How much of a priority is education in Norway’s international aid efforts? What are your key priorities, in particular for the education sector?

Minister Ulstein: Norway has substantially increased its aid to education since 2013, and education remains one of the key priorities in our aid efforts. Prime Minister Erna Solberg is a vocal champion of the right to education, especially for girls. We have taken on a leading role in mobilising increased financing for education, including education in emergencies.

Education can be one of the most effective ways of promoting inclusion. We know that marginalised groups such as children and youth with disabilities are generally less likely to attend school, and even more so in crisis and conflict situations. I am pleased that ECW reached 14 000 children with disabilities in 2018. However, we know that we have yet to reach many more marginalised children and youth. Going forward, we need to give greater priority to reaching the furthest behind first.

ECW: Norway has been among the very first supporters of Education Cannot Wait – right from the inception of the Fund at the World Humanitarian Summit. Now that the Fund has been operational for more than 2 years, do you think it is delivering on its promises?

Minister Ulstein: I am pleased to see that ECW provided learning opportunities for more than 1.5 million children and youth who were caught up in 18 of the world’s most devastating humanitarian crises in 2018. I am particularly impressed by the number of multi-year resilience programmes that have been initiated. ECW’s approach is helping to bridge the gap between humanitarian and long-term aid in the field of education. ECW also promotes quality and learning outcomes from the outset of a crisis. At the same time, ECW plays an important role by providing support to education when a crisis suddenly arises or escalates, and education services need to be rapidly restored.

ECW: How do you see the role of Education Cannot Wait in the education aid architecture?

Minister Ulstein: ECW is one of several important partners in the field of education, many of which also play an important role in emergency response. It is crucially important that the various organisations work effectively together. ECW is a strong advocate for the right to education for millions of children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises. ECW is promoting inter-agency partnerships as an efficient way of delivering education in emergencies at the country level.

Minister Ulstein with Grammy Award nominated rapper and Global Citizen Ambassador French Montana at the “Leave No One Behind: Accelerating the SDGs through Quality Education — Two New Initiatives” event at this year’s UN General Assembly. Photo: E.Bahaa/ECW

Learn more about Minister Ulstein and Norway’s international development and development cooperation efforts.

ECW INTERVIEW WITH ALLEGRA BAIOCCHI – A HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR COMMITTED TO EMERGENCY EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN IN CAMEROON

Allegra Baiocchi is the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Cameroon.

The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Cameroon shares insights on the current humanitarian situation, the importance of education for children caught in emergencies and the crucial role of ECW’s support to the emergency response in the country.

ECW: As the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Cameroon, you have shown an exemplary commitment to education for children and youth. Could you please describe their situation, challenges and opportunities?

Allegra Baiocchi: The situation in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon is dire for all school-aged children. Hundreds of thousands of children have been out of school for nearly three full years. More than 80 per cent of schools have been closed and enrolment is reduced by 40-80 per cent in most of the schools that remain operational. This means that around 950,000 children have been forced to leave school. 9 out of 10 children are currently out of school in both regions.

Conflict-affected out-of-school children are exposed to a myriad of severe crisis-related protection risks including sexual exploitation and abuse, gender-based violence, harassment and recruitment by armed forces or armed groups, prostitution, arbitrary arrest, early marriage and pregnancy and child labour.

Children in the North-West and South-West regions have also been exposed to numerous traumatic incidents including witnessing violence from military and/or non-state armed groups, destruction of homes and villages, torture and killings, and mass displacement. After three years of conflict, children are suffering from prolonged toxic stress which has had a severe impact on their well-being and has diminished children’s natural resilience.

Children require urgent support to manage their emotions, understand the normal reactions they are having to an abnormal situation, and improve their psychosocial well-being and resilience through play-based learning and positive social interactions with peers and adult role models. It is imperative to provide children with safe, inclusive and protective learning environments as a first step to reduce exposure to harm and to re-establish a routine and a sense of normalcy.

ECW: How do you see the education sector in relation to other sectors, in achieving the Global Goals, and what importance does it have to you in leading the UN country team and humanitarian community in Cameroon?

Allegra Baiocchi: Education is a fundamental right and is also essential to achieve the 17 Global Goals; nothing should restrict children’s access to quality learning. Education is also a main vehicle for development and is essential to reduce poverty and inequality, to strengthen peace and institutions, to increase economic growth and to improve the overall well-being of populations.

The UN team and the humanitarian community are highly concerned about the current situation. What will be the future for an entire generation of children when so many are out of school? In recent years, Cameroon’s school enrolment rates for both boys and girls has been increasing as a result of development policies. As humanitarians, we must pursue all possible avenues for providing access to quality education, even in circumstances in which education is under attack.

ECW: What is the funding situation for education in the humanitarian appeals and among donors in Cameroon, as well as globally towards Cameroon?

Allegra Baiocchi: The humanitarian response plan for Cameroon requires funding of US$298.9 million, but to date is only 19.7 per cent funded. Education is one of the worst funded sectors; prior to receiving Education Cannot Wait (ECW) funding, only 6 per cent of the financial requirement for education in North-West and South-West regions had been met. With ECW funding, 23 per cent of the funding gap will now be covered. Source : https://fts.unocha.org/appeals/718/summary

ECW: What made you reach out to Education Cannot Wait and what were your expectations?

Allegra Baiocchi: Because Education Cannot Wait is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises, it is essential for Cameroon to have the Fund’s support for the education response. This also helps underline education as a priority within the country humanitarian agenda.

Receiving funding and support from ECW is also important for advocacy, to raise the profile of the severity of the education crisis in the North-West and South-West regions. Not only is Cameroon’s humanitarian response the worst funded in Africa, but the education response for the North-West and South-West was almost entirely un-funded prior to receiving ECW support.

With Education Cannot Wait funding, we will be able to ensure 18,386 children have access to quality education; the vast majority of these children were previously out of school. This funding will also highlight the severity of the crisis and the humanitarian commitment to ensuring children are able to fulfil their right to education. It is hoped that this will encourage other international donors to also fund the education response so that we can reach significantly more children with subsequent funding.

ECW: How did you find the ECW response? Did it support you in your responsibilities as the RC/HC? What will the ECW investment do to (strategy and activities) to achieve change?

Allegra Baiocchi: Education Cannot Wait’s funding is aligned with the inter-agency humanitarian appeal and covers 23 per cent of the current funding gap for the North-West/South-West education response. It will support 18,386 children (of whom 9,505 are girls) of pre-primary, primary and secondary school age in accessing quality formal and non-formal education learning opportunities in the two regions.

This crucial grant will be implemented over the next 12 months by Plan International (US$750,000), UNESCO (US$1.1 million), the Danish Refugee Council (US$400,000) and the World Food Programme (US$500,000), in collaboration with the Government of Cameroon and the Cameroon Education Cluster.

Education activities will support the resumption and continuity of learning for crisis-affected children and youth – a majority of whom have been out of school for three years now. There will also be a focus on protection to reduce risks of exploitation, child labour, early marriage, early pregnancy and recruitment into armed forces and armed groups. Psychosocial support, school feeding programmes, vocational training for youth, community reintegration and school readiness will also be supported.

ECW: Any final words from your side?

Allegra Baiocchi: The situation for children in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon is alarming. Almost all schools have been closed and nearly all children are currently out of school. In an area of active conflict, this puts children in immediate danger – outside of a protective school environment, children are regularly exposed to traumatic incidents and are at risk of being directly harmed.

Hundreds of thousands of children have now missed all of secondary school or half of primary school. Illiteracy is on the rise. Families, communities and children themselves are losing all hope for the future. It is the responsibility of the humanitarian community to protect children’s right to education and to get these kids back on track with their learning. With Education Cannot Wait funding, this is what we will be doing.

ECW: Thank-you so much for your time and your dedicated efforts in Cameroon, Allegra.  

About Ms. Allegra Maria Del Pilar Baiocchi, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations system and Humanitarian Coordinator in Cameroon

Ms. Allegra Baiocchi is the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Cameroon, since July 18, 2017.

Prior to her appointment as the highest ranking United Nations official in Cameroon, Ms. Baiocchi held the position of Regional Representative for West and Central Africa for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), based in Dakar, Senegal.

Ms. Baiocchi has held several positions within the United Nations, she has also worked in NGOs and academia. She has held several international postings, including in Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Senegal, Sudan and South Sudan and at the UN Secretariat Headquarter in New York.

An Italian and Venezuelan bi-national, Ms. Baiocchi holds a Master’s degree in Political Science and Development Economics from the University of Rome, Italy. She speaks French, Spanish and English.

Follow @AllegraBaiocchi and @EduCannotWait to #Act4Ed in Crisis. 

DUBAI CARES COMMITTED TO CONTINUE INVESTING IN EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES

Tariq Al Gurg shaking hands with Gordon Brown.
Tariq Al Gurg shaking hands with Gordon Brown.

PARTNER VOICES Q&A

‘EVERY CHILD IS BORN EQUAL AND EDUCATION IS EVERY CHILD’S BIRTH RIGHT’

A founding partner of Education Cannot Wait, Dubai Cares remains committed to funding education in emergencies through its growing global portfolio of philanthropic investments. With a total US$6.8 million in current contributions over four years, the philanthropic organization is a key contributor to the Education Cannot Wait global resource mobilization efforts, which focus on working with the private and philanthropic sectors, bilateral and multilateral donors, United Nations and civil society organizations, and country-level partners. Dubai Cares was a first responder joining Education Cannot Wait to rapidly fund the Rohingya refugees when arriving in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh in the early fall of 2017, providing an additional half-million US dollars to the Fund to allow for an immediate response to the emergency.

Through this broad coalition of stakeholders, Education Cannot Wait aims to mobilize US$1.8 billion by 2021 to reach 8.9 million children living in crisis and emergencies with quality education. Funding for education in emergencies has been historically low, but is slowly on the rise, with supporters like Dubai Cares helping to advocate for a global response to the glaring needs of children and youth caught in situations of crisis. In 2013, education in emergencies accounted for just 2 per cent of humanitarian aid. In 2018, it accounted for 4 per cent. Nevertheless, a major deficit remains and 75 million children living in crisis are still in need of educational support.

We connected with the CEO of Dubai Cares, Tariq Al Gurg, to learn more about the foundation’s key role in education in emergencies and why they’ve decided to dedicate a third of their resources to fill the gap that’s left millions of children behind worldwide. A leading global advocate for increased visibility and support for children left behind in fragile and crisis-affected countries, Al Gurg has been recognized by Irina Bokova, former director of UNESCO, for his role in transitioning Dubai Cares from a young philanthropic organization into a global leader in the international education arena.

Q. Dubai Cares is a founding partner of Education Cannot Wait, and a generous funder of the Fund’s efforts to deliver safe and reliable education to millions of children and youth living in emergencies and protracted crisis. As a foundation, can you tell us why Dubai Cares decided to invest its energies, resources and talents into the new global Fund?

A. As a philanthropic organization with no operational presence on the ground and limited direct access to populations in need in emergency and protracted crisis contexts, it is important for us that we support the partners best placed in each context to help deliver education to those most in need. 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.

As a member of the High-Level Steering Group for Education Cannot Wait, Dubai Cares contributes to leveraging additional finance and catalyzing new approaches to funding and innovation to deliver education in emergencies and protracted crises. As a foundation representative, Dubai Cares aims to highlight the role foundations can play in supporting the global education in emergencies ecosystem and bridge the gap between traditional humanitarian funding mechanisms and private and philanthropic donors.

By supporting the secretariat costs of Education Cannot Wait, Dubai Cares remains committed towards increasing its effort to support the delivery of education in emergencies with the hope of reaching all crisis-affected children and youth with safe, free and quality education.

Q. Why is access to education for children living in crisis and conflict important for the economic future of our world in general? What do you think is the role of foundations and philanthropy in supporting quality learning for children and youth in crisis settings?

A. Never before in humankind’s history has the urgency for education in emergencies been more important. The positive impact of education on societies and future generations is undeniable. Education in emergencies and protracted crises has the power to provide physical, psychosocial, and cognitive protection that can sustain and save children’s lives.  Also, education in emergencies can help child soldiers, internally displaced persons, refugees and all those affected by emergencies to reintegrate back into society, and overcome the negative effects that emergencies can have on people. Schools can provide safe spaces for children to build friendships, play and learn. In addition, there is sufficient empirical evidence to prove the positive economic impact of education, as for every extra year a refugee child spends in school, their future income increases by 3 per cent.

Foundations and philanthropic organizations are not always best placed to fund emergency response interventions, whether in education or other sectors. Financing for education in emergencies must be quick. It must be available for immediate disbursement and be integrated into the existing humanitarian financing mechanisms; long-term and continuous; flexible and allocated to unconventional and traditional solutions; equitable and reach all children; and finally be directed to new and necessary evidence-based interventions. The mandates and annual funding cycles of foundations are often restrictive and they rarely have a detailed overview of who is best placed to respond in a particular emergency due to lack of direct access on the ground. Nonetheless, foundations and philanthropic organizations play a critical role in supporting the funding and coordination mechanisms in the larger education in emergencies ecosystem. Philanthropic funding for evidence generation, capacity building and global goods in the sector allows for targeted, measurable and high-impact investments that enable the entire education in emergencies system to deliver in a more coordinated and effective way. This is exactly why Dubai Cares supports the ECW secretariat.

Q. How can Dubai Cares, Education Cannot Wait and our partners work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and why is universal and inclusive access to education important?’

A. Dubai Cares is playing a key role in helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly goal number 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning by 2030, by supporting programmes in early childhood development, access to quality primary and secondary education, technical and vocational education and training for youth, as well as a particular focus on education in emergencies and protracted crises.

Every child is born equal and education is every child’s birth right; it is unacceptable that children, especially those living in developing countries, have to live in unhygienic conditions, go to school hungry, suffer from diseases and illnesses, work at a young age to support the family, and have little or no access to education, among others. Education equips children and young people with the capacities and qualities necessary to address the challenges that humanity is facing. Education builds sustainable and resilient societies and contributes to the achievement of the other SDGs. Education should be inclusive and universal in its principles and local in its impact.

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. Our strategic partnership with Education Cannot Wait is testimony of the power of partnership to make a lasting change for the millions of children out of school due to conflict or crisis.

Q. How can we provide better access to education for refugees and why is this important?

Refugees face a particular situation with respect to being denied access to education. They are residents in a country different from their own, and have therefore limited, if any, access to their own country’s education system. Education for refugees needs to take place within accountable systems that provide certification to ensure valuable and relevant learning.

In addition, an emergency response should take into account physical protection through measures that include strengthening school infrastructure and providing a safe haven for learning. Moreover, teachers involved in the education of refugees need adequate training and regular pay. Emergency education supplies and materials are also needed to meet the cognitive, psychosocial and developmental needs of children in emergencies.

With all of the above, funding remains the most important aspect of support to ensure that every crisis-affected child and young person is in school and learning. This requires the coming together of grassroots activists and decision-makers from the corridors of power.

Q. Girls in crisis face increased risk of being left behind. How can we work to achieve more equitable and safe educational outcomes for girls and adolescent girls?

A. In some parts of the world, girls are still denied their fundamental right to education for different reasons, not to mention when girls are affected by emergencies. Girls are especially at risk, and are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school in countries affected by conflict than boys.

In order to help girls affected by emergencies, we need to provide girls with the necessary skills and tools to cope within or break the cycle of violence and contribute to their communities’ recovery. In particular, girls need education to take control of their own lives. An educated girl is better protected against gender-based risks, such as early marriage and pregnancy, abuse and exploitation, and also better prepared to be able to make the right choices for herself and her society. In addition, it is crucial to educate boys and men about gender equality by engaging them in promoting girls’ and women’s rights.

Q. Education Cannot Wait supports education responses in many crisis areas in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, including several Arab States. Why is it important to support education responses in these regions? How can it contribute to increasing security and prosperity in these regions?

A. Despite the growing number of children caught in conflict and natural disasters, statistics show only 2% of overall humanitarian aid is spent on education. This makes the needs of children living in fragile states an urgent priority for Dubai Cares.

When Syrian refugee children are forced to leave their homes due to the ongoing conflict or Nepalese children are displaced because of an earthquake or boys and girls in Sierra Leone are quarantined because of the Ebola outbreak, education is one of the first casualties and one of the last services to be restored.

Education in emergencies provides stability and security to refugee children, when everything else around them has collapsed. The classroom has proven to be a peaceful environment for children affected by emergencies. In addition, children gain life-saving skills and acquire critical information on health and safety that they in turn are able to share with their families and communities. Education in emergencies also reduces the psycho-social impact of trauma and displacement. It is also the first line of response for promoting the recovery and wellbeing of children and adolescents.

Q. What is the strategic value-ad of your partnership with Education Cannot Wait?

A. Education Cannot Wait is a first-of-its-kind fund that brings together public and private partners determined to work together, identify creative and collaborative solutions for Education in emergencies and mobilize the funding required to deploy rapid-response and – more importantly – multi-year programmes relevant to each specific crisis context.

Our involvement with Education Cannot Wait opens doors for us to connect directly with implementers, thus allowing us to receive first-hand and real-time information and reports on emergency situations and the required/recommended educational interventions, which we as a foundation would not normally have direct access to. ECW also represents a collaborative way of working that increases coordination and brings together the best minds from around the world to exchange opinions and ideas, broaden knowledge, share best practices, highlight challenges and formulate solutions.

This is specifically of importance to Dubai Cares as it connects us to businesspeople, leaders, employers, innovators, humanitarians and philanthropists who play a critical role in tackling Education in emergencies, from HQ level to the very closest level in the affected countries.

Q. Anything you would like to add?

A. More collaboration at country and thematic levels is key to support harmonized and effective coordination, joint planning, and response in Education in Emergencies programming. Due to the significant role education plays in the well-being of societies, it is of paramount importance that sufficient funding is allocated to this key pillar for the healthy advancement of civilization.

Tariq Al Gurg[1]

EDUCATION IS AN ESSENTIAL BUILDING BLOCK FOR PEACE IN AFGHANISTAN

Q&A WITH EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT DIRECTOR YASMINE SHERIF ON AFGHANISTAN PROGRAMME LAUNCH

UN Photo/Roger Lemoyne; Nangarhar, Afghanistan. UN Photo/Roger Lemoyne. www.unmultimedia.org/photo/
UN Photo/Roger Lemoyne; Nangarhar, Afghanistan. UN Photo/Roger Lemoyne. www.unmultimedia.org/photo/

Q&A WITH EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT DIRECTOR YASMINE SHERIF ON AFGHANISTAN PROGRAMME LAUNCH

Why is education important for Afghanistan?

While Afghanistan is making progress in improving access to education, approximately 3.7 million children remain out of school. 2017 saw nearly half a million newly displaced people in Afghanistan, as well as an influx of over 600,000 Afghans returning from Iran and Pakistan. Droughts connected with climate change and other conflicts are pushing more people to migrate and undermining efforts to get more children in school.

More than half of returnee girls and boys are currently out of school due to the lack of capacity of schools to enroll additional children, lack of required documentation to facilitate enrollment, cost factors, and language, gender and cultural barriers.

Education is an essential building block in Afghanistan’s progress toward peace, security and sustainable economic development. Education brings empowerment and enlightenment. We can’t afford to lose another generation to war, conflict and displacement.

Tell us about the new programme

The three-year programme will target the most vulnerable children in Afghanistan, with a particular focus on girls, internally displaced children, and returnee refugee communities. Education Cannot Wait and the Government of Sweden have provided the seed funding to get this programme started, and get Afghanistan’s children back in school, with US$12 million in funding from Education Cannot Wait and a generous US$10 million grant from the government of Sweden.

It will be implemented and managed through a broad coalition of international organizations, national and international NGOs, and representatives from the national government and civil society. Key partners include the Afghan Ministry of Education, IOM, OCHA, OHCHR, UNAMA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNOPS, UNHCR, WFP, WHO, the World Bank and Education Cannot Wait, alongside National and International NGOs such as Save The Children, Norwegian Refugee Council and International Rescue Committee.

The programme builds on the progress made through Education Cannot Wait’s US$3.4 million first emergency response, which focused on access to basic education for the most vulnerable children – returnees, internally displaced children, girls, children in isolated rural areas –  through community-based education, providing teaching and learning materials, and teacher training and recruitment.

Up to US$35 million will be required annually from international donors and national entities to cover the full cost of the multi-year programme. We are calling on the global community to step up and be counted. Funding education in Afghanistan isn’t just the right thing to do for our global humanity, it will also power our work to end poverty and hunger by 2030, and ensure universal access to education for every girl and boy in Afghanistan. Our work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal 4, which calls for equitable access to education for every girl and boy on the planet by 2030, cannot be compromised. Education cannot wait for an entire generation of Afghan children that risk being left behind.

What impacts are anticipated on the ground from this programme?

In a country where a lack of female teachers and cultural biases have severely limited educational opportunities for girls, the investment will recruit, train and provide financial support for 14,000 teachers, over 60 per cent of whom will be women. It will also set up 2,500 gender-sensitive water and sanitation  facilities, and build an awareness campaign to reach over 150,000 people.

Through this joint work, the programme looks to improve numeracy, literacy and educational resilience for children by 10 per cent, increase school attendance by 30 percent to get 460,000 girls and boys back in school, and nearly triple the number of existing primary and pre-primary learning spaces from 5760 (2017) to 16,500. The investment will also provide learning materials, such as textbooks and notebooks, to 500,000 children, including 325,000 girls.

Distance and danger hinder access to schools in Afghanistan, especially for girls. The investment will provide transport for 40,000 children to educational facilities, including 26,000 girls.

With so many returnee and displaced children, special emphasis will be paid to helping integrate children into the education system. To get children back on track, over a quarter million displaced girls and boys will be supported in obtaining documentation and school certification, and catch-up classes in Dari and Pashto languages will be extended to some 276,000 children.

How will this programme work to close the gender gap?

In Afghanistan, education is largely delivered along gender lines, with very few mixed-gender schools. And a lack of girls-only schools and female teachers provides a significant barrier to education for the 2.2 million girls that are still left behind. That’s more than the total population of Qatar and Luxembourg combined.

The Ministry of Education has just recently launched its Girls’ Education Policy specifically to remove barriers to education for all Afghan girls and women, to close the gender gap in the school enrollment of girls and boys, and to bring out-of-school girls into the education system.

In alignment with this policy, the programme will focus on a wide spectrum of actions, such as:  creating safe school environments, including supporting community transport for girls to travel safely to school; supporting displaced girls and boys to obtain documentation and schooling certification; implementing community-based education to reach children, especially girls, in rural and isolated areas; developing and rolling-out distance learning packages for hard-to-reach locations and communities, such as radio education programmes, self-learning materials; and providing training to 20,000 teachers, especially female teachers.

What has Education Cannot Wait achieved so far in Afghanistan?

This new multi-year investment will scale-up and accelerate Education Cannot Wait’s initial US$3.4 million 12-month investment in Afghanistan announced in June 2017. This rapid response programme aimed to provide immediate relief to children in need of educational support. It focused on access to basic education for the most vulnerable children – Afghan returnees, internally displaced children, host community children, girls, children in rural and isolated areas – through community-based education, providing teaching and learning materials, and teacher training and recruitment.

The programme successfully reached 35,000 children, including 59 per cent girls, providing them with access to formal and non-formal education, including community-based education.  Through this programme, Education Cannot Wait partnered with a local NGO, Wadan, to reach children in the most head to reach areas. For example, through this local partner, we were able to recruit and train a female biology teacher in a community of displaced people in Radat. With a new biology teacher, some 40 girls have returned to class. We were also able to provide hope and a sense of normalcy to children who fled violence in the Nangarhar’s Achin District. We provided these uprooted children with sense of normalcy and restored hope thanks to the community school we set up in displaced people settlements.

Education Cannot Wait is determined to mainstream and accelerate these successes to reach more of Afghanistan’s vulnerable girls and boys and support the government in providing long-term solution to integrate them into the education system.

Afghanistan Multi-Year Programme Launch

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

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

37238388254_f6d2e9b1d9_kPARTNER VOICES Q&A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any additional comments?

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

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