MORE THAN 24 MILLION CHILDREN AFFECTED BY CONFLICT NEED MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

Millions of children living in war zones or forced to flee as refugees will require support to address mental health concerns, according to a new briefing paper released by Save the Children today, ahead of critical meetings at next week’s United Nations General Assembly. 

Photo UNICEF Ukraine.

7.1 million children at serious risk of developing severe mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or PTSD

Stories from the Field

Originally published on Save the Children Australia

11 September 2019 – Millions of children living in war zones or forced to flee as refugees will require support to address mental health concerns, according to a new briefing paper released by Save the Children today, ahead of critical meetings at next week’s United Nations General Assembly. 

Road to recovery: responding to children’s mental health in conflict’ reveals that of the 142 million children living in conflict zones, more than seven million are at serious risk of developing severe mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression or anxiety, and severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

At least 24 million children – four times the child population of Australia – require some form of mental health support, either now or in the future.

“We know that mental health is a really big issue facing many Australians. But imagine being a child who’s seen family members killed in front of their eyes or fled to a refugee camp with no idea what the future holds or who is living in a war zone where it’s too dangerous to go to school because of the risk of shelling,” Save the Children’s Humanitarian Director Archie Law said.

“Tens of millions of children are in this position, having had their lives turned upside down because of war and conflict. They are suffering a range of mental health problems, yet rarely are the services needed to treat and support these children available because it simply isn’t being adequately funded.”

Save the Children’s analysis found that just 0.14 percent of all official development assistance between 2015-2017 went to programs related to child mental health support. 

At the same time the number of children living in conflict zones has increased by 37 percent since 2010, while the number of verified grave violations against them – including killing and maiming, recruitment into armed forces and sexual violence – has increased by 174 percent.

“The scale of the mental health crisis for children in conflict is enormous, yet we don’t have the funding to match the need,” said Mr Law, who has a long history working in conflict and post-conflict settings including Iraq, Cambodia and several parts of Africa.

“That’s why we’re calling on countries meeting at the UN General Assembly this coming week, including Australia, to commit to increase funding to help the recovery of children affected by conflict.”

Specifically, Save the Children is urging donors like Australia to support the replenishment of the US$1.8bn Education Cannot Wait fund – providing nine million conflict affected children with the opportunity to learn and recover – and commit dedicated funding to integrate mental health and psychosocial support services within education in humanitarian settings.

Among those children requiring mental health support is 12-year-old Fatima*, who was in her home in Hajjah, Yemen, when an airstrike killed both of her parents and five siblings. Fatima’s leg was badly injured, and she needed operations to remove the shrapnel.

“I was unconscious and buried in the sand and rescue people were only able to help me and my sister. They took us to the hospital and that’s it. My leg was injured very badly to the extent that it was with no flesh. They (seven members of my family) were buried in the village,” Fatima said.

Fatima* now lives with her sister and aunt, Arwa*, who worries about her nieces’ mental state. Arwa* told Save the Children:

“Both girls wake up at night talking to us unconsciously. They are so sensitive. At night, they become angry and start crying.”

Through Save the Children’s global Stop the War on Children campaign, the organisation is campaigning to keep schools safe, stop the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, seek accountability for crimes against children and pursue new ways to support their recovery from the horrors of conflict. To find out more go to www.stopthewaronchildren.org.au

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For media inquiries contact Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937 or Licardo Prince on 0401 777 917.

*Name changed to protect identity.

Notes to Editor: 

In 2019, the World Health Organization estimated that 17% of adults living in conflict zones have mild to moderate mental health disorders, which would require non-specialised mental health support. Assuming that similar rates apply to children and adolescents, it is estimated that approximately 24 million children living in conflict today have mild to moderate mental health disorders needing an appropriate level of support. Of these, 5% (7.1 million) were estimated to be at risk of developing severe mental health disorders.

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

UGANDA: EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT MAKES AN IMPACT ON GIRLS’ EDUCATION

Rosemary fled South Sudan two years ago when she was 19 because of the conflict engulfing her home country. She left most of her family behind to find safety and security in neighboring Uganda. Today, she is a student at the Itula Secondary School in Moyo, northern Uganda, on the border with South Sudan. When I met her earlier this year, she told me “Education will provide me with a brighter future.”

Photo © JRS

Stories From The Field

By Giulia McPherson, Director of Advocacy & Operations at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

Rosemary fled South Sudan two years ago when she was 19 because of the conflict engulfing her home country. She left most of her family behind to find safety and security in neighboring Uganda. Today, she is a student at the Itula Secondary School in Moyo, northern Uganda, on the border with South Sudan. When I met her earlier this year, she told me “Education will provide me with a brighter future.”

According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, refugee girls are only half as likely to be enrolled in secondary school as boys. While Rosemary defies these odds, she is still facing a number of challenges. To support herself and her grandfather who is paralyzed, Rosemary makes pancakes and also uses the income she earns to pay for her own school fees. She also sleeps at a friend’s home during the week because the refugee settlement where she lives is too far from school.

Itula Secondary School was founded by the local community in 1996, with support from Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), in response to the educational needs of refugees who were fleeing Sudan’s civil war. The local government assumed responsibility for the school in 2005 as many refugees began to return home once the conflict subsided. In 2017, a new wave of refugees from South Sudan began to arrive and the need for Itula to serve the local refugee population became ever more critical.

Today, the school has 1,420 students – 1,179 of whom are refugees from South Sudan. Of these students, 42 percent are girls. What makes Itula special is the support it has received from the local community, dedicated teachers and administrators, and initiatives like Education Cannot Wait (ECW) that have invested in rehabilitating the school to accommodate the needs of students.

Education Cannot Wait is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings. To date, ECW has reached 1.3 million children and youth in its first two years of operations and is aiming to mobilize $1.8 billion in funding for education in crisis settings by 2021 to reach approximately 9 million children annually.

In 2018, JRS implemented a grant from Education Cannot Wait to build new classrooms, dormitories for girls, accommodations for staff, gender-segregated latrines, and an incinerator for sanitary products. Some of these improvements help to address specific challenges faced by girls, which JRS outlined in a recent report – Her Future: Challenges & Recommendations to Increase Education for Refugee Girls. These challenges include long distances to reach the closest school, and related safety concerns, and a lack of sanitary materials and sanitation facilities.

Before the intervention. Photo © JRS

These improvements have had a tremendous impact on improving the quality of life for Itula’s students, teachers, and larger community. Yet, some students spoke to me about areas where they hope for continued change.

Evaline, a 17-year-old student at Itula Secondary School, told me, “We need to be able to talk, share our problems with others, this is how we will find courage.” Establishing social clubs and mentoring opportunities for girls to share, discuss, and advocate on behalf of their needs is another important way to invest in a quality education for refugee girls. Often times, refugee girls experience some level of trauma or violence due to their displacement. Promoting a safe and protective learning environment for girls is critical in ensuring their success in school.

After the intervention. Photo © JRS

Civil society organizations – including JRS – have joined forces to voice our support for Education Cannot Wait as it works towards its goal of supporting quality education for close to 9 million children annually in some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Only by bringing together international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, can we continue to address the needs of students like Rosemary and Evaline, and the millions of other young people affected by conflict and violence.

This story was originally published by Giulia McPherson at Global Campaign for Education US

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

INCLUSIVE EDUCATION

'I have a lot of friends. They help me study.' Yasmina, 10. Photo © UNICEF/Bangladesh
‘I have a lot of friends. They help me study.’ Yasmina, 10. Photo © UNICEF/Bangladesh

IN THE COMPLEX ROHINGYA CRISIS, EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INVESTMENT SUPPORTED THROUGH UNICEF PROVIDES CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES THE HOPE, FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITY OF AN EDUCATION

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by UNICEF Bangladesh

Yasmina is an enthusiastic 10-year-old Rohingya student. She’s different from other girls her age. Not just because she’s dealt with the horrors of fleeing her home in Myanmar and losing her father. And not just because she has an infectious smile and her eyes light up when you call her by name. Yasmina has special needs.

For girls like her, living in the Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Bangladesh, accessing quality education is difficult to say the least. Even harder is finding a qualified teacher that can help her overcome her special needs and find a place to be safe and thrive.

With the support of Education Cannot Wait’s US$3 million First Emergency Response Grant to UNICEF, there is new hope for Yasmina and hundreds more children like her.

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY

Yasmina, 10, is challenged by a speech impediment and learning disabilities. With financial support from Education Cannot Wait, she is now attending classes full time at the UNCEF/Plan Learning Center in Kutupalong. Photo © UNICEF/Bangladesh
Yasmina is challenged by a speech impediment and learning disabilities. With financial support from Education Cannot Wait, she is now attending classes full time at the UNICEF/Plan Learning Center in Kutupalong. Photo © UNICEF/Bangladesh

Yasmina’s positive demeanor belies the tragedy her family dealt with in Myanmar. Her father was killed in the violence, and her family was forced to abandon their home and seek safety in Bangladesh.

Her mother, Abia Hatan, now takes care of Yasmina and her three siblings in their small shelter in the Kutupalong refugee camp.

Yasmina faces additional challenges in the classroom because she has learning difficulties, physical disabilities and a severe speech impediment. The brave young girl started back to school last year at her nearest learning centre. But she wasn’t attending regularly. In December 2018, with financial support from the Education Cannot Wait First Emergency Response, UNICEF and partners launched a major education drive through the “Back to Learning” campaign. Thousands of community mobilizers encouraged parents and caregivers to send their children to learning centres to receive an education through the new improved structured-learning programme.

The community mobilizers worked closely with parents, teachers and local leaders to encourage students who had dropped out or were not attending regularly to return to the classroom for enhanced learning opportunities.

A widescale assessment was completed for 180,000 children, who were grouped in learning centres according to the results and their competency levels. Yasmina’s mother brought her to the learning centre to undertake the assessment. Yasmina took more time than the other students but she completed the test and was placed in a new learning centre.

As part of the comprehensive education response in Bangladesh, the programme works to ensure that children with disabilities have inclusive access to learning opportunities.

This means that children like Yasmina can be included in the mainstream education programme. Extra training has been provided to teachers to ensure they can successfully integrate children with disabilities into the classroom and actively engage these students in their lessons.

To date, 181 children with disabilities have been enrolled in learning centres through the Education Cannot Wait investment. By the end of 2019, UNICEF aims to include all the children identified with disabilities into learning centres to give them the opportunities they need to flourish.

Yasmina’s mother is extremely proud of her daughter’s progress.

“I can see a big difference in Yasmina over the past few months. She was so happy to receive her first set of school books. She takes them home to study each night. She feels very excited and encouraged to learn,” says Abia, Yasmina’s mother.  “I can also see some improvements in her speech. She is growing in confidence and much more content, now that she is going to the learning centre six days a week.”

MAINSTREAMING RESULTS

Yasmina's teacher noted improvement in the girl's comprehension and social skills. Photo © UNICEF/Bangladesh
Yasmina’s teacher noted improvement in the girl’s comprehension, speaking and social skills. Photo © UNICEF/Bangladesh

Working in coordination with the Government of Bangladesh, UNICEF, UNESCO and UNHCR, the Education Cannot Wait-supported multi-year educational response in Bangladesh is mainstreaming and accelerating the impact of the First Emergency Response. Launched last November, the programme is already yielding results.

According to reports from March, UNICEF, through its implementing partner BRAC are supporting the continued operational costs for 189 learning centres, providing salaries for teachers, schools supplies and learning materials, and providing vocational skills training for youth. UNICEF has also developed a learning competencies framework and approach that will guide the delivery of the overall education response, and has trained 59 master teachers to date to improve the skills, responsiveness and quality of teaching. Through improved planning, coordination, and a harmonized approach to professional development for teachers, the programme will roll out a unified curriculum.

From Education Cannot Wait’s initial US$12 million catalytic grant, US$8.4 million is being channelled through UNICEF.  The multi-year response is also working with multiple stakeholders to fill the funding gap for the educational response, which has been calculated at US$60 million for 2019 alone.

This systems-wide approach will reach half a million children and youth, and 9800 teachers over the next three years, and bring new light and hope for children caught up in one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises.

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

Yasmina is making friends in her classroom, and practicing reading and writing at home with the new school materials provided through the investment. Photo © UNICEF/Bangladesh She has two friends in the classroom – Noor Amin (her brother) and Koshmin. She likes rhyming classes. Abia Hatan is her moth
Yasmina is making friends in her classroom, and practicing reading and writing at home with the new school materials provided through the investment. Photo © UNICEF/Bangladesh

RESILIENCE IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY

Thirteen-year-old Manjita from Chitwan District in Nepal’s west. Manjita had lost her parents at a very young age. She had been working in a restaurant a few years ago until she was taken in by an orphanage and started school. ©UNICEF Nepal/2019

After the devastating floods in Nepal, a chance at an education helps a young orphaned girl find opportunity, hope and security

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by UNICEF

Chitwan, Nepal – Thirteen-year-old Manjita* wants to be a social worker one day. The fourth grader from Chitwan District in Nepal’s west is keen on helping people who might not have had the best starts in life.

It is a subject that hits very close to home for her. In her short life, Manjita has been orphaned, missed school, suffered through floods that further impacted her education, and found new hope through a programme backed by Education Cannot Wait and implemented on the ground by UNICEF to get children like her back to learning after the recent floods.

A DANGEROUS PATH

Manjita’s memory of her early childhood is blurry. She knows she is originally from Rolpa District in the far west, but has little recollection of her parents, whom she lost at a very young age.

After living on the streets in Chitwan, working as a cleaner in a restaurant in exchange for room and board, she eventually found her way to an orphanage.

This marked the beginning of a new life for her. Orphanage officials enrolled Manjita at the Shree Siddhi Binayak Secondary School, in grade one. This was the first time she had ever been inside a school, and the transition wasn’t easy for her.

“The other students in my class were much younger and they called me ‘didi’ (older sister). I felt embarrassed around them,” she says. “I didn’t want to go.”

REDUCING RISK

Even as Manjita was struggling to settle into her new life as a student, the area was hit by heavy monsoon flooding in August 2017. Shree Siddhi Binayak was not spared. Floodwaters entered the classrooms and destroyed most of the materials therein, as well as damaging the toilets and other facilities. With classes disrupted by the floods for almost a week, Manjita, already having a hard time at school, was at even greater risk of dropping out and returning to the life of destitution that she had just left behind.

Recognizing the increased risks for children as a result of the disaster, UNICEF – with support from Education Cannot Wait – quickly reached out to Manjita and other vulnerable students like her in flood-hit schools to provide assistance to ensure that they stayed in class.

To encourage their return to school, Manjita and 13 other orphaned children at Shree Siddhi Binayak were each given a package of educational supplies, including a set of notebooks, pencils, pens, erasers, pencil sharpeners and a geometry box. This allowed them to more easily pick up their studies where they had left off before the flood. Manjita was also counseled by her teachers, the vice principal and Programme Officer under the ECW project Shashi Kala Pandey about the importance of continuing her education. Eventually, she says, she came to understand that this was an opportunity she should not squander.

In addition, UNICEF under the ECW-financed programme also helped to restore the toilets, and hand-washing and drinking-water facilities in the school that had been rendered unusable by the floods.

The support was part of Education Cannot Wait’s US$1.8 million First Emergency Response in Nepal, which has reached over 170,000 girls and boys like Manjita.

Manjita today loves going to school. She enjoys her social studies and Nepali lessons in particular, and also has a flair for art and drawing. She has also been an active participant in school activities, such as the handwashing demonstrations and disaster risk reduction trainings that were conducted as part of the ECW investment through the school’s child club.

What’s more, the School Management Committee and the local government have now agreed to continue providing educational supplies to other needy students like Manjita in the days to come.

*Name changed

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

AFTER THE QUAKE

Through the investment, Meggy received a backpack filled with supplies such as pencils and exercise books. Stationery is hard to come by in Mongulu, which has no shops, and some children never had access to these types of school supplies.
Through the investment, Meggy received a backpack filled with supplies such as pencils and exercise books. Stationery is hard to come by in Mongulu, which has no shops, and some children never had access to these types of school supplies. ©UNICEF/PNG/Dingi/2019

IN THE REMOTE VILLAGES OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA, UNICEF BRINGS MUCH-NEEDED RELIEF TO CHILDREN LIVING IN FEAR AFTER A MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE LEVELED HOMES AND DISPLACED FAMILIES THROUGH EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT FUNDED FIRST EMERGENCY RESPONSE

‘Shortage of food and fear were the main things that affected children. When we started school, we could see that children had lost weight. We didn’t have enough food to eat but we’re slowing building back.’

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by UNICEF Papua New Guinea

In February 2018, a devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake ripped through Mongulu village, Mt. Bosavi, in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands. It was the first time 8-year-old Meggy Tom had ever experienced an earthquake and it was a terrifying ordeal. The shaking and rumbling continued for weeks afterwards. “We could hear it coming and would run away and hide in our houses,” says Meggy.

The earthquake devastated the small, remote community. Mr. Sasobe Hay is the Head Teacher of Mongulu Primary and Elementary School where Meggy studies.

Mr. Sasobe Hay (right) with Mr. Dudilama, a teacher at another remote school in Mt. Bosavi, at an Education in Emergencies training of trainers course in Tari financed by Education Cannot Wait and facilitated by UNICEF in partnership with Save the Children. ©UNICEF/PNG/Dingi/2019
Mr. Sasobe Hay (right) with Mr. Dudilama, a teacher at another remote school in Mt. Bosavi, at an Education in Emergencies training of trainers course in Tari financed by Education Cannot Wait and facilitated by UNICEF in partnership with Save the Children. ©UNICEF/PNG/Dingi/2019

“Almost half of the school stayed away after the earthquake, just three weeks into the school year. Some students said they didn’t have any food as their parents were traumatized and too scared to go to the kitchen gardens. Creeks and rivers were dirty and muddy, and we couldn’t fetch water to drink and wash,” says Hay.

Precious kitchen gardens were trampled by pigs and wild animals, because the earthquake had destroyed the fences protecting them.

“Shortage of food and fear were the main things that affected children,” Hay says. “We couldn’t harvest any food. And with people scared to plant new gardens, people were getting hungry. When we started school, we could see that children had lost weight. We didn’t have enough food to eat but we’re slowing building back.”

A COORDINATED RESPONSE

A year on, Meggy and her classmates in Elementary 1 giggle excitedly as they open their new school backpacks provided by UNICEF through an Education Cannot Wait-financed first emergency response. They are filled with supplies such as pencils and exercise books, resources that many have never had before – stationery is hard to come by in Mongulu, which has no shops, and some children have never even been outside the area.

Getting the backpacks to Mongulu so that the children could resume learning was a logistical challenge. There is still no road access to the whole of the Bosavi area, and Tari, the nearest town, is a three- or four-day walk through the forest. Through the Education Cannot Wait investment, UNICEF worked closely with the Evangelical Church of Papua New Guinea, Hela Provincial Division of Education and missionaries based in Mongulu, and a plane was chartered for the 20-minute flight to deliver supplies from Tari to Mongulu. By the end of March 2019, Education in Emergency kits containing essentials such blackboard paint and chalk, as well as 523 students kits and 15 teachers kits had been delivered to Mongulu Elementary and Primary Schools alone.

The investment is having lasting results for the girls and boys impacted by the earthquake. With Education Cannot Wait support, UNICEF delivered a total of 1,126 students kits, 43 teachers kits, Education in Emergency kits and tents to three schools in the remote Mt. Bosavi area. UNICEF also provided training on Education in Emergencies, attended by hundreds of teachers, including Meggy’s Head Teacher, Sasobe Hay.

Meggy and her classmates are excited about going back to school. Through the coordinated response, they have a chance to begin learning again and establish a degree of normality in their young lives.

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

LINKS

PHOTOS

Papua New Guinea - Bosavi

UNITED IN HOPE

Sawa (left) and Dogodjima (right) posed in their new classroom built with the ECW fund in Moyen Chari, Chad. Photo UNICEF/Chad.
Sawa (left) and Dogodjima (right) pose in their new classroom built with the ECW fund in Moyen Chari, Chad. Photo UNICEF/Chad.

NEW CLASSROOMS BUILT FROM EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INVESTMENT IN CHAD DELIVER REAL RESULTS

STORIES FROM THE FIELD

Special Contribution by UNICEF Chad

Dogodjima, 16, is a 5th grader at Ferme Taguina primary school where he attends classes with his best friend Sawa. Eight years ago, Dogodjima fled war in the Central African Republic (CAR) and arrived in the south of Chad with his family.

Sawa, 15, is a native of the village. He is used to seeing refugees and returnees in his school. “Since our village is located at the border with CAR, we have families who escaped violence in CAR and settled here. We should welcome them and share what we have.”

Dogodjima and Sawa are well placed to speak about how the support from Education Cannot Wait through its 24-month Initial Investment in Chad has significantly improved learning conditions in school.

“Due to the lack of classrooms, older students like us used to attend classes under trees or in straw huts. It became particularly difficult during the rainy season. We sometimes continued classes under the rain.”

Thanks to the Education Cannot Wait support, classes took place in temporary learning spaces protecting both students and teachers from rain while the construction of three new classrooms was underway. To date, over 186,000 children have been reached with the US$10 million investment, including 83,000 girls. The investment is delivered through a grant to UNICEF and is implemented by the Ministry of Education with NGO partners ACRA, Jesuit Refugee Service and Refugee Education Trust (RET) International.

The investment is mobilizing community support to reach its goal of constructing 126 classrooms in all. Dogodjima and Sawa were thrilled that their fathers helped build the classrooms. “Our fathers attended many meetings held with village chiefs, the construction firm and RET International to take part in the construction work. Having seen our fathers working hard to build our classrooms, we are determined to continue our study to not disappoint them.”

Dogodjima hopes to stay in Chad to build his future with decent educational opportunities. He further hopes that other CAR refugee children in need of education will attend school with him. “You see, we now have new classrooms to welcome them among us.”

Learn More

The Children of the Lake Chad Crisis

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

THE WILL TO LEARN

Zakaria, 12, standing next to his school in Al-Jaffrah town of Deir-ez-Zor, rehabilitated by UNICEF with funding from Education Cannot Wait. Photo UNICEF/Syria
Zakaria, 12, standing next to his school in Al-Jaffrah town of Deir-ez-Zor, rehabilitated by UNICEF with funding from Education Cannot Wait. Photo UNICEF/Syria

REHABILITATED CLASSROOMS SUPPORTED THROUGH EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT AND UNICEF IN SYRIA GIVES A BOY WITH A CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE A NEW LEASE ON LIFE

‘I don’t want any child anywhere in the world to lose their right to learn’ – Zakaria, 12.

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by UNICEF Syria

As violence escalated in Deir-ez-Zor, Syria, almost five years ago, Zakaria and his family had nowhere else to go and chose to stay in their hometown of Al-Jaffrah.

When fighting destroyed the only school in town, Zakaria’s only alternative was to continue his learning by walking to a school in a nearby town, an hour away on foot.  However, born with a congenital heart disease, the daily walk of over eight kilometers proved

Photo UNICEF/Syria.
Photo UNICEF/Syria.

arduous.

“I felt different from other kids who could walk to school easily over the long journey,” recalls Zakaria, now 12. Despite all the challenges Zakaria continued to walk to school, carrying his heavy school bag, but still determined to continue his learning to become a teacher when he grows up.

Thanks to funding through Education Cannot Wait’s Initial Investment in Syria, UNICEF and partners rehabilitated eight schools in Deir-ez-Zor, including 116 classrooms, allowing Zakaria and 3,500 other boys and girls to continue their learning. Since its start in April 2017, the US$15 million investment has reached 177,000 children, including 85,000 girls. To support the unique needs of children growing up in conflict, the programme has strengthened the capacity of the education system to ensure a timely and coordinated education response, improved equitable access to education and learning opportunities, and improved the quality and relevance of education within a more protective environment.

“I’m so happy to be back in my original school,” says Zakaria with a grin. “I don’t want any child anywhere in the world to lose their right to learn.”

In 2019, 13 new schools are being rehabilitated in Deir-ez-Zor to ensure more children can return to their classrooms.

With the hard work of six international NGOs and 11 Syrian NGOs across the country, some 85,000 children have been enrolled and supported in education services to date. The programme also looks to empower teachers and communities. Since its start, some 2,600 teachers and other education personnel have received stipends and incentives, and 1,237 classrooms have been established or rehabilitated.

Learn More

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

Photo UNICEF/Syria.
Photo UNICEF/Syria.

FROM THE BRUTALITY OF WAR

Janet
“I want to serve and save the lives of my people.” – Janet. Photo War Child Canada.

STORIES FROM THE FIELD

War Child Canada shares the story of Janet, who lost her father to war in South Sudan. With support from a Education Cannot Wait First Emergency Response in Uganda, Janet is finding new hope for the future.

Special Contribution from War Child Canada

When war reaches children like Janet, they are forced to ‘grow up’ quickly. For Janet, that moment came in 2015 when her father was killed during the war in South Sudan. She was 12 at the time.

The following year, she fled to Uganda with her mother – a harrowing and dangerous journey for anyone to take, especially for a young teenager.

When she finally arrived in Uganda, she was relieved to feel safer but she faced new problems. Her mother was ill, they had no income and she was worried about how she and her mother would survive. She was in a different country and she didn’t know anyone apart from those who had fled with her.

Like many girls her age faced with similar pressures, Janet decided that the quickest and most effective way to pull herself and her mother out of extreme poverty was to get married.

“I decided to get married at the end of 2016,” she told us. “I now have a baby boy who is seven months old. However, when the man [her husband] started mistreating me, I escaped and fled home.”

She was free from the abuse but she now found herself in an even more precarious situation: back where she started, but with a baby to look after as well.

One day, Janet’s mother attended a community meeting organized by War Child Canada through the Education Cannot Wait First Emergency Response. The meeting was to bring awareness to the community about War Child’s Accelerated Education Programme. After the meeting, Janet’s mother went to her daughter and encouraged her to resume her education.

Janet didn’t need much convincing—the programme was free so she could see no reason not to grasp this golden opportunity.

Since Janet enrolled in the programme, school has become her second home.

“When I was accepted by the programme, I felt so good and was the happiest girl!”

Even her young son is not a barrier to her education. The programme recognizes that young mothers are just as deserving of an education as anyone else. When she shows up to school with her son on her back, she is greeted with a warm welcome rather than a raised brow.

“Mothers like me are treated with respect, by both learners and teachers.”

For Janet, War Child’s Accelerated Education Programme does more than provide her with education and an opportunity to pursue skilled work. While at school, she can connect with other girls her age who can really identify with everything Janet’s been through.

She tells us that she likes going to school because “I have my friends my age who have similar problems to me. This has given me an opportunity to share experiences with them and I feel very comfortable.”

Janet encourages War Child to continue to raise awareness among the community about the importance of education, especially for girls.

“Girls are often seen as a source of wealth,” she says. “They are often married when they are still school children.”

When asked what she will do with her education, Janet responded: “I want to become a nurse after finishing school. I want to serve and save the lives of my people.”

Janet is a shining example of what kind of impact can be made when we invest in girls who have experienced the brutality of war. She is a community leader in the making and we are humbled by her hard work and determination to make a better life for herself, her family, and her community.

Learn More

  • Education Cannot Wait provided a US$3.3 million First Emergency Response allocation in 2017 to several partners in Uganda in order to respond to urgent education needs connected with the refugee crisis.
  • To reach all the refugee children living in the country, Education Cannot Wait facilitated the development of a 3.5-year Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda, contributing US$11 million in seed funding to support the launch of the plan. The comprehensive plan looks to raise a total of US$389 million in total contributions to reach more than 560,000 refugee and host community children and youth. Girls and children with disabilities will be especially targeted in the response.
  • Children of Hope
  • Connecting People with Technology in Partnership with HP

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

A BRIGHTER FUTURE

PROVIDING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR CHILDREN IN GAZA BUILDS FOUNDATIONS FOR PEACE, SECURITY AND PROSPERITY

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

STORIES FROM THE FIELD

PROVIDING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR CHILDREN IN GAZA HELPS THEM ACHIEVE THEIR POTENTIAL – AND HOPE

Special Contribution By Mona Abu-Sharekh, UNWRA Visibility Officer

Samah Sawaf is a 42-year-old teacher for second grade students at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B,” in Gaza City. Her ten years of experience working at schools supported through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) provided her with a good understanding of the specific educational and psychosocial needs of students living in challenging contexts such as Gaza.

“Before settling in Gaza, I worked as an education facilitator in Canada and as a teacher in Kuwait. I often compare these different learning environments and I wonder how these young students manage to study and focus in such an unstable setting where they constantly hear about tragic human stories? This strongly affects their confidence in the future and, thus, their capacity to learn and study,” Samah says.

 

Palestine refugee students at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
Palestine refugee students at Mamounia Elementary Co-Ed School “B”.© 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

Gaza is a 40-kilometer-long coastal enclave and home to approximately 1.4 million Palestine refugees, or two-thirds of the overall population. Due to years of a long-standing blockade and political unrest, most of the people are struggling to survive. To make things worse, Gaza is seeing increased poverty levels, high unemployment, a deteriorating economy, and scarcity of energy and drinkable water.

Amid these difficult living conditions, education plays a crucial role in supporting children’s development and self-esteem and gives them hope for the future.

Having contributed to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees, UNRWA looks to education as a key element to protect the children of Gaza. The Agency provides basic education to more than 279,000 students in 274 schools in Gaza. UNRWA is the main provider of primary education to Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip.

At the heart of the UNRWA education programme is a strong commitment to provide quality, inclusive and equitable education for Palestine refugees, despite the difficult contexts in which they live. This strategic outcome seeks to build on the achievements to date of the UNRWA education reform with a focus on embedding, enriching and sustaining the achievements.

In 2011, UNRWA embarked on a systemic Agency-wide education reform process which sought to strengthen the UNRWA education system in order to support each and every child towards realising their full potential.

Supported by its education in emergencies response, UNRWA has continued to deliver education in times of crisis through the introduction of innovations such as student self-learning through the dedicated UNRWA  YouTube channel and an interactive learning website to develop numeracy and literacy skills.

As children in Gaza grow up in challenging conditions, frequently surrounded by poverty and violence, UNRWA-supported schools provide them with a safe place to learn and play.

Palestine refugee students are using support kits at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
Palestine refugee students are using support kits at Mamounia Elementary Co-Ed School “B”. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

PUTTING STUDENTS FIRST

“As the classrooms are overcrowded, the main difficulty is to offer space for every student to express himself or herself. I have a class of 42 students and the lesson lasts for 45 minutes which allows less than one minute for every child to share his or her ideas.  This makes it difficult for teachers to be inclusive and to ensure that no student feels neglected,” Samah said.

Despite these difficult working conditions, Samah does her best to provide her students with an enabling learning environment.

“When my students enter the classroom, I want them to know that they are in a safe place. If the child feels comfortable in the classroom, he or she will be more confident to participate and thus will be better integrated. I also think teaching students in a participative and interactive manner is more interesting and enhances students’ motivation and achievements.  This is why I acknowledge the usefulness and importance of the education tools that we received last year from Education Cannot Wait,” Samah said.

Over the past few years and through the UNRWA education reform, Samah and all the UNRWA teachers have been supported in implementing student-centred, active teaching and learning strategies.

Palestine refugee students are using support kits at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
A young Palestine refugee student, plays with a giant die, part of the support kit at Mamounia Elementary Co-Ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

ENHANCING THE LEARNING PROCESS

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) contributed to safeguarding the right of UNRWA school-aged children to complete quality, equitable and inclusive basic education through different interventions including support to teachers, provision of literacy and numeracy support kits, fans and school furniture, school maintenance and training on non-violence for education of staff and members of school parliaments.

The learning support materials purchased through the ECW investment have helped to enhance the learning process and provided a means for interaction and diverse teaching methodologies, strengthening students’ engagement and motivation. In times of crisis, it is even more key to develop the skills and competencies of children and help them achieve their full potential.

“The education tools we received as part of this investment, notably the Arabic alphabet printed cards, the portable theatres, the abacuses, the numeracy games and conversation plates, had a great impact on students’ motivation and involvement in the lessons. I noticed that these tools facilitate the learning process as students can visualize the abstract ideas and thus better memorize the information. Lessons are definitely more attractive when we use interactive tools and games as a way of learning,” Samah said.

Not only the teachers but also the students did notice the positive effect of these new tools. As in any education in emergencies response, student participation was an important part of the Education Cannot Wait-based investment. Empowering students is key to enhancing students’ own well-being and that of their peers and to creating an environment that is conducive to learning. Student engagement also helps to place students in a better position to deal with negative emotions and cope with the difficult living circumstances in Gaza.

“My class is much more colourful than before; we also do many more works in groups with these new tools, thanks to which I made new friends. For a long time I thought that studying was hard and boring but now, I discovered that it can be fun too, especially when we use the theatre item!”  said one of the school’s students, Mohammed Buhaisi.  

Mayar Mahfouz, a second-grade student says the new furniture has improved her learning environment. “I like when visitors come to the classroom and get impressed by how nice it is. It makes me feel proud and happy. Our classroom is so nice and so well equipped now that I want to preserve it and to spend more time in it.”

 

Teacher Areej Shaafout with her students at Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
UNRWA teacher Areej Shaafout with her students at Mamounia Elementary Co-Ed chool “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

Areej Shaafout, another teacher from Al Mamounia Elementary Co-ed School “B,” explains how the literacy learning support kits offer a solution to deal with the issue of overcrowded classrooms while enhancing literacy teaching: “I teach students in grade 1 and 2 to read and write and this requires patience and focus. The support kits catch students’ attention and help them to concentrate for a longer time as it gives them an opportunity to play instead of merely listening. I am happy to say that now, all of my 42 students can write and read!”

The Education Cannot Wait investment was key in providing targeted support to the overall UNRWA education programme and its education-in-emergencies approach. By building on the UNRWA education programme, the investment’s activities were embedded in the existing system, ensuring a maximized and long-term impact beyond 2018. However, for UNRWA to be able to sustain the delivery of education and consolidate existing efforts, commitment from donors to provide adequate and predictable funding is key.

© 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
A young Palestine refugee student engages with visual aids that are part of the support kits at Mamounia Elementary Co-Ed School “B” © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

STORIES FROM THE FIELD

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.