‘WHEN I TEACH, I AM FREE’

September 21 is the International Day of Peace. Dugale sees education – and the hope and opportunity it brings – as a pathway to a more peaceful world. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

In Uganda, a refugee teacher from South Sudan has returned to the classroom through an accelerated education programme implemented by the Norwegian Refugee Council with funding from Education Cannot Wait

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Rebecca Crombleholme, Norwegian Refugee Council Uganda (Original Story)

He fled South Sudan with nothing, but as soon as he arrived in Uganda, he began teaching. Dugale believes in the next generation, and he will stop at nothing until every child can return to their community ready to face the future.

“I have lost a lot of things,” he says, “but when I enter the classroom, I leave all that behind me. I teach like I would normally, and I am free.”

Dugale Severy is 38 years old. He began his teaching career in his hometown in South Sudan straight after leaving university. Throughout his own schooling he benefitted from teachers who made things clear, and this gave him the courage to learn more. Teaching, he says, is his way of serving others.

“I love teaching,” Dugale says with a smile. “When you are a teacher, you can help everybody without borders. I want to inspire my students to become teachers themselves so that they can help other refugee children.”

Dugale now teaches on the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Accelerated Education Programme in Nyumanzi Settlement, Uganda. Many of his students have lost loved ones and missed out on many years of school. All have been forced to flee their homes.

This is something Dugale understands, as he too was forced to flee.

A sanctuary amidst the chaos of conflict

In 2011, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan, bringing an end to Africa’s longest civil war. Two years later, violent conflict broke out, shattering the newly acquired peace. The conflict has since forced over four million people to flee their homes.

Dugale found a sanctuary amongst the chaos through his work. “I instantly enjoyed teaching. It was a good escape from the war. There was no interference.”

Despite the peace within the classroom walls, it was often hard to ignore the threats that surrounded them.

“During the war, we weren’t able to teach at our best because of fear. Sometimes you are in class and you hear the sound of guns. And then you must stop teaching and figure out how to respond. Whether you need to run,” says Dugale.

As the violence got closer to home, Dugale decided he must flee with his family to keep them safe.

Education offers a route out of poverty

Dugale and his family crossed the border into Uganda in 2016 with only their ID documents, clothes and enough food to last two days. “This is all I came with. The rest of the things I left in South Sudan,” Dugale says with regret.

He finds it difficult when he thinks about everything he has left behind. “My property has been looted and some of my relatives have been killed, so it is difficult to think about.”

Despite Uganda’s open border policy for refugees, life without work can be tough. Many families benefit from food aid from organisations like NRC, but this doesn’t reach everyone. As a result, many refugee children drop out of school to take on adult responsibilities.

But Dugale believes that education provides a route out of poverty. NRC’s Accelerated Education Programme is taught at primary level and welcomes students up to the age of 18. Some of these young people are scared of re-entering education, Dugale says. “They see their age and they see their size they think they cannot fit.” But he believes that it is never too late to learn.

“For those who do join the programme, they can instantly see a way out of extreme poverty,” he continues. “They really know something. When they are in the classroom, they can see their future ahead and that their future is bright.”

Squeezing seven years into three

Dugale’s job is a challenging one. He must squeeze seven years of schooling into just three. The students in his class are from different ethnic groups, and they all have unique stories to tell about where they come from. “You know, a lot of my students have lost family members,” he explains.

A lot of students demonstrate challenging behaviour when they begin the programme. Dugale describes one student who stood out in his memory.

“Back then, he was drinking alcohol, he was smoking. His behaviour was really very bad. But throughout the programme something changed within him. He is now in secondary school, and he is so bright. I stay in touch with him, I will never forget him because of his progress and the way his attitude changed.”

Dugale continues with pride: “He is doing so well, and I know he will never, ever, go back to the life that he had before.”

A calm environment

Dugale knows that despite his students’ challenging pasts, each one has something unique to offer. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious, and his students benefit from this in the classroom.

“Sometimes they are happy,” he says. “But their lives have been difficult. There is a time for everything. If there is also some joy, we hold onto it and enjoy it. I am always talking with my students, whatever situation they are in. We provide a calm environment.”

“Singing is one of the methods we use in the classroom. You know, when you sing, it can make my students feel upbeat. You make a bit of fun, and the students will be laughing. When I do this, especially when teaching something that is challenging to understand, I know that the lesson can go successfully.”

‘I see that what I am doing here is good’

Education is one of the most underfunded of humanitarian responses. According to Education Cannot Wait, only two percent of humanitarian funding is allocated to education. This should not be the case. The benefits of education run far deeper than addressing the immediate needs of individuals or communities.

Dugale believes that education is the key to creating peace in times of conflict. “Teachers are the commanders who can fight this war. There must be teachers who can educate the next generation. When you have knowledge, you can give it to the rest of the world.”

Teachers like Dugale are essential to ensuring that young refugees can rebuild their futures. He knows that he alone cannot stop the devastating cycle of war, poverty and displacement. But with every new student that joins the Accelerated Education Programme, there is hope for the future. And that impact will continue for generations to come.

“The students in my class are active. There is hope. When I am teaching and they are getting something from me, I see that these are the people who are going to uplift the economy, even uplift the world!”

Covid-19 situation in Uganda

When the first case of Covid-19 in Uganda was confirmed on 21 March 2020, the government introduced stringent measures to minimise the spread of the virus. All education centres were closed, thus disrupting learning. This paved the way for distance learning programmes for children at home, delivered through radio, TV, and self-study. However, there are challenges for refugees who do not have access to radio and TV sets.

Since the schools have been closed, the situation for thousands of students have been very difficult. It is not easy to study at home and many have a lot to catch up on when the schools open.

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.

SCHOOLS CAUGHT UP IN ARMED CONFLICT SWEEPING ACROSS THE SAHEL

A Malian refugee student plays the role of teacher at a school in Goudoubo camp. Because of rising insecurity teachers no longer show up and students often teach each other. Photo © UNHCR/Sylvain Cherkaoui

On the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack, UNHCR and Education Cannot Wait are bridging the gap to provide refugee children with the safety, hope and opportunity of an education. In Burkina Faso, by the end of 2019, more than 3,300 schools were shut, affecting almost 650,000 children and more than 16,000 teachers. Oumar refuses to give up on his education.

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Ag Ahmed in Dori, UNHCR Burkina Faso  (Original Story | Español)

With the violence that had been plaguing parts of the Sahel region for years beginning to rage in Burkina Faso, teachers at Oumar’s school simply stopped coming to work. Then they left the area altogether.

That put Oumar’s education, and the education of thousands of other Malian refugee children who were then living in Mentao refugee camp, on hold.

“I was very sad to have to stay home all day and not be able to continue classes,” says Oumar, a reserved but determined teenager, now 17 years old.

It was a bitter blow. Growing up, there had been no school to go to in Oumar’s home town of Mopti, and after he and his family fled Mali in 2012 as violence was igniting there, life in Mentao camp had given him his first taste of an education.

To keep his schooling going, the boy’s father decided to take him and his siblings to Goudoubo refugee camp, further to the east. There he was registered in a school in the nearby town of Dori, hoping this would allow him to sit the crucial exams that let him progress to secondary level.

But more disruption lay in wait. “The following school year, as soon as the school year started, the same security issues continued in Goudoubo,” he says. “I was very disappointed that once again my school closed and that I was not able to finish the new school year.”

Oumar is over the usual age to start secondary school, something which is common for refugee children, particularly where education is disrupted and there are no accelerated education programmes available.

In Burkina Faso alone, over the past 12 months the number of internally displaced people rose five-fold, reaching 921,000 at the end of June 2020. The country is also host to nearly 20,000 refugees, many of whom have recently fled the camps – seeking safety in other parts of the country or even returning to their homeland.

Across the Sahel, millions have fled indiscriminate attacks by armed groups against both civilians and state institutions – including schools. According to UNICEF, between April 2017 and December 2019 the number of school closures due to violence in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger rose six-fold. By the end of last year, more than 3,300 schools were shut, affecting almost 650,000 children and more than 16,000 teachers.

In Burkina Faso alone, 2,500 schools had closed because of the violence, depriving 350,000 children of access to education – and that was before  coronavirus closed the rest.

On September 9th, the UN marks the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack, with the General Assembly condemning attacks on education and the military use of schools in contravention of international law.

In a ground-breaking report, UNHCR warns the twin scourges of COVID-19 and attacks on schools, targeting teachers and pupils, threatens to destroy hard-won gains in refugee education and destroy the dreams of millions of youngsters.

This year, Oumar thought it was third time lucky. His family moved a few miles down the road from Goudoubo camp to Dori, and he was able to start his first year of secondary school in spite of being older than most of the other students. “Everything was going smoothly,” he says.

“But classes had to stop again – this time because of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Since 1 June, the three school grades that were due to take exams this year have reopened and UNHCR is doing what it can to find places for refugee children.

For the others, UNHCR, with the support of Education Cannot Wait, began buying radios for primary and secondary refugee students to ensure they had the same access as their Burkinabe peers to lessons being broadcast over the airwaves. UNHCR is also working with governments to enable emergency education for displaced children and youth via access to safe distance learning alternatives.

As he waits, Oumar refuses to be downhearted. “I still have the hope that the situation will improve so that I can go back and finish my education,” he says.

Video

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.

COUNTERING SCHOOL CLOSURES WITH RADIO EDUCATION IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Children in Madomale listen to the JRS radio programme. Christian Marago, accompanies them. All Photos JRS CAR.

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, Jesuit Refugee Service is expanding remote learning opportunities for children impacted by the COVID-19 crisis

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Jesuit Refugee Service (Original Story)

While all the educational facilities in the Central African Republic (CAR) have closed their doors due to the COVID-19 outbreak, students and teachers have found a new source for learning: the airwaves.

To keep children from falling further behind in the pandemic, the Jesuit Refugee Service is producing a weekday radio education program known as L’École à la Radio (The School on the Radio). Children have been tuning into the broadcast since June every day from 4:30 to 5pm to hear radio lessons broadcast by the Lego ti la Ouaka community radio in Bambari, where JRS is supporting internally displaced persons and local communities with funding from the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW).

The project is reaching preschool and primary students who have not been able to go back to class since March 2020. Before the pandemic, access to quality education was already a challenge for many children affected by conflict, recruitment by armed groups or forced displacement in CAR. Unable to access the safety, hope and protection of a quality learning environment, their education and future are at risk.

To address the unique social and emotional challenges these children face, L’École à la Radio offers important learning and psychosocial supports for children who have been displaced by war and violence. Over 2980 people (children and parents) now listen to the radio broadcast, which is heard within a radius of at least 50 km around Bambari.

Radio lessons are recorded with the participation of 10 children (5 girls and 5 boys) in the classroom, respecting the adequate prevention measures against COVID-19. This hybrid approach empowers children and presents an innovative way to extend in-class lessons to students staying home.

Listening in on the radio lessons. Photo JRS CAR.

“Since I discovered L’École à la Radio, I always lend my radio to my children and other kids in the village from 4:30 to 5 pm, so that they can learn with the radio classes,” says Christian Marago.

Christian is a father of a four and an eight year old, and lives in Madomale village, located 37 km away from Bambari.

L’École à la Radio addresses them directly, especially since children of their ages are the ones talking and doing the show,” he adds.

After contacting Lego ti la Ouaka radio and expressing his enthusiasm for the program, Christian was invited to become one of the sixteen JRS Radio Listening Focal Points who operate within the communities. They accompany the children during the radio emission and help JRS monitoring the development and impact of the program.

For Christian, the program really helps the students to continue learning, at the same time helping parents with the knowledge and tools they need to supervise their children’s learning progress.

“The language [used in the program] is suitable for children and the subjects are adapted to the context of the coronavirus pandemic,” says Christian. “At the same time, they learn about family, good manners, nature and animals… Also, about the existence of the coronavirus and how to protect themselves and the whole community.”

“From my side, I think that L’École à la Radio is one of the best programs broadcast by Lego ti la Ouaka radio in these times,” Christian says.

Video

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.

BUILDING EDUCATION STARS IN UGANDA

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, UNHCR is helping refugee children get back to the safety and protection of learning through the Government of Uganda’s Education Response Plan

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, UNHCR is helping refugee children get back to the safety and protection of learning through the Government of Uganda’s Education Response Plan

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Tukundane Yonna and Gerald Musoke, UNHCR

In Adjumani district in northern Uganda – home to more than 214,000 refugees – David Malou Nyankot, a refugee from South Sudan, is the best student in his class. David came to Uganda alone in June 2016 following clashes between warring forces in his home village in Jonglei State.

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, Uganda’s Education Response Plan (ERP) is providing hundreds of thousands of refugee children like David with the safety, protection, hope and opportunity of education.

The primary gross enrolment ratio for refugee children has improved by 22 per cent in Uganda – from 53 per cent in 2017 to 75 per cent in 2019 (reaching 71.4 per cent for girls) – according to ECW’s upcoming 2019 Annual Report.

In 2019, David scored an aggregate 4 on his Primary Leaving Examinations, the highest mark you can achieve.

Hope arises

“I had totally lost any hopes of ever joining school again,” says David.

Although David fled alone, he was later united with his uncle who had arrived in Adjumani two years earlier. When David started back in school at Ayilo 1A Primary School the following year, he had to repeat Primary 5.

“My uncle had enough problems at home; he could hardly buy me even a book. I remember walking to school barefooted for a full year,” David says.

The Education Response Plan was launched in September 2018 with financial support from ECW and other partners. It seeks to find a long-term solution for the half-a-million refugee children that are out of school in Uganda. In delivering on the plan’s overall targets, UNHCR and its partner Windle Trust provided exercise books, pens, and other scholastic materials to David and other refugee students like him.

“The teachers in my new school were great. We were over 250 students in my class, but I insisted on using this opportunity to study hard,” David says.

With this expanded support, David is now one of the three top refugee pupils that sat for same exams in 2019.

Top of the class

Mayen Abraham Bol and Deng Awan Deng, both age 15, scored a remarkable aggregate 5 and 6 all in division one.

Abraham fled South Sudan in August 2016 with his younger sister after a violent conflict in his village. They later joined his maternal aunt who had already arrived in Adjumani’s Nyumanzi refugee settlement a year earlier.

“I had completely lost hope. I had no mother, no father, no brother, not any one of my close relatives when I fled,” says Deng.

Awan Deng arrived in Uganda in November 2014 following the brutal conflict in South Sudan.

“When the fighting begun, I was at school. I did not have any opportunity to go back home. I followed the direction in which most of the people were running,” Deng says.

On arrival at Nyumanzi refugee settlement in Adjumani, Deng was placed under foster care, but was later reunited with his aunt who came in a separate convoy.

When he joined school at Nyumanzi II Primary School in 2015, Deng was made to repeat Primary 3 despite having almost completed it back home in South Sudan. He studied here up to Primary 5 before joining Mummy’s Care School in Adjumani Town.

While David, Abraham and Deng were in their Primary 5, Uganda launched the Education Response Plan, paving the way for UNHCR and partners to provide essential learning materials, build new classrooms and repair existing ones to make schools safer and more accessible.

Continuing their learning

Supported by the new education plan, at the end of their Primary 6 district promotional examinations, David and Deng were the best students in the entire district. This earned them an all-expenses-paid scholarship in Mummy’s Care Primary School, a top boarding school in Adjumani Town from where they excelled in their final examinations.

Over 45,000 refugee and host community children in Adjumani go to the 32 primary schools in the refugee settlements of the district. Twelve of these schools are government aided while the rest were established by the communities. Under the ERP, all these schools receive support from UNHCR and partners.

Speaking at a recognition ceremony for best performers, Robert Dima, Adjumani District Education Officer said, “It is our responsibility to support refugee children to achieve their full potential in life. They are simply our brothers from across the border.”

General performance of schools in refugee hosting districts had improved with the implementation of the ERP. Temporary classroom structures have been replaced with permanent buildings and the number of teachers has increased.

With COVID-19 pandemic, schools are currently closed indefinitely. For many refugees like David, Abraham and Deng, who had been admitted at St. Mary’s College School in central Uganda on a partial scholarship, this is a big blow to their dreams. But they are waiting patiently for their return to school and for a future filled with new opportunities.

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.

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INVESTMENTS REACH REFUGEE AND OTHER VULNERABLE CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC

With US$24.5 million in currently committed funds – and more on its way – ECW-financed COVID-19 education in emergency responses are now deployed across 27 countries and emergency contexts. For children and youth in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad and Mali, these life-saving responses are allowing girls and boys to continue their education through distance learning, protecting lives with enhanced water and sanitation services, and slowing the spread of the virus through community awareness campaigns.

Priscille with her family. Photo © Save the Children

ECW-SUPPORTED RESPONSE TO COVID-19 IN UGANDA WITH SAVE THE CHILDREN

With support from Education Cannot Wait, Save the Children Uganda is distributing home learning kits and extending educational opportunities through innovative radio programmes to provide refugee girls and boys – and host community children and youth – ongoing remote learning opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools are still closed in Uganda – possibly for the remainder of the year. For these vulnerable refugee children and youth, life-saving education and health awareness materials are essential in keeping children safe, extending learning and slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Still, half of the primary school refugee children in Uganda have yet to receive home learning materials, highlighting the need to expand the global education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Imagine… I am in P7 (the seventh and final grade of primary school). As a girl, I am very proud to have reached this class. This virus should stop so that I can sit the Primary Leaving Examination since many girls cannot make it. This makes me happy and keen to complete my studies!” – Priscille, 15, refugee girl Rwamwanja refugee settlement in Western Uganda. Full Story

Grace is finding new hope through the ECW-financed response. Photo © UNICEF

ECW-SUPPORTED RESPONSE TO COVID-19 IN BURKINA FASO WITH UNICEF

In Burkina Faso, ECW funding is keeping girls and boys safe within the fast-evolving ‘crisis within a crisis’ affecting refugees, especially girls in the Sahel. For girls like Grace, the support provided by ECW partner UNICEF, in coordination with the Government of Burkina Faso, is making a difference. This includes the training and deployment of 15,000 volunteers who provide COVID-19 hygiene and prevention sensitization amongst refugee populations and host communities.

“At school we have to wear the mask, stay at least 1 meter apart, wash hands with water and soap and raise awareness of friends who don’t know how to fight this pandemic.” – Grace, Peniel High School in Tanghin.

Learn more in this BBC French report.

Photo © UNHCR

ECW-SUPPORTED RESPONSE TO COVID-19 IN MALI WITH UNHCR

“UNHCR Mali has now received money from Education Cannot Wait for distance learning, targeting 10,000 refugee and displaced children in Mali. With the money we aim to provide solar radios to refugee children, children who are internally displaced, and those from the host communities. These radios will ensure these refugee, displaced and host community children’s right to education, even in low-tech resource areas of Mali. The Ministry of Education together with teachers are now recording lessons for all levels so that they are ready to be aired on the radios.”- Leandro Salazar, Education Expert, UNHCR Mali.

Preventing the spread of the virus through education in Chad. Photo © JRS.

ECW-SUPPORTED RESPONSE TO COVID-19 IN CHAD AND THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC WITH JRS

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and confinement measures have brought new challenges for educational facilities in both Chad and the Central African Republic. In addition to being central to learning, schools are crucial for raising community awareness to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

With the support of Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) adapted its activities in the Central African Republic (CAR) and in Eastern Chad to ensure continued education, health and hygiene awareness raising and protection for refugee children and youth – already impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement, natural disasters and protracted crises – and now doubly hit by COVID-19.

In Chad, ECW partner JRS is supporting improved water and sanitation services and training education professionals on COVID-19 prevention measures to help them raise awareness within the communities. In Central African Republic, radio programmes are providing psychosocial support and ongoing lessons, with a special focus on refugee girls’ rights to access quality education.

¨We started some initiatives to be in contact with the students. This includes awareness raising activities with their parents and students on COVID-19 prevention measures through WhatsApp groups and home visits.¨ Tadjadine Abdallah Mansour, a secondary teacher at Kounoungou Refugee Camp, Chad.

“For the moment, and until the end of the pandemic, we will continue teaching our students within their areas through home-based learning.¨

RESPONDING TO COVID-19 IN UGANDA

Girls like Priscille are continuing their education during the COVID-19 lockdown. Photo © Save the Children

With support from Education Cannot Wait, Save the Children is distributing home learning kits and extending educational opportunities through innovative radio programmes to provide refugee girls and boys – and host community children and youth – ongoing remote learning opportunities.

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Save the Children. View Original.

As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates in many parts of the world, Education Cannot Wait investments implemented by Save the Children in Uganda are working to reach refugee girls and boys with innovative remote learning programs. Schools are still closed in Uganda – possibly for the remainder of the year. For these vulnerable children and youth, life-saving education and health awareness materials are essential in keeping children safe, extending learning and slowing the spread of the coronavirus.  Over half of the primary school refugee children in Uganda have yet to receive home learning materials, highlighting the need to expand the global education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  For girls and boys like Priscille, Ronald and Kato,* education and continued learning are provide hope, safety and opportunity in these tough and troubling times.

Priscille is keeping up on her schoolwork with the distance learning packs. Photo © Save the Children

Meet Priscille

Getting back to school is 15-year-old Priscille’s biggest wish.

She is in her final year of primary school, at an age when many girls in her community often drop out. In late March all schools in the Rwamwanja refugee settlement in Western Uganda, closed as part of prevention measures against Covid-19.

“Imagine… I am in P7 (the seventh and final grade of primary school). As a girl, I am very proud to have reached this class,” says Priscille. “This virus should stop so that I can sit the Primary Leaving Examination since many girls cannot make it. This makes me happy and keen to complete my studies!”

Through Education Cannot Wait’s education in emergency COVID-19 response, Priscille received a new home learning kit from Save the Children. The study books will help her keep learning while she’s at home and the schools are closed.

Priscille and her family fled to Uganda to escape the war in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. She now lives with her parents and four sisters in the vast refugee settlement.

The family doesn’t have a radio, but she’s heard about the Covid-19 outbreak from listening to her neighbour’s radio and from the community awareness sessions being held in the settlement.

When she heard about the importance of washing hands, she installed a handwashing facility at the family home.

As part of the ECW-funded response, Save the Children will be providing some of the most vulnerable families in the refugee settlement with radios, so that they can listen to information and education programmes – and stay entertained while stuck at home.

“I will listen to music over the radio to make me happy,” says Priscille. “I will also look for stations that are conducting lessons, as reading alone is very hard.”

At home Priscille reads as much as she can while keeping up with the daily chores like cooking, fetching water and washing clothes.

Ronald and his brothers with their new learning materials. Photo © Save the Children

Meet Ronald

Every day Ronald and his three brothers all gather round the family radio and listen for the latest news about the Covid-19 outbreak.

He knows from the radio that the virus can be deadly and how it can spread in the community. “The virus spreads through handshaking, sneezing and coughing in public. Our people do not fully follow the President’s directive on social distancing,” he says.

At 13 years old, Ronald is in his last year of primary school. He’s Ugandan and his community in western Uganda has received a lot of refugees over the past few years.

At home Ronald encourages his family and friends to keep distance as much as possible. “Children should maintain social distance everywhere and wash their hands with soap every time!”

He’s looking forward to sitting his Primary Leaving Examination this year, but the schools were closed in late March as part of the Covid-19 prevention measures, and he has been at home ever since.

Ronald reads as much as he can at home, “but it is challenging without guidance.”

“The children should be given books and supported to learn from home,” says Ronald’s father.

Working closely with the local government, Save the Children provided Ronald with learning packs that included study books with exercises designed for each grade of primary school. Together with the radio programmes, these distance learning materials are helping keep Ronald and other children like him from falling too far behind during the lockdown.

Ronald’s mother and father are at home due to the lockdown, along with their eldest son who is normally away at secondary school, and the father says they will support Ronald and the younger ones to study the materials.

Brenda helps Kato continue his lessons. Photo © Save the Children

Meet Brenda and Kato

Brenda is a teacher in Rwamwanja refugee settlement, where more than 70,000 refugees now live.

With schools closed due to Covid-19, Brenda is determined to ensure that children keep learning at home during the lockdown. With support from Education Cannot Wait, Brenda and other teachers are distributing these home learning packs and child-friendly information about the virus and how to stay safe.

Every day she walks miles around the vast settlement, visiting some of her most vulnerable pupils at home to answer their questions and give one-on-one support, which is allowed under government guidelines.

Kato, 15,  is in his fifth year of primary school and one of the children to have received a home learning pack. Just before school closed he borrowed a science textbook and has also been using that to read.

Brenda frequently visits him to check in on how his studying is going.

“I’ve found it easy to do the tasks provided in my learning pack because my teacher has guided me on how to use the textbook to answer the questions in the pack,” says Kato.

Kato looks forward to the day when schools will reopen. “Learning at school is better than at home as sometimes we are disrupted by housework!”

ECW funding also supports teachers in sharing broadcast lessons on Nyumbani FM – the only radio station in the settlement.

Kato says his father owns a radio and lets him listen to the daily sessions. These have also helped him learn about the virus. “I first heard of the measures to prevent Corona through the radio, and from my parents and community leaders,” he says. “So I make sure I collect enough water to wash my hands.”

Links

Learn more about Save the Children’s ECW-supported investments in Uganda.

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 names of the children featured in this story have been changed for their safety and protection.

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT: HELPING CHILDREN AND YOUTH DESPERATE TO LEARN IN ‘A CRISIS UPON EXISTING CRISES’

View Original on Global Heroes

Around the world, 75 million vulnerable, school-aged children and youth are already missing out on their education because they are caught in armed conflicts, forced displacement, natural and climate-change-induced disasters, and other protracted crises. These girls and boys are now doubly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic: ‘A Crisis Upon Existing Crises’. What we consider to be essential is not always attainable – many of these children are in desperate need of educational assistance.

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the global fund for education in emergencies, established in 2016 by international humanitarian and development aid actors – is working to change that. ECW strives to make education a top priority on humanitarian and development agendas and to ensure that education is accessible to all crisis-affected children and youth. In times of emergency, the importance of education is often spoken of, yet, the funding rarely reflects the urgency or the necessity.

Education Cannot Wait is revamping the way education is delivered in times of emergency and is working to ensure more funding is directed to education in emergencies; already it has mobilized well over half a billion dollars to do so in just three years, with a target of mobilizing US$1.8 billion by 2021.

“The list of threats continues to grow, with COVID-19 now taking up a sizeable spot. Girls and boys enduring armed conflicts, disasters, forced displacement, and other crises are now at extreme risk with the additional hardship of the global pandemic. There is no end in sight to how much these young souls have to suffer, and they must be our absolute top priority,” says Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait Director.

“With an additional $50 million, Education Cannot Wait and our partners can continue to scale-up life-saving and life-sustaining education services which not only provide hope and opportunity but also help to protect the health and wellbeing of these young people at a time when they need it the most. Through Education Cannot Wait’s COVID-19 response, these children and youth have a greater chance of continuing their education through remote learning, access support for their mental health in a difficult time like this, and be given a chance to protect their health,” explains Sherif.

ECW brings governments, humanitarian actors and development efforts together to create a faster and more collaborative response to educating girls and boys impacted by crises. Most importantly, with its UN and NGO partners around the world, this innovative global fund strives to provide these children and youth with quality education that is safe, free, inclusive and accessible – and the ECW team is working around the clock to make this a reality for every single girl and boy by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG4 on quality education!

In times of crisis, governments and aid organizations often strive to provide affected populations with urgent basic necessities, like food, water, and shelter. Education is usually a lower, add-on priority on the list, with only 2 to 4 percent of humanitarian funding allocated to ensuring education remains accessible.

Less often considered is that children who are forced out of school by emergencies – particularly girls, but boys as well – are more exposed to risks of violence, exploitation, child labor, trafficking, child marriage, and recruitment by armed groups. Without a stable education, they lose their chance, and indeed their human right, to fulfill their potential and they often find these risks make it difficult to ever return to school when it reopens. Education is not only important for all children and youth to guide them to a better future but is also crucial for families struggling to keep their children safe and for societies to build a peaceful life.

During the recent ‘One World: Together at Home’ global broadcast special, which featured artists like Lady Gaga, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and Celine Dion, the CEO of the LEGO Foundation, John Goodwin, announced their new US$15 million funding contribution towards Education Cannot Wait’s COVID-19 emergency response.

“Research shows that while learning through play is vital for children’s psychological, emotional and cognitive health and development, it also hones the resilience they need to overcome adversity and build their futures, which is needed now more than ever given the crisis we’re currently up against,” Goodwin said in his announcement.

The LEGO Foundation contribution was preceded a few days earlier by a US$6.26 million contribution to ECW from DFID-UK. These two recent contributions bring Education Cannot Wait US$21.26 million closer to its urgent US$50 million appeal to public and private sector donors to replenish its emergency funds reserve to immediately deploy essential education services for crisis-affected children and youth facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, just as education cannot wait, neither can emergency funding for ECW, so it can help crisis-affected children and youth desperate to learn in some of the world’s toughest war zones and emergency contexts. To learn more, please follow @EduCannotWait on Twitter and visit their website at: educationcannotwait.org

OVERCOMING LIFE’S HARDSHIPS IN SYRIA

Hamzeh, 15, Douma, East Ghouta. All photos © UNICEF/Syria/2020/Malas

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, UNICEF’s Curriculum B and inclusive school rehabilitation are supporting children with disabilities in accessing quality educational opportunities

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Sandra Awad and Tarek Jacob, UNICEF. View Original.

“I feel very lonely at times,” stuttered Hamzeh, 15, who lost his three brothers as well as other family members and friends, to the conflict in Syria. “I miss the days when the whole family gathered in the yard of our old house.”

Despite losing their home, the family never left their city, remaining in the Syrian town of Douma in East Ghouta, even throughout five harsh years of siege between 2013 and 2018.

Born with paralysis in his lower body and poor verbal articulation capabilities, Hamzeh’s ability to talk further deteriorated during the besiegement in East Ghouta, particularly after he witnessed the death of his siblings.

Back in 2013, a shell hit the family’s home causing the death of his brothers and forcing Hamzeh and his parents out of the house. They took shelter in a small room on land his father owned in Douma. Because of ongoing violence, Hamzeh had to also drop out of school in the second grade.

For years, his determination to resume learning kept Hamzeh hopeful.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy; but being in school would give meaning to my life,” he said.

In 2018, as violence subsided in East Ghouta, he went back to school and has been catching up on his education with the help of UNICEF’s Curriculum B programme. This accelerated learning programme combines two academic years in one and allows children who missed out on periods of learning to catch up with their peers in half the required time.

“I pushed my son to continue his studies after his father’s death, and I do the same with Hamzeh and my other students. I believe that education is a solution for the hardships we have been through,” said Inaam, Hamzeh’s teacher.

First grade students attending an Arabic class in January 2020 in a school rehabilitated by UNICEF.

“Two years ago, the school building was severely damaged. Stone and metal parts could fall at any moment. Students and staff could get hurt,” said Inaam. “Hamzeh’s mother was worried about his accessibility and movement inside the building, but eventually his insistence convinced his parent to send him to school.”

“I was delighted to see the spacious bathroom and try the special pathway to class, constructed for children in wheelchairs like me,” said Hamzeh about UNICEF’s school rehabilitation works that were concluded in his school at the beginning of 2020. “Classes looked grim before, but now they’re colourful and much more pleasant.”

The rehabilitation works included painting classrooms, corridors and entrances, replacing and repairing damaged doors, windows and ceilings, as well as improving playgrounds and installing playground equipment, while ensuring an inclusive environment to support accessibility for children with physical disabilities. This rehabilitation also provided access to safe drinking water and inclusive sanitation and hygiene facilities by doing needed repairs and construction of the facilities.

In rural Damascus, with thanks to generous contributions from Japan, Educate A Child, the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF), Education Cannot Wait, Norway and France, since 2019, UNICEF has been able to reach 36,000 children through its school rehabilitation. Approximately 2,000 children have been reached with the Curriculum B programme thanks to support from Educate A Child.

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 rehabilitation provided access to safe drinking water and inclusive sanitation and hygiene facilities by doing needed repairs and construction of the facilities, much needed support for when children return to school from the COVID-19 pandemic.

RESTORING EDUCATION, RESTORING HOPE

1 million girls and boys are out of school in Ethiopia. New efforts funded by Education Cannot Wait are working to get these children and youth back in safe, protective learning environments.

Photo © ECW/UNICEF/2020/Nahom Tesfaye

1 million girls and boys are out of school in Ethiopia. New efforts funded by Education Cannot Wait are working to get these children and youth back in safe, protective learning environments.

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Demissew Bizuwerk, UNICEF. View Original.

25 February 2020, Ethiopia – “I feel sad to see my school damaged like this,” says 12-year-old Kuresha Yusuf. “We had proper classrooms and desks. But now we are attending class here [under the tree].”

Kuresha Yusuf attends class under a tree after her school was damaged by conflict. Kuresha’s favorite subject is math and she wants to be a math teacher. Photo © ECW/UNICEF/2020/Nahom Tesfaye

Kuresha’s school, Hagajin Libah, in Tuliguled woreda (district) Somali region of Ethiopia, was attacked when inter-communal conflict erupted in the adjacent woredas of Oromia and Somali regions two years ago. All of the six classrooms were badly damaged.

Hagajin Libah primary school in Tuliguled woreda is badly damaged after inter-communal conflict erupted in the adjacent woredas of Oromia and Somali regions two years ago. Currently, out of the 450 students, only 150 of them attend class sitting under trees. Photo © ECW/UNICEF/2020/Nahom Tesfaye

“We did a back-to-school campaign in September,” says Dheg Abadir Muhamed, the director of the school. “But when the students came, we had no alternative but to teach them under the trees.”

Hagajin Libah, which had 420 students before the conflict, now only has 150 students sitting on stone stools and facing a blackboard mounted to a cactus tree.

Similarly, in Chinaksen woreda, Oromia region, the old structure of Chachale Primary School’s six-classroom block is reduced to ruins. Luckily, the newly built two-classroom block survived the attack after the military intervened in the area. 

Since September last year, efforts were made by the local administration, community members and the education bureau to bring students back to school. Yet, with only two classrooms, four teachers and limited supplies, they are only able to enroll students from grades 1- 4. Students in grades 5-8, like 14-year-old Rawda Mohammed, have no place and they stay at home to support their families.

Rawda Mohammed stands in front of her damaged school in Chinaksen woreda, Oromia region. Rawda was in grade 4 but now out-of-school because her school is badly damaged by conflict. The school now only offers class to students in grades 1-4. Photo © ECW/UNICEF/2020/Nahom Tesfaye

“Some of my friends are married because they are not able to continue their education,” says Rawda. “I still hope to continue my education when our classrooms are reconstructed.”   

The immediate need to restore education in Chachale and Hagajin Libah goes beyond the physical work of reconstruction.

Although calm has been restored in many conflict-affected areas, children who have been through violence are experiencing stress and struggling with learning. Their teachers, therefore, need psychosocial training to understand how to deal with the psychological and social impact of conflict in children.  

Ethiopia has an estimated 1.4 million displaced, returnee, and refugee children, mostly resulting from conflicts and natural disasters. One million of these children are out of school; without education opportunities which is their best hope for a better future[1].   

Besides, a lack of trained teachers, unsuitable educational facilities, insufficient school-feeding and inadequate clean water in schools make the learning process challenging.

Though significant resources are needed to rebuild the education system in crisis-affected parts of Ethiopia, funding for education in emergencies is low compared with other sectors. For instance, the education component of the 2019 humanitarian response plan which required a total of US$45 million was only 12 per cent funded.  

The good news is a three-year US$165 million Multi-Year Resilience Programme (MYRP) recently launched by Education Cannot Wait (ECW), a global fund for education in emergencies, fills the gap. The programme is set to support the education of 746,000 children affected by crises in Ethiopia. So far, US$27 million has been secured while efforts are underway to mobilize the remaining gap. Key interventions of the MYRP include the reconstruction and rehabilitation of damaged schools, provision of teaching and learning materials, and school feeding and capacity building of teachers and local education authorities. Psychosocial support to teachers and students is also included. 

The Ministry of Education is leading the programme in coordination with the Regional Education Bureaus in the worst affected woredas such as Chinaksen and Tuliguled. UNICEF and Save the Children are grantees to the programme, with the role of identifying partners who deliver the programme results on the ground.

While Kuresha’s dream is to become a teacher, Rawda, on the other hand, wants to be a nurse. For crisis-affected children like them, education provides the strength and tools they need to build a brighter future for themselves and their community. Restoring their education is restoring their hopes.  

Kuresha Yusuf(left) with her classmate. Photo © ECW/UNICEF/2020/Nahom Tesfaye

[1]IDPs and Returnees: IOM, 2019, Displacement Tracking Matrix, October and IOM, Village Assessment Survey, October 2019
Refugees: MOE, 2019, Annual Statistical Abstract.

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.

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.