Education Interrupted: Why Education of Children Affected by Emergencies and Protracted Crises Cannot Wait

Originally posted by The Institute of International and European Affairs

Emergencies and protracted crises, such as the current migration crisis, are disrupting the opportunities for education of an estimated 75 million children and youth across 35 countries.

UNICEF Associate Director for Education Josephine Bourne discussed the importance of investing in innovative strategies needed to meet the educational needs of these children, at a special event hosted by the Institute of International and European Affairs and Irish Aid.

Ms. Bourne also introduced the first global fund to prioritise education in humanitarian action, Education Cannot Wait: A Fund for Education in Emergencies, which was launched at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016.

Watch her full presentation below.


This year the Global Citizen Festival, featuring performances from Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Kendrick Lamar, Metallica and many more, is calling on world leaders to support education for children in crisis.

With growing conflicts and natural disasters, humanitarian crises are devastating communities from Nepal and Equator to Syria and South Sudan. Children are impacted the most, forced to flee their homes and seek safety elsewhere. Educating these children is the first step towards lifting them out of trauma and helping them to rebuild their future and their communities. Today, more than 75 million children around the world are in desperate need of our educational support.

The Global Citizen Festival, an annual live concert and advocacy event, is calling on world leaders to deliver education to the world’s most vulnerable children and youth. The Festival provides a platform to hold leaders accountable on commitments to solve the world’s biggest issues and support meaningful change in the lives of people living in extreme poverty worldwide. Tickets to the Festival cannot be bought, but are earned by those who take actions on our key issues in the lead up to the concert in New York on 24 September.

This year, the Festival’s fifth, sees the launch of the Festival’s education campaign Action Journey. The Action Journey will ask existing and new global citizens, fans and activists to earn tickets for the Festival by completing actions that help promote and ensure free, equitable and quality learning is available to all, particularly children and young adults affected by conflict and crisis.

Global Citizens are reaching out to world leaders from France, Switzerland, Canada, Kuwait, Finland, Germany and Denmark and asking them to commit to the Education Cannot Wait Fund, ensuring crisis-affected children and youth do not miss out on the skills they need to lead safe and prosperous lives.

Education Cannot Wait, is an innovative fund that aims to better coordinate support for, and drive investment in, education for children and youth affected by emergencies and protracted crises. It is the first global fund to prioritise education in humanitarian action and is groundbreaking in its collaborative approach to make sure every crisis-affected child and young person is in school and learning.

In addition Global Citizens will be asked to tell the Education Commission to prioritise children in emergencies, as part of its report on education financing, as well as to make sure young people have a say in education decision-making and policy.

Another action involves tweeting at Foreign Ministers from the Republic of Korea and Nigeria to support the Girls’ Education Action Statement, launched by the UK Department for International Development at a Global Citizen event in London on 7 July, to make sure that disadvantaged and marginalised girls and women are not left behind and can fulfill their potential by completing secondary school.

Global Citizens will also be asked to call and write to members of the US Congress to encourage them to increase funding to the Global Partnership for Education and to co-sponsor the Education for All Act, which promotes universal basic education for children around the world. Last, but not least, we will ask top US universities and some of the biggest corporations such as Microsoft and Western Union to fund education for children in need, including through Education Cannot Wait and other innovative solutions.

Since 2012, Global Citizens have taken nearly 6.3 million actions – from petitions and tweets, phone calls and emails, to attending rallies and volunteering – to pressure world leaders to enact major policy changes and commit significant resources, to global education, innovation and policy reform.

The actions culminate in the concert in Central Park, New York City, on 24 September. The event will be hosted by Chelsea Handler, Neil Patrick Harris, Deborra-Lee and Hugh Jackman, and this year’s line-up will also feature appearances from Chris Martin, Ellie Goulding and Usher amongst others.

The 2016 Festival will be supported by key partners such as MSNBC & Comcast NBC Universal, Chime for Change, Caterpillar, Citi, Clear Channel Outdoor, iHeart, Johnson & Johnson, Google’s Made with Code, YouTube, Live Nation, and NYC Parks.

The Education Action Journey will be a timely opportunity to make sure that education in emergencies is front of mind for world leaders ahead of the Migration Summit and President Obama’s Leader’s Summit on Refugees during the 2016 UN General Assembly.

Take action now: go to

Madge Thomas
Deputy Director, Global Policy and Advocacy
Global Citizen


Originally posted by GEM Report

UNESCO infoGRAPHIC ON REFUGEE CHILDRENDays before the World Humanitarian Summit, the GEM Report and the UNHCR Education Section jointly released a new policy paper, ‘No more excuses’, with new data showing that only 50% of refugee children are in primary school and 25% of refugee adolescents are in secondary school.

As people gather for one of the biggest ever summits on humanitarian needs, we are calling for all those forcibly displaced to have access to quality education within three months of displacement. Countries and their humanitarian and development partners must urgently ensure that those forcibly displaced are included in national education plans and programmes and to collect better data to monitor their education status and progress.

What data there are show that, behind the global average number of refugee children out of school, there are significant differences among countries. Primary enrolment rates average 80% in selected refugee sites in Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Yemen but only 40% in Pakistan and 50% in Ethiopia.

Access to secondary education is even more limited for refugees in many countries. In 2014, in Kenya, Pakistan and Bangladesh, less than 5% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 were enrolled in secondary education. Enrolment in early childhood education also remains very limited in some countries, reaching only 7% in Turkey in 2015.

UNESCO infoGRAPHIC ON REFUGEE CHILDREN (1)There is no doubt that collecting information on moving populations is challenging, if not impossible sometimes. What little we know is mostly about those living in camps, yet almost two thirds of the world’s refugees reside outside of camps, largely in urban areas, where even less is known because information systems aren’t tracking them. Countries must monitor these children and youth when they enter national systems so we know who they are, how they are progressing and whether we’re effectively responding to their needs.

From select available data outside of camps coming from Ministries, we can see that of school-aged Syrian refugees only 53% in Jordan and 30% in Turkey are enrolled in school.

Reliable data on internally displaced people (IDPs) are even more limited, but reports from the International Organization for Migration and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre indicate that their displacement is putting huge strain on already weak education systems.

unhcr imageIn Nigeria, for instance, children displaced due to attacks by Boko Haram in 19 out of the 42 camps did not have access to any form of education in June 2015. In Iraq, only 32% of internally displaced children and adolescents in 2015 had access to any form of education.  In Yemen, only one third of school age IDP children in Lahj governorate were enrolled in school.

Those already marginalised, such as girls, are often the worst affected among refugees. In Kakuma camps in Kenya, in 2015 only 38% of primary school students were girls. In Pakistan, where child marriage and teenage pregnancy are often cited among refugee girls, dropout rates for refugee girls are as high as 90%.

Girls and women make up 70% of the world’s internally displaced population and are left the furthest behind in education. In Iraq, in Najaf governorate 81% of 15-17 year-old girls were out of school compared to 69% of boys of the same age. In urban areas in Afghanistan only 1% of IDP women were found to be literate versus 20% of IDP men.

Education is essential for all children and especially so for refugee children who have already lost so much. Our joint findings lead to four main policy directions for governments and their partners:

  • Enshrine forcibly displaced people’s rights to education in national laws and policy
  • Include displaced children and youth in national education systems 
  • Enable accelerated and flexible education options to meet diverse needs
  • Ensure an adequate supply of trained and motivated teachers

Join in the conversation #NoMoreExcuses @GEMReport / @Refugees

Listen to the podcast: French/ English
See the video

By the GEM Report and the UNHCR Education Section



School is a magical place, but for most children in South Sudan, it’s just a dream. Even before the current conflict, there were more than one million children out of school, with a further 400,000 children losing out on an education due to the fighting. The world’s newest country now has the highest proportion of out-of-school children globally.

Nearly one in every three schools in conflict-affected areas has been destroyed, damaged, occupied or closed. Across the country, only 36 per cent of functioning schools have access to water and only 49 per cent have toilets. Children often have long and dangerous journeys to attend classes. Other barriers like early marriage, educational costs, overcrowded classrooms, and untrained teachers are keeping kids out of school.

The ideas and concepts behind the Education Cannot Wait Fund were explored at country level in South Sudan to better understand how the Fund would work on the ground. These findings have determined the shape, approach and functions of the Fund.

Meet Eunice and Nelson, two South Sudanese teenagers sharing the obstacles to education and hopes for the future. Share their stories and raise awareness about the lack of opportunities for so many in South Sudan.



World leaders have gathered in Istanbul to make a global plan to work together to make sure children affected by war or natural disasters get the help they need when things go wrong. There are lots of items on the agenda. But there’s one thing they are discussing that we should be celebrating together: making sure education gets delivered even after an emergency.

A few years ago, there’s a good chance that education wouldn’t have been on their radar. After disaster strikes, school can seem like a luxury, or even just horribly irrelevant.

But the education experts, NGOs, campaigners, businesses, teachers and youth that have mobilised together know differently: that education keeps children safe and gives them and their families hope for the future, even at the darkest times. A huge, people-powered diverse movement has come together behind education in emergencies and the new Education Cannot Wait Fund with A World at School convening more than 100 private sector partners, 500 global youth ambassadors and hundreds of NGOs, faith communities and other networks heavily involved in everything from consultations, public awareness to campaigning.

Last year this network of organisations collected the biggest ever petition on education taken to the Oslo Summit and the UNGA with more than 10 million names. These were young people and grassroots organisations in Pakistan, Nigeria, the DRC, Syria and around the world all calling for funding for education in emergencies. In advance of today’s Summit young people from around the world have shared a new powerful message calling for safe schools.

The high profile given to education at the first ever World Humanitarian Summit is the result of years of campaigning and consultations including the support for the original announcement of the platform agreed at meetings in Korea at the World Education Forum, the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings in both 2015 and 2016, and the Norwegian Government hosted Education Summit in Oslo in 2015.

Like most successful campaigns, we’re breaking through because it’s been a huge team effort. We’ve had backing from high profile people as diverse as Desmond Tutu, UN Special Envoy Gordon Brown and Shakira. Child rights champions such as Anthony Lake at UNICEF have led the charge to bridge the gap between emergencies and development, and the Norwegian Government has been a firmly committed partner in this effort.

Today’s announcement of a new fund for education in emergencies called Education Cannot Wait is a major campaign milestone and its focus reflects the expertise of hundreds of diverse stakeholders. Over the past year the International Network for education in emergencies (INEE) has led two phases of detailed global consultations across civil society starting in early 2015 in advance of the Oslo Education Summit where more than 500 people and organisations participated in the global consultation process from 53 countries. The Overseas Development Institute has shared crucial research, which has been poured over by experts to find the best solution to the challenge. Representatives from civil society working on education around the world, including Save the Children, Norwegian Refugee Council, War Child, and other key organisations have been important stakeholders in this process.

The official launch of the new fund means that the power to change the lives of millions of children and youth now lies in the hands of a small group of international leaders attending the Summit. The people with the heavyweight financial clout needed to make that happen and ensure the target is met, raising almost $4 billion to reach 13.6 million children within five years. Its time for action. You can track their commitments here. Education Cannot Wait.

Author: Ben Hewitt (@ibenhewitt) is Director of Campaigns for children’s charity Theirworld. In 2013 Theirworld founded the global campaign movement A World at School, bringing together civil society, academic networks, faiths, large and small NGOs, youth, business and international organisations to campaign for every child to secure their right to a quality education. Find out more at


Crises disrupt some of the most protective and supportive environments for children and young people – places where they live and learn.

The world’s first fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises has committed to delivering quality education to all children and youth in the toughest of circumstances. In principle, the fund upholds their right to education, and in practice it presents a compelling Case for Investment for reaching the most vulnerable.

Case For Investment

The fund has identified 75 million children and youth aged 3-18 in 35 countries who are in urgent need of educational support. Dedicated action to reach and teach these children and youth will transform their lives, and the future of their communities. Education is a unique investment – delivering returns that last a lifetime for individuals, and positive benefits that form the bedrock of peaceful and prosperous nations. Education goes beyond saving lives – it allows communities to determine the shape of their futures.

The situation

The magnitude, frequency and severity of crises are all increasing- unprecedented levels of crises demand an unprecedented response. Business as usual will not suffice. Humanitarian, development and security needs can no longer be treated separately.


Protracted crises present complex challenges – worldwide, people now spend on average 17 years displaced. For those affected by crises, this disruption can last their entire childhood – denying them their chance to live full lives and develop to the best of their ability. While children and youth are uniquely vulnerable to crisis, the inadequate humanitarian response fails to account for these unique needs.

Despite a desperate need to keep children in school and learning in times of emergencies, in 2015 only 1.4 per cent of humanitarian aid went towards education. Against this backdrop, affected populations consistently cite education as the top priority for children and families in the aftermath of a crisis. Education Cannot Wait: a fund for education in emergencies aims to deliver on this priority for children and their families.

The solution

The fund is a collaborative solution – an innovative, complementary and long-needed change that will allow the global community to respond quickly to children and youth in emergencies.  Working with partners in both the public and private sector, the fund will increase the number of children and youth reached and the quality of the education they receive.

The benefits of investing

Affected populations cite the intrinsic value of education and the added benefits in terms of protection, resilience, recovery, stability and livelihoods. Investment in education is the most effective means of restoring social and human capital, stimulating economic growth and buffering societies against future shocks.

The inaugural World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, and the political momentum generated by the universal agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals, present a critical moment to re-energize advocacy for education in emergencies.

Political momentum and global consciousness to reach the most vulnerable children must extend to those in the most complex and fragile places. Conflict and crises severely limit whether children and youth have a fair chance to learn and lead a productive, peaceful and fulfilling life. Denying them their right to education during a crisis further deprives them and their community of their ability to recover and rebuild. The fund will provide children and young people with the opportunity to thrive, the tools to succeed and the skills to drive social and economic stability.