Education Cannot Wait: A Fund for Education in Emergencies announced today a US$20 million investment to support learning opportunities for children and youth in seven crisis-affected countries. Children caught in crises in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Peru, Uganda, Ukraine and Somalia will benefit from improved access to quality learning, teacher training, psycho-social support and new school facilities.
Launched less than 12 months ago at the World Humanitarian Summit, ECW is already delivering a step-change in the coordination of humanitarian and development funding and planning. With an initial investment of US$55 million, ECW is funding quality education for an estimated 2 million vulnerable children in Chad, Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen, over half of whom are girls.
This US$20 million investment marks the launch of ‘First Response Window’ – a unique mechanism to fund immediate education needs, either at the onset or escalation of a crisis. This mechanism funds a range of partners and activities on the ground for 12 months and serves as a catalyst for improved coordination and education response plans. It will crowd in further investment, in particular from non-traditional donors and the private sector, to increase overall funding for education in emergencies.
Today, in the margins of the 2017 Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the IMF, leading political champions and members of the ECW High Level Steering Group gathered for the fund’s second face-to-face meeting and welcomed Ms. Annemiek Hoogenboom of Novamedia, as the first business representative to join the fund.
In her role as the Managing Director of the Deutsche Postcode Lotterie and Country Director of the People’s Postcode Lottery, Ms. Hoogenboom has pioneered a sustainable approach to philanthropy with Novamedia, raising over €7.9 billion to date. Ms. Hoogenboom brings her expertise, along with her passion for education, to expand the fund’s engagement with the business community.
The High-Level Steering Group was also joined by the new Director Designate of Education Cannot Wait, Ms. Yasmine Sherif. Ms. Sherif brings over 25 years of professional experience in international, humanitarian and refugee law to the role and her appointment is a critical milestone for the ECW Secretariat.
ECW is continuing to mobilize the public and political commitments needed to get every crisis-affected child into school and learning by 2030. The investments already made and the ongoing advocacy and operations are the basis of an extraordinary global effort to transform the system.
For more information about Education Cannot Wait, visit www.educationcannotwait.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
⃰ The current fundraising total stands at US $113.4 million – a significant step towards achieving the Year 1 target of US $153 million.
** Countries were selected based on a methodology which assessed recent onset or escalation of crisis, severity of crisis, long-term education needs, levels of funding, and the potential for ECW engagement across the four modalities of the First Response window.
Migration and education are multifaceted processes involving individuals, schools, communities, regions and countries. They invoke temporal, spatial and intergenerational dimensions. The 2019 GEM Report will enhance understanding of migration and education dynamics. It will give voice to educational challenges and opportunities facing both voluntary and involuntary migrants in host and home communities. It will draw upon wide-ranging evidence from both quantitative and qualitative studies, and the analyses, conclusions and recommendations will advance the aims of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular the global goal on education (SDG4).
This concept note discusses the issues and themes that the 2019 Report intends to address.
Specifically the 2019 GEM Report will explore two overarching questions:
A. Does migration accelerate or hamper progress in access to education? How?
B. How do migration patterns influence quality education?
It will also look at two key cross-cutting issues:
C. In what ways do policies focusing on educational equity and inclusiveness improve educational outcomes among migrants and refugees?
D. In what ways can the voices of migrants improve our understanding of how migration and education are interlinked?
We would like to hear your views on the intended content of the 2019 Report through an on-line consultation by 31 May 2017. The GEM Report team is particularly interested in receiving your thoughts on issues related to migration and education, as noted above, including suggestions on relevant literature, data analysis and case studies. We are keen to receive web links to research reports, policy papers, evaluations, and other documents or datasets that you think would be useful and informative for the GEM Report team.
The views of researchers, academics, governments, non-governmental organizations, aid donors, teachers, youth and anyone with an interest in migration, education and sustainable development are most welcome.
Mr. Tom Fletcher, Director of Global Strategy at Global Business Coalition for Education, speaks to the fund about the role of the private sector in transforming education in emergencies.
For many of us, when a disaster or crisis hits, we feel powerless. We watch events unfold with horror and sadness, but feel impotent to help beyond a donation to an NGO or a call for our government to help. For many of us, much of our compassion doesn’t find a practical outlet.
Some help does get through. Immediate humanitarian supplies, like food and water, may be provided. But education is often seen as too complicated, less urgent, and a luxury and is therefore rarely prioritised.
As a result, millions of children in emergencies are denied education every year.
But what if there was a different way to respond? Ingenious humans are already using technology to allow people to find a date, contact people on the other side of the world, and access content.
What if we took all that technology, and combined it with all that compassion? What if we were ready next time a crisis hits? And what if business led the way? Not with finance, but with practical help — supporting the education effort in the best ways it can.
The Global Business Coalition for Education is supporting the efforts of Education Cannot Wait by harnessing the compassion of the private sector and combining it with modern technology to transform education in emergencies.
GBC-Education’s Rapid Education Action (REACT) database creates that potential for the first time. Already, over 45 companies have pledged their time, creativity, and practical ideas to help meet practical needs on the ground.
A REACT partnership between NaTakkalam and Re:coded is using technology to generate sustainable incomes through the delivery of online skills training for the 21st century job market. NaTakkalam is pairing displaced Syrians with Arabic learners around the world over Skype. This provides Re:coded with resources to pay refugees in Iraq as they train to become world-class software developers, and links them to job opportunities.
And REACT partners are not the only members of the private sector already active in helping provide education in emergencies. Here are some examples of how business is already helping …
Communication providers such as AT&T, Turkcell, and T-Mobile are providing free access to their services, making it easier for communities hit by disaster to access educational content.
Accenture and KPMG have schemes allowing employees paid time off to volunteer to help.
Companies such as BMW have funded places at European universities for displaced students and faculty to continue their education.
Tech companies are also engaged. HP has created digital classrooms in Lebanon for those fleeing Syria to access the best possible education. Google deployed People Finder to help families locate loved ones. Microsoft has allowed people to use Skype to make free calls. Ericcson ran a project to reconnect refugees in Europe with their families. ITWORX Education is offering significant in-kind support — providing tablets and access to digital learning platforms for those hit by crisis. Endless has donated hundreds of computers to refugees in Jordan.
Other companies are providing the physical space in which to study. NRS International has pledged tents and shelter for schools. In Jordan, engineering companies are working with USAID and the Jordanian government to build new schools. Coalitions of companies, such as Techfugees, the UK/Lebanon Tech Hub, and Alt City are bringing ingenuity and time to the challenge.
Pupils and their families also need access to finance. Money transfer companies such as Western Union have made it easier to send financial support to those who need it to continue their education. And MasterCard has distributed prepaid debit cards to thousands of refugees.
Facebook is providing wifi connectivity to locations where refugees are based while Uber is providing free delivery of vital items, including books, for child refugees.
But there is so much more we can do – and REACT aims to make business engagement greater than the sum of its parts through better coordination and real-time matching of business assets with actual needs in the sector.
To create systemic change, we need to move from one-off projects to larger-scale, systemic approaches. Our partners in the field are now sending REACT their specific requests for help. We plan to work with ECW to identify needs in initial investment countries of Yemen, Chad, Syria and Ethiopia. We also want REACT to be involved at the onset of an emergency, ready to deliver logistics networks and other essential supports. There is also a role for the business community in developing global public goods that can enhance the overall response of the international community.
We are now asking Education Cannot Wait, UN agencies, and others on the frontline of the education effort to tell us what help they need. This week I’ve spoken to extraordinary organisations working in Northern Kenya, Eastern Lebanon and Somalia, looking for support to deliver education to the most vulnerable children, in complex environments. Only with real requests can we find out if this new system will work effectively.
Business can now be among the first on the frontline of the crisis response. And if business can do it, maybe the next phase is to make it easier for individual citizens to do more to help. We are then on the way to a 21st century response to these challenges. And with an education, the next Gates, Einstein or Curie currently caught up in crisis can go on to achieve their potential.
That is surely worth imagining. Please get us your requests.
In the new Leaders Series, Education Cannot Wait introduces you to those who have been tireless advocates and champions of the fund and its work.
In March, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides spoke to us about his determination to provide education for all crisis-affected children.
In 2016, there was an extraordinary effort to galvanize the political will and resources needed to transform education in emergencies. How can we build on that?
Indeed, 2016 was rather extraordinary. It feels like, after speaking about education as a basic need in conflicts and disasters for so long, we are finally making headway. I saw unprecedented political will and dynamism that led for example to the launch of ‘Education Cannot Wait (ECW)’ at the World Humanitarian Summit. And 2016 was also the year the EU decided to change our traditional ‘external’ understanding of humanitarian aid and to bring forward new funding and legislation to support access to quality education to the children recently arrived as refugees and irregular migrants in Greece. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.
But there is still so much to do. We need to mobilise more resources, widen the donor community and improve coordination and complementarity between funds. It’s time to really ensure a seamless transition from emergency response to development, and vice versa. We also need better and more efficient data and evidence, so that we are genuinely learning the lessons of the past to make sure we spend every euro wisely. The momentum is there, and we cannot sit back now.
In the context of a large number of competing priorities and a complex political environment in Europe, how have you managed to prioritize education in emergencies?
Spending more on education in emergencies in the current context of growing humanitarian needs and budgetary constraints has not been easy. Prioritisation in humanitarian aid is extremely difficult; however, we are moving towards a more holistic and integrated approach to handle the challenges. Our close partnership with Members of the European Parliament and EU Member States who share this vision was instrumental in securing a budget increase for education in emergencies last year. One of the lessons learned for me was the importance of tireless advocacy and outreach to build a gradual consensus on a new policy agenda.
Since the beginning of my mandate I have been a tireless advocate of education in emergencies and have progressively scaled up EU’s humanitarian funding, first from 1% to 4%, and now to 6% of our annual humanitarian aid budget. In fact, the EU is currently one of the world’s largest donors of humanitarian and development assistance for education.
As one of the world’s largest donors to education in emergencies, how would you make the case to other donors to follow your lead and invest?
Ensuring that the most vulnerable children – many of whom live in conflict-affected countries or have been forcibly displaced – have access to school is the key to making sure we don’t leave a lost generation behind. These children cannot wait until some long term reconstruction plan is put in place post emergency. We need to maintain the continuum of their education to build the resilience of their communities. This is what will enable and speed up the potential recovery from the trauma of the conflict or disaster they have been through.
In February 2017, leaders gathered in Oslo to pledge their support for children living in Nigeria & the Lake Chad Basin- what is the role of education in finding a lasting solution to this crisis?
The Lake Chad region is clearly an area where the international community must do much more to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Many years of neglect, marginalisation, as well as violence and insecurity have wreaked havoc and destroyed the livelihoods and lives of so many. The Oslo Conference was a more than timely recognition of this. The EU pledged to mobilise EUR 105 million for the region in 2017 to face the huge unmet needs.
Students and their teachers have endured countless attacks and interruptions in the region. Investing in education is investing in peace, in long-term societal resilience, in development and economic growth, in our future and that of coming generations.
As part of our support, we dedicated EUR 4 million already in 2015 to provide quality learning in safe and secure environments in the Lake Chad region. I am pleased to see that Chad is actually one of the countries that will benefit of the initial investments by Education Cannot Wait. I hope that our common efforts will support children and help scale up the capacities for much needed stronger education response in the region.
You’ve met with many children who are overcoming enormous obstacles to stay in school and learn in the world’s toughest environments- what have you heard from them and how have they inspired you?
Every time I travel to crisis areas and visit those suffering the consequences of conflicts or natural disasters, I make a point of meeting with children, youths, their parents and teachers. I spend time with them to hear about their lives and concerns, their hopes and dreams.
Since my earliest encounters with beneficiaries as EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, education has been a recurrent theme. I still remember the day in the Bekaa Valley, in Lebanon, when I talked with a Syrian mother. She thanked me for the EU aid but was quite blunt that just any kind of aid was not enough. It had to come hand in hand with hope and prospects for her children, which only education could bring. And of course she was right.
Whenever I speak to children who have the chance to continue studying despite their circumstances, I am amazed by how resilient and positive they are. I truly believe that education is the single most powerful tool that can protect, sustain and support children, not only in the midst of a crisis but also when the situation improves.
I believe that engaging directly and listening to what they have to say is the best way to understand what they really need. During my visits, many children going through unspeakable hardship and tragedy have shared with me their aspirations. Some want to become doctors, others teachers. They want to be able to study to ensure their own futures, to help others and, in the longer term, to rebuild their countries. This is an inspiring message that we would be extremely foolish to ignore.
Co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Norway and Lebanon Date: Tuesday, 31 January, 4.00 – 5.30 p.m. Location: United Nations Secretariat, Room CR11
The world is facing an alarming education crisis. If current trends continue, over three-quarters of a billion young people in low- and middle-income countries will not be on-track to gain basic secondary skills, and 1.5 billion adults will have no education beyond primary school by 2030. Despite the overwhelming case for investment in education and the promises made and remade, in recent years domestic and global investment has flat-lined and too often money invested has led to disappointing results. Chronic underfunding and lack of sufficient focus on the most marginalized is compromising the international community’s ability to deliver ‘inclusive and equitable quality education for all’, as outlined in Agenda 2030.
Increased education financing is needed to provide for the largest expansion of education opportunity in modern history: creating the Learning Generation. It will cost USD $3 trillion to get all children in school and learning by 2030– 97% from domestic resource mobilisation and 3% from international financing. In more than 30 low-income countries, investments and reforms will leave half of the total budget unfunded and in need of international support. The Global Partnership for Education aims to raise $2 billion annually by 2020, ramping up to $4 billion annually in 2030 to build and implement strong education sector strategies to achieve SDG 4.
Increasingly the world’s out-of-school children are concentrated in conflict or disaster-stricken countries yet education in emergencies remains chronically underfunded. Supporting education in emergencies could add approximately $9 billion to projected education costs. In this context, systems reform is needed to bridge the divide between the humanitarian and development sectors. The Education Cannot Wait fund is bringing in new untapped resources to bridge this divide and acts as a catalytic fund to improve the efficiency of existing approaches.
There is already a well-designed financing architecture to enable the international community to provide high quality learning opportunities for the world’s most vulnerable children and youth — and the Commission has additional recommendations to leverage new financing from the multilateral development banks to scale up the impact of these mechanisms. Achieving the Learning Generation, especially in the most fragile and complex environments, requires unprecedented levels of coordination, reforms and resource mobilisation from a wide range of audiences, starting with Member States. This briefing will outline the distinct mechanisms and roadmaps in place to achieve this:
Providing an overview of the current state of global education, including the Education Commission’s findings and recommendations;
Highlighting the role of the Global Partnership for Education in improving learning and equity through stronger education systems;
Highlighting the urgent need to bridge the humanitarian-development divide and the unique role for ECW in bringing about the innovative and long-needed changes;
Outlining the scale of both domestic and international resource mobilization efforts required to create a Learning Generation and the complementarity of various funding mechanisms.
List of speakers
H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly
Amin, 18, became a refugee when his family fled Syria for Lebanon five years ago. He has not set foot in school since. With his father unable to get legal status or work, responsibility for supporting the family of seven fell to Amin. A seventh grader when he left his school in Homs, he became a construction worker at age 13, hauling cement blocks for apartment buildings. “I’ve been here five years and lost five years of my life,” he said.
Every day in 2015, around 17,000 children fled their homes due to persecution and conflict. Forcibly displaced children, including refugees, have the right to available and accessible quality secondary education, without discrimination. School can protect them, set a normal routine vital to healing, create economic opportunities, and nurture hope.
But for many older children, going to school is impossible.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), half of the world’s 3.5 million refugee children of primary-school age attend classes, but fewer than a quarter of the 1.95 million secondary-school aged children do. In countries like Pakistan and Lebanon, enrolment falls to just 5 percent.
It is worse for girls: globally, just 7 girls for every 10 refugee boys go to secondary school. Forcibly displaced children with disabilities are often excluded altogether.
The problems, and solutions, are at root about funding and refugee policies. Globally, less than 2 percent of donor support goes to education in emergencies; of that, far more goes to primary than secondary education. Inadequate resources coincide with restrictive refugee host-country policies that often hit children hardest as they become adolescents. Some host countries simply deny them the right to enrol in secondary schools outside refugee camps.
Children with secondary education are typically healthier, and likelier to find work as adults and escape poverty. Those who drop out of school may face hazardous labour, child marriage and sexual violence, harassment by state security forces, and targeting and recruitment by armed groups.
Failure by donors and host countries to ensure secondary education for displaced children and adolescents risks undermining economic development. It also robs secondary school-aged children of the skills they need to contribute to host communities, and if they return home — with repercussions for security and stability.
Secondary education and conflict
Education promotes stability: it provides children with tools for resolving disputes peacefully, and increases productivity. Quality secondary education has been shown to promote tolerance, foster a stronger belief in democracy, and help resist recruitment to violent extremism.
High secondary school enrolment levels may even lower the probability of civil war, while failure to provide education for displaced adolescents in crises can hamper reconstruction efforts.
Yet education is often a casualty when children are forced to flee for safety. Children and their families have fled Somalia due to forced recruitment and abduction of children by parties to the conflict. School dropout rates reportedly reached 50 percent in 2010.
The impact of conflict is especially hard on secondary education, which needs specialised resources, including teachers, that are hard to get in crises. And forcibly displaced adolescents who drop out of school are unlikely to return.
Some governmental responses have only made matters worse.
In Nigeria, the government has not adequately protected schools from attacks by the extremist group Boko Haram (“western education is forbidden”). One teacher told Human Rights Watch in 2015 that his secondary school had become “a Boko Haram slaughtering ground… anyone they caught, they will bring to the school and kill them.” In conflict-affected states, fewer than 90,000 of nearly 590,000 displaced school-age children can access education.
Compounding the problem, Nigeria’s government has closed both primary and secondary schools in order for security forces to use them as operations posts or barracks, violating its own commitment to the Safe Schools Declaration signed in 2015.
Overlooked and underfunded
In survey after survey, refugees identify education as a critical need, on which many spend large portions of their incomes. Others take enormous risks: one woman returned to Syria after being unable to enrol her children in Lebanese schools despite the danger. “Education is the only goal,” she told Human Rights Watch.
Yet education’s share of donor aid is paltry, falling, and fails to reach many children. Less than a quarter of overseas development aid is disbursed to low-income countries, which host 86 percent of the world’s refugees. And some long-term crises are permanently underfunded, as money skews towards the latest, most visible emergencies. Many grants last only 12 months.
Of the limited funds available for education, primary education receives the lion’s share, with secondary an afterthought despite the need for more textbooks, classrooms, equipment, and highly-qualified teachers. In 2015, for example, UNHCR allocated just 13 percent of its education budget to secondary education, one-third of what it spent on primary.
Agencies do not necessarily have as much programming for secondary education as they do for younger children. Humanitarian actors are still playing catch-up when it comes to secondary education.
In Lebanon, the Education Ministry and UNHCR set a target last year of enrolling nearly 200,000 Syrian refugee children in public primary schools, but just 2,080 in public secondary schools, out of nearly 83,000 secondary-age children.
Bureaucracy can often hamper access to secondary education.
Secondary school-age children who have been forcibly displaced have been barred from education because they lack official documentation. In Lebanon, children turning 15 must pay $200 — often a prohibitive sum — to renew their residency, and many lack the required documents. In Turkey, Syrian refugee children must obtain an “identification” to enrol in schools, but the wait often lasts half a year.
Some Syrian adolescents gave up trying to re-enrol in secondary school after years trying to meet inflexible requirements. Amal, 20, said she had completed all her high school exams “except the very last one” before her family fled Syria, but when she tried to finish her exams in Jordan, Education Ministry officials repeatedly refused. “They said they needed proof I had passed 11th grade, but they wouldn’t accept my faxed form, and told me I needed to send in the original.” Not only would she have to return to war-torn Syria to obtain it, “but the border is closed.”
In Lebanon, refugee children must provide 9th grade transcripts to enrol in secondary school, which many left behind while fleeing the war in Syria. And some school officials refuse to accommodate them. Sixteen-year-old Loreen has been out of school since heavy shelling cut her off from the 7th grade in Syria. When she tried to enrol in Turkey, the school director said she would “have to join her age group, no exceptions,” even though she spoke no Turkish. When her mother asked the school about language help, she was told “there wasn’t any.” Loreen now works full-time in a dried-fruit factory.
Barriers to girls’ education
Crises can exacerbate the hurdles girls face to secondary school, including sexual and gender-based violence, and early pregnancy and marriage.
In Afghanistan, Taliban forces targeted girls’ education after being forced from power in 2001; by 2004, only 5 percent of Afghan girls attended secondary schools, and attacks increased thereafter. Taliban forces threatened girls to stop attending school past puberty, shot students and teachers, threw battery acid in the faces of adolescent schoolgirls, burned their schools and attacked them with rockets and explosives.
In situations of forced displacement, parents may marry off girls to cope with poverty or safety concerns, and most married girls stop going to school. Child marriage has leapt four-fold among Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan.
Conversely, secondary education can be life-changing for girls, with potential gains for host countries and overall development. It can reduce childhood deaths because children with higher education levels are more likely to have a healthy diet and seek medical care, and girls with secondary education are less likely to marry early.
Poverty and child labour
Poverty — exacerbated by policies that prevent parents from finding work — pushes school out of reach for many displaced children. Pressure to earn intensifies as children grow. In any case, many families cannot afford secondary-school fees, uniforms, notebooks, and higher transport costs, since secondary schools are often fewer and farther away.
Children who leave school to work are at risk of serious harm: exploitation, hazardous work environments, or violence. Lebanon saw a sharp increase in the worst forms of child labour among refugee children in 2015, and children have been injured, attacked, or arrested while working.
When there are few opportunities for skilled work or higher education — like in Kenya’s Dadaab camp, where just 13 percent of adolescents attend secondary schools — there is far less incentive to get a secondary education. A UN survey in Zaatari, Jordan’s largest refugee camp, found that barriers to education included “a sense of the pointlessness of education as [Syrian children] had limited hope for their future prospects.”
Allowing refugees to work could ameliorate poverty’s knock-on effects on secondary education. Host countries may fear that refugees will take citizens’ jobs, but refugees often take jobs that nationals do not want, and labour protections could help stem the downward pressure on wages that results from informal work.
Even in countries that have opened access to work permits for refugees, like Turkey, restrictions — such as quotas, geographical restrictions and permits tied to local sponsorship — often remain. Syrian refugees in Lebanon, denied the opportunity to work legally and dependent on insufficient aid, have sunk deeper into poverty, making it harder to afford to send children to school.
Alternatives are possible. In Uganda, 500,000 refugees are allowed to work and access public schools, and only 1 percent rely completely on aid.
It has taken decades for the global community to recognise the importance of education in humanitarian response, but recent promises could help displaced children—if they are kept.
In May 2016, humanitarian donors and UN agencies launched Education Cannot Wait, a global fund that aims to support education for 75 million children and young people affected by emergencies each year, looking to raise $3.85 billion by 2020.
In September 2016, countries pledged to improve access to lawful work for 1 million refugees, and access to education for 1 million refugee children. The UN Global Commission on Education has set specific goals and timelines for governments to achieve free, equitable, and quality secondary education for all by 2030, a target that all UN member states pledged to meet as one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
But the good news must be taken with a grain of salt. Donor attention to education has proved fickle before; in 2010, funding dedicated to education decreased dramatically when donors reduced aid budgets or diverted funds to other sectors. And greater transparency is needed to hold donors to their promises.
It is essential for governments affected by crises to protect secondary education from attack, create safe alternatives, and ensure their forces refrain from the military use of schools.
Governments and humanitarian actors need to address barriers that cause older displaced children to drop out, including girls and children with disabilities, and make secondary education an integral part of response plans to crises. Transparent, sustained, multi-year funding is urgently needed to ensure children can access and complete secondary school.
To enable families to pay school-related costs, host countries should allow refugees access to lawful work. Donors should fund livelihood efforts so that families do not have to rely on child labour and can send secondary-age children to school.
Governments hosting foreign children should provide legal access to secondary education or vocational and skills training on an equal basis with nationals, and de-link immigration-related requirements such as residence permits from enrolment criteria.
Host countries should ensure national education plans include refugee children, and accommodate them with flexible enrolment requirements. Administering placement exams, in lieu of requiring transcripts, is one simple way to ensure children are not excluded from secondary education due to factors beyond their control.
Host countries must recognise that older children deserve the same protection and support offered to primary school age children, and above all need to be in school. Continuing to ignore their needs would be a grave mistake.
“In Syria, I only saw numbers in my mathematics book. Now, my tent is number 19, my camp is number 007 and my UN card has a number. I hate numbers. I am just a number. I don’t feel human anymore.” These are the words of a Syrian refugee child in Lebanon.
Mohamad is another one. His hands, blistered and dry from cement dust tell his story. Mohamad fears he will never go to school again: “You’re supposed to start school when you’re six years old, not 15,” he says.
Waiting and uncertainty are eating up the lives of Syria‘s children. When asked about the point of attending school, one 4-year-old explained that he would need to be able to read signs if he ever got kidnapped, to be able to find his way home.
These words represent hundreds of thousands of voices – voices of Syrian refugee children now living in Lebanon. They live in an informal settlement, one of thousands in Lebanon, the country hosting the highest number of refugee children per capita in the world.
Playing in the mud is their way of killing time. They have no schools, no pencils and no books. One day just drags into another. This is not a life for these children, for any child. Yet, it is the sad reality for close to 200,000 school-aged Syrian children in the country.
Last summer, UNICEF filmed and produced an interactive documentary, #ImagineASchool, on a generation of children denied their basic right to education. Launched online today, it gives a rare insight into the lives of children shaped by the absence of schooling. Featuring 19 interviews of children and an extraordinary collection of class photos – the documentary is shot not in schools, but in the drab surroundings of an informal refugee settlement.
A child’s place is in a classroom. Schools give purpose, structure and routine, a feeling of safety and normalcy. In the long run, only education can end inter-generational cycles of poverty and discrimination, prevent extremism and despair. Never is education more crucial than in times of conflict. For a child whose short life has been marked by violence, loss, fear and displacement, education represents the last resort of a life worth living.
Children’s voices featured in the documentary are a reminder of what has been lost. It is heartbreaking to see children that have stopped speaking, their development set back because of trauma and shock. Others speak of their hopes and aspirations. We can help put these children back on track. When asked what they want to be when they grow up, many say they want to be teachers – a reminder of the powerful impact of educators as role models.
There has been progress.
Countless children are now receiving an education. With the help of the Government of Lebanon, the United Nations, donors and NGOs, the Lebanese public school system has shown remarkable hospitality and strength. It has been an impressive achievement to lift school fees for all children in Lebanon. But we can do better. Every Syrian child in the country should be attending school.
If there is a common theme to these children’s accounts, it is a combination of loss, determination and hope.
That you have been able to read this far is because you were fortunate enough to go to school. For many Syrian children today, the basic right to education has become a luxury. The stories of Mohamad, Sidra, Assia and all the other children in the UNICEF documentary www.imagineaschool.com, are stories of children imagining an alternative future, a future that is still within reach if we give these children the chance of claiming the simple right you and I enjoyed. If we listen carefully to their testimonies, there are glimpses of an amazing potential and alternative futures – if we choose to listen….
Their plight, and their courage, is a call for action and a stark warning. Should we fail the children that tell us that they envy birds for their wings and that their homes feel like prison- neither history nor the children, will judge us kindly – nor should they. Their voices are a reminder of what we stand to gain – or to lose. Time is not on our side. Let’s listen to these children and act now, to reach every child with education wherever they are.
23 January 2017 – An op-ed by Tanya Chapuisat, UNICEF Lebanon Representative.
A global fund to educate children whose lives have been disrupted by emergencies last month received a critical boost from the European Union.
The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, announced on 30 November that it will increase its contribution to education in emergencies in 2017 to 6 per cent of its humanitarian aid budget. The increase comes on the heels of a 4 per cent contribution in 2016 and amounts to a six-fold increase since 2014.
The 2017 contribution makes the EU the world’s leading supporter of some of the world’s most vulnerable children and champions of cause that has been historically under-funded and under-appreciated – education in emergencies.
“By funding education, we can make a real investment in children’s futures and their hope for a better life,” said Christos Stylianides, the EU’s Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. “The EU is leading by example and I call on other international donors and stakeholders to step up their efforts worldwide.”
Mr Stylianides announced the EU’s commitment in Brussels at the Education in Emergencies Forum hosted by the European Commission. The forum brought together decision makers, humanitarian experts and practitioners to explore ways to support quality education for children affected by crises. In addition to Mr Stylianides, speakers included Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Education, Ömer Çelik, Turkey’s Minister for European Affairs, and Elias Bou Saab, Lebanon’s Minister of Education and Higher Education.
With the increase in its contribution, the EU is drawing attention to the importance of education in emergencies and mobilizing resources desperately needed to educate children in crises including wars and natural disasters. In the recently released report, ‘The Learning Generation’, the Education Commission called for all countries to follow the EU’s lead and increase the amount of money they earmark for education in emergencies to 4 to 6 per cent of their overall humanitarian aid contributions.
Throughout the world, the complexity and duration of crisis and displacement has required unprecedented humanitarian and development responses. However, funding has decreased as a proportion of development aid and humanitarian appeals. In the last decade, for example, the demand for education in emergency settings increased by 126 per cent, but only 4 per cent of the appeals made for Oversees Development Aid or humanitarian appeal funds were met.
The Education Cannot Wait fund was created in 2016 to bridge the gap between humanitarian aid and development assistance and provide funding for education in emergencies.
In his keynote address at the Education in Emergencies Forum, Gordon Brown said that recent humanitarian appeals have directed only two per cent of funding to education in emergencies. In contrast, the latest estimate is that the average time refugees are exiled from their country is 10 years.
The world, Brown said, “must answer why, for the most vulnerable, we do the least, and why, instead of guaranteed help, all we do is pass the begging bowl around at times of crisis.”
Though the EU remains committed to funding education in emergencies, the dramatic rise in the number of emergencies still strains resources. In its Communication on Forced Displacement and Development, the EU recognizes the importance of education in crises and the need for close cooperation between humanitarian and development sectors to ensure longer-term outcomes.
To achieve these goals, the Education Cannot Wait fund works to provide short-term humanitarian responses to education needs while providing development interventions that contribute to medium- and long-term goals.
Melding the goals of humanitarian aid and long-term development assistances demands a transformation of how education is provided to children during emergencies. Melding humanitarian and development goals will only be possible with the extraordinary levels of coordination and investment exhibited in the EU’s historic commitment to educating children in times of crises.
As we approach the end of the year, the grim Groundhog Day of the Syrian conflict trundles on. We’re back round to winter again. For the fifth year, millions of refugees will spend the coming months shivering and wet, trapped in a frigid, frozen limbo.
NGOs will issue their winter appeals fundraising for coats and blankets. TV news crews will file reports of the harsh conditions; tell stories of unimaginable suffering leavened with glimmers of hope and human resilience. Maybe they could just reuse last year’s footage?
Refugee lives aren’t lived to the rhythm of the news cycle. In between the snapshots we see, their needs are not reducible to lists of household items, their hopes are not limited to just warmth and survival.
This was driven home for me last week working with a young Syrian called Muzoon Almellehan. At the centre of her life — which has taken her from Daraa in Syria to the UN in New York via refugee camps in Jordan and resettlement in the North of England —- is a fierce belief in her right to an education, regardless of the circumstances of her life. Moreover, she feels a responsibility to fight for this right not just for herself, or her Syrian sisters, but for all girls affected by conflict and disasters around the world.
Children now make up more than 50 per cent of the world’s 21.3 million refugees. These children are ripped from their homes, fleeing extreme danger with many spending their entire childhoods out of school as conflicts and emergencies become longer and more frequent.
To date, we have neglected the education of refugee children, especially girls at secondary level. These girls are not just being robbed of their childhoods, but they are being robbed of their futures too. That’s why, as part of our goal to secure 12 years of free, safe, quality education for all girls, Malala Fund places a special emphasis on refugee girls to ensure they are not left behind.
With researchers at the University of Cambridge, Malala Fund has produced a report surveying the global landscape of refugee education. In its own way, it tells a story as troubling as the images that we will see on our screens in the coming weeks.
In 2015, only half of of refugee children were in primary school and just 22 per cent of refugee adolescents were in secondary school. The impact of conflict and displacement on girls’ education is particularly pronounced. Young women living in conflict settings are nearly 90 per cent more likely to be out of secondary school than other girls.
Despite this need, the response of donors has been appalling for the most part. Last year, just 30 per cent of the education sector’s requests were met and of total humanitarian funding just 1.8 per cent was for the education sector. Among host nations, international agencies and other stakeholders, there are huge gaps in policies and data that hamper efforts to get girls into school. This paper, and its accompanying campaign report Yes All Girls, set out a series of recommendations to plug these gaps.
Included is our support for the need to provide the necessary funding to the Education Cannot Wait Fund to support education for more than 25 million children, covering nearly four million out-of-school refugee children under UNHCR’s mandate.
Equally we want to see donor countries upping their bilateral support to education in emergencies. At present only three of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee countries (Ireland, Norway and Sweden) are providing their fair share of funds, while the contributions of BRIC countries is virtually nil.
In addition host nations (the report looks at Chad, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan and Uganda) implementing agencies and donors alike must adopt a variety of new policies and systems to promote girls’ education. This includes extending basic education provision to upper secondary school; gathering and reporting better sex-disaggregated data; and increasing the provision of non-formal and catch-up education programmes.
The end of the year brings thoughts of New Year’s resolutions, too. At Malala Fund we’re resolved to spending 2017, and beyond, working with partners like Education Cannot Wait to step up efforts to make sure girls have access to education in emergencies. If global leaders and policymakers work to the same objectives, then the images on our TV screens this time next year may start to tell a more hopeful story.
Nearly 3.5 million school-aged children in Iraq are not receiving education and one in every five schools are out of use. In Syria, an estimated 2 million children are out of school. Meanwhile, South Sudan has one of the largest number of children who are not attending school at all. As millions of children in war zones are deprived of receiving an education, they are increasingly facing risks of early marriage, child labor, and recruitment into armed groups.
These photos, all from 2016, show children from war-torn countries continuing their education despite the ongoing conflicts around them.