INCLUSIVE EDUCATION

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

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

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by UNICEF Bangladesh

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

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

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

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAINSTREAMING RESULTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOPE IN A WORLD GONE MAD

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‘When we learn and play here, I feel peace in my heart, and forget what has happened to me.’ Janat Ara, 12. Name changed to protect identity. Photo: Save the Children/Daphnee Cook

SURVIVING ATTACKS AND GUNFIRE A ROHINGYA GIRL FINDS NEW HOPE THROUGH EDUCATION

Janat Ara is a survivor. She’s a dreamer. She’s a unique symbol of hope and resilience in a world gone mad.

In her short 12-year life, the Rohingya refugee has lost both her parents. She’s hidden in the woods for 15 days to escape bandits that were reportedly threatening to rape and abduct young girls in her native Myanmar. She’s been attacked by gunfire.

Around 725,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since the ethnic violence, which some have labeled a crime against humanity, started in August 2017. The new arrivals and asylum seekers are putting a strain on local communities and resources and around 1.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance today. An estimated 54 per cent of these refugees are under 18. That means close to 400,000 children are nationless, lack consistent access to education, and live in makeshift, overcrowded camps in the Cox’s Bazaar district of Bangladesh.

While much work is being done to protect these children by both the government of Bangladesh as well as international donor agencies, local non-profits and the United Nations System, the camps are still a dangerous place. Girls are particularly at risk to sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. And malnutrition, disease and unsafe water pose health risks for children and adults alike.

Photo: Save the Children/Daphnee Cook
Attending class in the Learning Centre. Photo: Save the Children/Daphnee Cook

A SENSE OF HOPE

Out of this chaos, a sense of hope and redemption is emerging for children like Janat Ara. It all starts in the new learning centers where children receive daily instruction through an investment backed by Education Cannot Wait and implemented through UNICEF, Save the Children, Friendship and BRAC.

“I love the learning center. I have been through a lot back in Myanmar. When we learn and play here, I feel peace in my heart, and forget what has happened to me,” said Janat Ara (whose name has been changed for her own protection). “When I grow up, I want to work at an NGO or at the hospital. My teacher also said that he sees that I could become a teacher. He has suggested that I maybe can join an NGO when I am older, to teach other children Burmese.”

The first educational emergency response is making a real difference for the 400,000 Rohingya children and youth and host community children that have been impacted by this crisis, exceeding most targets by 200 per cent.

In all, the fast-acting 12-month Education for Children of Rohingya Refugees and Host Communities in Cox’s Bazar investment has built more than 270 learning centers to date, and is on track to complete an additional 50 more to reach investment targets. According to the latest reports (December 2018), over 25,000 refugee children aged 4 to 14 have received access to safe and protective learning environments – that is three times more than the number of children initially targeted by the project. Additionally, more than 270 sets of early childhood development and school-in-a-box kits have been shared.

The investment embraced innovative and flexible learning models to mobilize fast education responses, including using podcasts and video conferences to train teachers in the camps. Along with other innovative measures, this enabled more children and youth to be reached than originally planned.

Community involvement is key in a complex context like the Rohingya crisis. To encourage involvement from parents and community members, outreach activities have reached close to 20,00 people with important messages advocating for school enrollment, hygiene and sanitation, and the importance of a safe learning environment for children and youth.

Girls and children with disabilities often fall behind in crisis situations like this. More than 50 percent of the students enrolled since the beginning of the project are girls. Total access to education for girls and adolescent girls reached more than 12,800 girls, that is nearly three times more than the original number targeted by the programme. To encourage enrollment and retention of girls, the recruitment and training of female teachers has been highly encouraged. In all some 546 teachers have been trained through the investment, over 85 per cent of whom are female. The project has also identified 620 children with disabilities in these camps with the aim to reach at least 95% of them by June 2019.

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Janat Ara’s Aunt Halima has taken on the responsibility of caring for the young dreamer and her sister.

“We came here in March 2018. Even after the outbreak of violence we tried to stay. But then armed groups started tormenting us. They wouldn’t let us go out at night. They started taking away girls and young women, and raping and killing them. When the threats become too much to bear, all of us in our village decided that we would come to Bangladesh,” said Halima. “I worry a lot about Janat Ara, because she doesn’t have parents. The children had nothing to do when we arrived, and I thought – if Allah brought these children to me, then there must be something special about them. So, I registered them into the learning center.”

Since starting school Janat Ara has made new friends, started learning English and is finding a “new normal” after enduring a perilous and traumatic journey. Her Aunt reports that “she has changed a lot since being here and she seems happy now.”

‘When we learn and play here, I feel peace in my heart, and forget what has happened to me.’ Janat Ara, 12. Name changed to protect Janat Ara's identity. Photo: Save the Children/Daphnee Cook
Surviving crisis, the loss of her parents and other life-changing ordeals, Janat Ara is returning to a sense of normalcy in the camp. Photo: Save the Children/Daphnee Cook

LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS

Humanitarian crisis like this need more than one-off responses. Working with the Government of Bangladesh, UNICEF, UNESCO and UNHCR, Education Cannot Wait launched a new US$12 million grant in November 2018 to benefit an additional 88,500 refugee and host community children and adolescents. With efforts to mobilize resources from multiple partners and donors, the multi-year grant will connect with other initiatives to reach more than half a million refugee and host community and youth, and 9800 teachers over the coming years.

With continued support, class sizes are going down, and students will benefit from more time with more highly trained teachers in the learning centers. As new learning centers are built and reorganized, student contact time will increase from two to four hours, and class sizes will drop from 105 students per learning center to around 80.

It’s a powerful step forward for girls and boys caught in this cycle of violence, migration, crisis and fear. For Janat Ara and others like her, more needs to be done, and Education Cannot Wait is working to bring multiple partners to work together towards a lasting solution to protect these children, provide them an education, and a safer path to become productive and essential members of society. Through stronger partnerships and collaboration, we can address this pressing crisis.

IN FOCUS

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

EDUCATION IN CRISIS: AN INHERENT HUMAN RIGHT

There is a US$8.5 billion funding gap for education in crisis that has left some 75 million children in some of the harshest living conditions on the planet without access to safe, reliable education. That’s more than the total population of Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands combined.

As we mark the first International Day of Education, the global community has a responsibility to invest in the inherent right of these children and youth.

Shofika is a nine-year-old refugee in Bangladesh that's benefiting from timely education responses funded by Education Cannot Wait. 'I love learning the songs and the dances in the learning centre.' Photo Dafhnee Cook/Save The Children
Shofika is a nine-year-old refugee in Bangladesh that’s benefiting from timely education responses funded by Education Cannot Wait. ‘I love learning the songs and the dances in the learning centre.’ Photo Daphnee Cook/Save The Children

WE NEED TO STEP UP GLOBAL SUPPORT TO FILL THE US$8.5 FUNDING GAP FOR EDUCATION IN CRISIS

By Yasmine Sherif

There is a US$8.5 billion funding gap for education in crisis that has left some 75 million children in some of the harshest living conditions on the planet without access to safe, reliable education. That’s more than the total population of Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands combined.

As we mark the first International Day of Education, the global community has a responsibility to invest in the inherent right of these children and youth.

Failing to do so will derail our efforts to end hunger and poverty by 2030, and build a more peaceful, more humane and more constructive world.

It may not be easy, but it is possible. By breaking down barriers, connecting coalitions of the willing, investing adequate financial resources, and making a value proposition that underscores the outstanding return on investment that education funding brings – especially in crisis contexts – we can reach our goals.

The socio-economic value of education in crisis

The persistent absence of timely responses to deliver quality education in crisis settings exposes children and youth to risks of psychological trauma, gender-based violence, child trafficking, forced recruitment in armed groups, early marriage and pregnancy.

Education is the best investment we can make to save their lives and end the cycles of poverty, hunger, inequality, violence, instability and unspeakable human suffering they live with every day.

Girls are even more at risk. An estimated 39 million girls living in crisis lack consistent access to education. To make it even worse, girls in crisis are two and a half times more likely to be out of school than boys, and we need to take affirmative actions to ensure these girls are not left behind.

This is where our value proposition comes in. The economic returns for investing in education in emergencies and protracted crisis are significant.

According to the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, for each dollar invested in education, more than US$5 is returned in additional gross earnings in low-income countries and US$2.50 in lower middle-income countries.

The World Bank estimates that if every girl worldwide were to receive 12 years of quality schooling, irrespective of whether there’s a crisis or not, the human capital wealth represented by their lifetime earnings could increase by $15 trillion to $30 trillion.

Translating moral values into action

If we deconstruct these numbers, we can fill this gap by mobilizing just US$113 per year per child.

Less bureaucracy and more accountability, and placing people above process, are essential. It requires speed to be responsive and depth to be inclusive and sustainable.

An illustrative example is the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh. With the support of donors and implementing partners on the ground, Education Cannot Wait allocated US$3 million to support a 12-month educational emergency response.

Last year, the Fund announced an additional US$12 million allocation for a multi-year program that builds upon the short-term emergency response to ensure continuity, quality and sustainability. By connecting national co-finance, other donor contributions, this seed funding will be leveraged to reach the US$60 million needed. In doing so, it brings together partners to align efforts towards collective learning outcomes.

No single stakeholder has the capacity to meet the full scope of needs to ensure we achieve education for all girls and boys in crisis settings by 2030. Collaboration is key.

Missing this mark has potentially catastrophic impacts on our world’s economic and social future, and, eventually, on our sense of moral responsibility. Nelson Mandela once said: “To deny people their human rights means denying their humanity.” Education is an inherent human right and the 75 million children and youth in crisis are a test of our true values and sense of humanity.

About the Author

Yasmine Sherif is the Director of Education Cannot Wait. A lawyer specialized in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law, she has 30 years of experience with the United Nations (UNHCR, UNDP, OCHA) and international NGOs. Follow Yasmine on twitter. Education Cannot Wait, a new multilateral global fund hosted by UNICEF, was set up with the special mandate to address the funding gap for education in crisis. By 2021, the Fund aims to mobilize an additional US$1.8 billion in finance to reach approximately 8.9 million children.

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EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT ANNOUNCES US$35 MILLION ALLOCATION

 ECW provides its largest allocation to date to support quality education for 1.6 million crisis-affected children and youth in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Uganda

20 September 2018, New York – The Education Cannot Wait fund (ECW) is allocating a total of US$35 million as seed funding to support the launch of three ground-breaking multi-year education programmes designed to deliver quality learning opportunities to 1.6 million children and youth affected by conflict and violence.

This is the largest allocation from the ECW Fund since its inception. It comprises $11 million to support the Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host communities in Uganda, $12 million allocated to the Delivering Collective Education Outcomes in Afghanistan programme, and $12 million to support Education for Rohingya Refugees and Host Communities in Bangladesh.

“The launch of these three multi-year programmes marks a turning point in the way the multilateral aid system delivers education in emergencies and protracted crises,” said Education Cannot Wait Director Yasmine Sherif. “It sets concrete examples of ‘the new way of working’ through cooperation and collaboration between humanitarian and development actors. It is about all coming together, about how global, national and local stakeholders join forces to find solutions to provide quality education and restore hope to millions of children and youth caught up in some of the most difficult circumstances of conflict and displacement.”

ECW is pioneering the new way of working in the education-in-emergencies sector to strengthen the links between relief and development efforts, and deliver rapid and sustainable responses to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4. The Fund provided the impetus and supported the development by in-country partners of the three multi-year programmes, acting as a catalyst to bring together humanitarian and development actors.

“The announcement of ECW’s allocation today is the starting line. In order to deliver on our collective obligation to fulfill the right to education of all children in conflict and crisis, public and private donors must deepen and expand their investment specifically addressing education in humanitarian contexts,” said Sherif. “Valued stakeholders and donors have already indicated their support to these ECW-facilitated programmes, and we are confident additional actors will come forward and contribute.”

The three ECW-facilitated multi-year education programmes aim to provide quality education to refugees, internally displaced, and host community and vulnerable children and youth as follows:

  • In Uganda: The 3.5-year programme calls for contributions of $389 million to reach over 560,000 refugee and host community children and youth, recruit and remunerate more than 9,000 teachers on a yearly basis, train over 12,500 teachers and build close to 3,000 classrooms yearly. The response plan has been developed under the leadership of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and UNHCR, and will be managed by consortium facilitated by Save the Children. Other key partners include UN Agencies, bilateral donors, and international and local civil society organizations. To date, $80 million in contributions from the Government and its partners has been identified, including ECW’s seed funding.

In Afghanistan: The 3-year programme calls for contributions of $150 million to reach over 500,000 internally displaced and returnee children and youth as well as vulnerable children in remote areas and host communities. It will create an inclusive teaching and learning environment; improve continuity of education; and create safer and more protective learning environments, with a target of 50 per cent towards girls’ access to quality education. The key partners facilitating the programme under the leadership of the Ministry of Education include UNICEF, Save the Children, UN agencies, bilateral donors, and international and local civil society organizations. To date, $22 million in contributions has been allocated to the programme, including ECW’s seed funding.

  • In Bangladesh: The 2-year framework calls for contributions of $222 million to build on the existing emergency response and reach over 560,000 refugee and host community children and youth and 9,800 teachers in Cox’s Bazar district. It is an extension of the humanitarian response and is therefore aligned with the current Joint Response Plan. Key partners who have participated in the development of this framework include UNHCR, UNESCO, UNICEF, and international and local civil society organizations. To date over $97 million has been allocated towards the framework, including ECW’s seed funding..

This $35 million allocation brings ECW’s investments to a total of $127 million in 17 crisis-affected countries since the Fund became operational eighteen months ago. ECW’s investments are currently reaching 765,000 children and youth in the world’s worst crises, half of whom are girls and adolescent girls. The number of children and youth reached will now scale up significantly.

The full press release is available here.