Justin van Fleet is the Director of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity & Chief Advisor to Theirworld.
When Education Cannot Wait was established, its founders knew there was an immediate issue which needed solved: systematically, education was not seriously included in humanitarian response plans and the link between emergencies and longer-term development was missing. A new way of working was necessary.
New York, 24 July 2018 – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is proud to sign the Global Disability Summit 2018 Charter for change. As a global fund for education in emergencies, ECW’s overarching goal is to support the delivery of quality education to the millions of children and youth whose schooling is disrupted due to conflict and natural disasters – with special attention to disabled children and youth.
Our investment modalities are geared to reach the furthest behind – those who fall between the cracks of the aid system and yet, are among the most in need. This is particularly true for disabled children and youth who become even more vulnerable in the face of conflict and natural disasters.
As crisis shuts down education systems and destroys infrastructures, temporary learning spaces may be inaccessible to disabled children and youth, or available teachers may lack the necessary training to address their needs. Some families may choose to no longer send disabled children to school due depleted financial means. And what’s more, children and youth in crisis are at greater risk of becoming disabled as they are more susceptible to be injured by landmines, small arms and heavy weapons or to suffer from the lack of medical care.
ECW is committed to addressing and reducing these vulnerabilities and upholding the right of all children to learn. Our investments have a clear focus on equity, ensuring that ECW-supported education programmes address the needs of children and youth with disabilities in crisis settings.
During ECW’s first year of operations – from April 2017 to March 2018 – children and youth with disabilities were specifically targeted in 6 out of our 14 countries of investment. Results are already promising: in a country like Uganda, where estimates of child disability prevalence range from 2 to 10 per cent, disabled children and youth accounted for up to 7 per cent of all children reached through ECW-supported programmes!
Ensuring that disabled children and youth have access to education is not only a moral and legal obligation; it is a sound investment in human development, livelihoods, poverty reduction and social cohesion. People with disabilities are resilient and have other abilities, which may be developed and manifested through quality education. As experience tells us, those furthest left behind often prove to be the most resilient.
I will never forget 10-year-old Siddiqula whom I met in 1991 in an ICRC hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan. He lost both his legs to a landmine while playing with friends under a tree. Yet, he was determined and smiled out of gratitude that his life was saved. He had a rare ability: to experience inner strength and gratitude in the face of great adversity. For someone like Siddiqula, education is a powerful means to harness his strength and drive positive change, not only in his own life, but for his whole community.
Through the Charter for Change, together, let’s join forces to ensure these opportunities are not lost!
Education Cannot Wait (ECW)