Education Cannot Wait announced today an additional US$19 million in education in emergency response funding to the COVID-19 pandemic across 10 crisis-affected countries. With this new funding, ECW’s total COVID-19 response now spans 33 countries and crisis-affected contexts, with US$43.5 million in funding approved so far.

ECW’s First Emergency Response allocations focus on refugee, internally displaced and host community children and youth

22 July 2020, New York ­– Education Cannot Wait announced today an additional US$19 million in education in emergency response funding to the COVID-19 pandemic across 10 crisis-affected countries. With this new funding, ECW’s total COVID-19 response now spans 33 countries and crisis-affected contexts, with US$43.5 million in funding approved so far.

“The time has come for decisive and game-changing measures to ensure that every refugee child accesses a quality education. Education Cannot Wait is taking such measures and we must scale up our support for this effort,” said the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group. 

This new funding will be delivered in partnership with national governments, UN agencies and a significant number of civil society organizations in Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

These First Emergency Response (FER) grants focus on refugee, internally displaced and host community children and youth: 876,392 in total, of whom 461,706 are girls and 405,886 are boys. In all, 25 grantees will implement the second phase of ECW’s COVID-19 education in emergency response. In the majority of countries, this response is being coordinated by respective governments and UNHCR.

“Children and youth displaced by armed conflicts and climate-induced disasters are especially at risk and doubly affected by COVID-19. This investment is dedicated to them, but much more needs to be done. We call on partners to contribute substantive financial resources for those left furthest behind as a result of brutal conflicts and punishing crises,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. 

68 per cent of the children and youth targeted through the investments are refugees, with 32 per cent being internally displaced and host community children and youth. With continuity of education disrupted by the global pandemic, ECW’s education in emergency response covers the entire 3-18 years of age spectrum with a holistic package of support. 23 per cent of the beneficiaries are at the secondary level to ensure their learning can continue. At the other end of the age-spectrum, 19 per cent of the beneficiaries will benefit from holistic early childhood development activities. In addition to access to learning, the investments include child protection, mental health and psychosocial support services, as well as expanded access to life-saving water and sanitation services.

These new grants build on the rapid response by ECW and its partners to the global pandemic, which has pushed well over a billion children out of school and is having broad, negative social and economic impacts globally. Before the pandemic, 75 million children and youth impacted by emergencies and protracted crises did not have access to the safety, hope and opportunity of an education. The pandemic now puts even more children and youth at risk, and ECW and its partners have issued an urgent global appeal to mobilize US$310 million to reach vulnerable girls and boys most at risk of being left behind.

ECW Second Tranche COVID-19 First Emergency Response

  • Bangladesh: US$600,000 allocated. Grantees: Norwegian Refugee Council ($300,000), Plan International ($300,000)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: US$2.3 million allocated. Grantees: AVSI with AIDES ($900,000), Terre Sans Frontières (TSF), with Frères de l’Instruction Chrétienne-Dungu ($1.4 million)
  • Ethiopia: US$2.8 million allocated. Grantees: UNHCR ($1.86 million), Plan International ($440,000), Save the Children ($500,000)
  • Iraq: US$2.3 million allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($580,000), People in Need ($430,000), Public Aid Organization ($430,000), Intersos ($430,000), Norwegian Refugee Council ($430,000)
  • Kenya: US$2.3 million allocated. Grantees: UNHCR ($1.84 million), Save the Children ($460,000)
  • Lebanon: US$2.8 million allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($715,000), AVSI ($695,000), NRC ($695,000), IRC ($695,000)
  • Libya: US$1.5 million allocated. Grantees: UNICEF ($750,000), Norwegian Refugee Council ($750,000)
  • South Sudan: US$2.32 million allocated. Grantees: Lutheran World Federation ($1.5 million), World Vision International ($345,000), Across ($487,000)
  • Tanzania: US$1.5 million allocated. Grantee: International Rescue Committee ($1.5 million)
  • Zambia: US$600,000 allocated. Grantee: UNHCR ($600,000)


Notes to Editors:

  • ECW First Emergency Response grants announced on 2 April (learn more here)
  • ECW First Emergency Response grants announced on 20 May (learn more here)


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world, jeopardizing the education of 1.18 billion learners in 191 countries, some are even more severely affected than others. These are the 75 million children and young people, including 39 million girls, already marginalized by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters – and whose numbers continue to increase.

By Yasmine Sherif, Director, ECW, and Coalition Education

Available in French

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world, jeopardizing the education of 1.18 billion learners in 191 countries, some are even more severely affected than others. These are the 75 million children and young people, including 39 million girls, already marginalized by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters – and whose numbers continue to increase.

Beyond endangering the continuity of education, closing schools increases the risk of abuse and exploitation, including child labor, forced marriage and gender-based violence. It is also likely to have serious psychosocial consequences for children, especially the most vulnerable, including girls and the disabled. Today, the future of an entire generation is in question.

Faced with a challenge of such magnitude, only joint mobilization and a coordinated response can make a difference. Education Cannot Wait has therefore responded to the crisis within the framework of the humanitarian appeal of the United Nations and has participated since the beginning of the crisis in the global coordination group for education led by UNESCO. But to succeed, all actors, including governments and civil society organizations, must come together in a spirit of humanity and multilateralism to mobilize the financial resources required to provide a future to 75 million children and youth left behind.

ECW commends the work of Coalition Education, a coalition of French organizations defending the right to education, which recently published a report on French aid to education. This report highlights the central role of education for peace and development, especially in crisis contexts. Quality education is today more than ever the central vector for accelerating development, strengthening the protection of human rights and enabling the current generation to live a life of dignity, productivity and opportunity.

France was one of ECW’s first partners and shares with ECW a strong commitment to education and gender equality. France’s support to education issues in the global South is essential, both in response to COVID-19, but also for strengthening education systems in the longer term. France’s leadership and influence are even more important in contexts of crisis and fragility where education already suffers from a lack of visibility and investment.

Thanks to the support of France, ECW has piloted in partnership with UNESCO and the Lebanese Ministry of Education innovative learning solutions to respond to COVID-19 to improve access to education for vulnerable children, including refugee and displaced girls and boys, in Lebanon. But we must go further. Education, already underfunded in emergency and protracted crisis contexts, risks being further undermined by the COVID-19 crisis, as development and humanitarian funding may decrease due to economic recession. It needs not be like that if we chose to focus on our hope, rather than our fears.

Some regions are also more vulnerable than others. As highlighted by the report published by Coalition education, the Sahel region and more generally sub-Saharan Africa have a very large number of children and young people out of school, and for these children, access to a protective learning environment means hope for a better future. These regions are at the heart of ECW’s investments, with more than 16 million USD already invested in the Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger) in 2019, and an additional 15 million USD planned for 2020.

Education Cannot Wait looks to France as a great strategic partner to help the collective efforts to succeed in delivering education to children and youth in Chad, Central African Republic, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, just to mention a few countries in urgent need. More broadly, ECW aims to raise $ 1.8 billion by 2021 to reach 9 million children and youth in crisis-affected countries. Maintaining the right to education is essential to prevent crises, fight poverty, and reduce inequality. It is the foundation for sustainable development. Without education, there will be no foundation.

Provided that we all come together to reach the 75 million children and youth left furthest behind in conflicts and forced displacement – now doubly affected by COVID-19 – it is not impossible to transform their lives and that of the world. In any case, we must make the impossible possible.


The Honourable Karina Gould was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Burlington in 2015.

A graduate of McGill University and the University of Oxford, Minister Gould is passionate about public service and international development. Before her election as the Member of Parliament for Burlington, she worked as a trade and investment specialist for the Mexican Trade Commission in Toronto, a consultant for the Migration and Development Program at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., and spent a year volunteering at an orphanage in Mexico.

Minister Gould has deep roots in her hometown of Burlington, Ontario, and is an active member of the community and an advocate for women’s issues and affordable housing. She has volunteered with and actively supports the Iroquoia Bruce Trail Club, the Burlington chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women, the Mississauga Furniture Bank, Halton Women’s Place, and other local organizations.

Minister Gould lives in Burlington with her husband Alberto and son Oliver.

With the birth of Oliver, Minister Gould became the first federal cabinet minister to have a baby while holding office. She is passionate about breaking down barriers for women, youth, and underrepresented groups.

Minister Gould addresses students participating in War Child Canada’s ‘Making Waves: Gender-inclusive radio-based education in the DRC’ project during a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo in January 2020.

ECW. As Canada’s Minister of International Development and as a key member of ECW’s High-Level Steering Group, could you please elaborate on the importance of linking emergency humanitarian response with development to achieve quality education for vulnerable children and youth in countries affected by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters.

Karina Gould. We have heard from children and youth affected by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters, as well as their families, that education is a priority for them. And we know that education in emergencies is an issue that ideally works across humanitarian and development responses.

Working through the humanitarian-development-peace nexus is crucial to ensuring that both immediate and long-term education needs are fulfilled. By working through a nexus approach, we recognize that the immediate response of humanitarian actors is vital to keeping children engaged and protected, while the long-term vision of the development community is critical to maintaining gains towards SDG4 and to strengthen education systems and make them more resilient to crises in the future.

Education is often the first thing that is disrupted and the last thing to be rebuilt during an emergency. Despite the importance of maintaining a system of quality education, especially in protracted humanitarian situations, education is still not sufficiently prioritized for immediate humanitarian funding and development actors need to do more to support resilient national education systems that ensure education is not disrupted. This is why Canada supports organizations like Education Cannot Wait, which is emerging as a leader in demonstrating how education programming can be quickly and efficiently rolled out within the humanitarian-development-peace nexus space.

ECW. Canada is a staunch defender of multilateralism in addressing the world’s challenges and opportunities. With almost 80 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 26 million refugees, Education Cannot Wait will dedicate its First Emergency Response to refugee education in its upcoming COVID-19 response actions this month. How do you see ECW’s progress so far in responding to COVID-19 and how can we strengthen collective efforts to deliver quality education to forcibly displaced populations, who often are left furthest behind?

Karina Gould. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how connected we all are to one another across the globe. At the height of the pandemic, 164 countries had closed their schools, which affected 1.4 billion students worldwide – over 90% of the world’s learners. This is on top of the already marginalized populations such as refugees and internally displaced peoples who did not previously have consistent access to quality education.

In the past months, the world has come together to try to stop the spread of the virus. We shared innovative ideas for how to make education and learning more accessible for those who had their education disrupted, to ensure a continuity of learning for all. These solutions are made more effective and are amplified when we work in partnership, including through our major multilateral institutions like Education Cannot Wait.

I have been impressed with Education Cannot Wait’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the speed with which they responded to the crisis in the first round of COVID-19 funding, and the commitment to focus the second round of funding on education for refugees, particularly adolescent girls. This is a group of children and youth who are often left behind and who are disproportionately affected by education disruptions due to displacement, and now even more so due to COVID-19. It is important that we take this time to strengthen our efforts to ensure these marginalized populations remain a priority in our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These groups must not be forgotten.

We can strengthen our collective efforts to deliver quality education to forcibly displaced populations, who often are left furthest behind, by continuing to work through multilateral organizations like Education Cannot Wait and ensuring strong coordination with other partners on the ground, including other multilateral partners, civil society and local refugee organizations.

In January, I travelled to Congo and the DRC and witnessed firsthand the important work that ECW’s partner organizations like War Child Canada are doing on the ground to support improved access to education for refugees and displaced peoples, especially girls. Their radio program allows adolescent girls and boys to continue with their learning during school closures by transmitting lessons and allowing learners to access teachers through dedicated hotlines. There are even question and answer periods to keep things dynamic and to keep the youth engaged in learning. I have seen how these initiatives are making a difference on the ground, and it is by building on these partnerships that we can maximize our ability to reach the most marginalized children and youth, particularly girls, refugee and displaced children, to ensure they have the opportunities they deserve.

ECW. Education Cannot Wait greatly appreciates Canada’s continued strong support in meeting the educational needs of children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises – including Canada’s new contribution of CAD $5.5 million a few days ago, and the Charlevoix Declaration to strengthen girls’ education in emergencies. ECW is committed to ensuring that 60% of our beneficiaries are girls. As a strong advocate for girls’ education, why is it so important for girls, including refugee and adolescent girls, to have access to education in crisis contexts?

Karina Gould. Girls and adolescent girls face a unique and additional set of challenges that limits their chances of accessing and completing an education. These challenges include poverty, unequal gendered roles in the household and at school, gender-based violence, and school environments and curricula that perpetuate inequalities. In crises contexts, these barriers to girls’ education can be even further entrenched, with girls being 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.

Through the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), Canada recognizes that gender equality is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Access to education is a pathway to achieving this goal. It can significantly reduce poverty, provide for better economic opportunities, and can improve health outcomes such as maternal and child health, protecting women and girls from child, early and forced marriage and providing essential sexual and reproductive health services that can enable women to engage in improved family planning.

Yet access is only part of the solution. We also need to make sure that once the children are in school, that they are learning. Quality teaching and learning, and ensuring that schools are safe places for children, particularly girls, are equally important and require additional efforts and resources, especially during a crisis. Ensuring that teachers are well-trained and equipped to instruct children who have or are living through a crisis; that curricula and learning materials reflect relevant cultural realities and do not perpetuate negative gender norms; and that girls and boys have access to adequate hygiene and WASH facilities are all required in order to keep children engaged and for families to continue to see the value in sending their children, particularly their girls, to school. This is why Canada, as President of the G7 in 2018, championed the Charlevoix Declaration on Quality Education for girls, adolescent girls and women in developing countries to further address these challenges in order to ensure that girls – especially those affected by crisis and conflict – have access to quality education.

I personally believe that it is essential for girls, including refugee and displaced girls, as well as adolescent girls, to have access to education in crisis contexts.

ECW. Prior to becoming Minister of International Development, you were appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions in 2017 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, becoming the youngest female cabinet minister in Canadian history. Congratulations! You are an inspiration and a role model for girls and women around the world. What message and guidance would you like to share with girls who face education challenges – including the COVID-19 pandemic – in achieving their hopes and dreams?

Karina Gould. My message to girls around the world facing education challenges would be this: “You are worth it. I know it is hard and there are a lot of challenges you are facing. But your hopes and dreams are worth fighting for. You have so much to offer the world. You and your voice and your experience matter. The world needs you to keep studying, to keep dreaming, to keep pushing for what you want to see in the world.”

ECW. We’d love to learn a bit more about you on a personal level. Could you tell us what are the three books that have influenced you the most (or that you’d recommend to others to read), and why?  We’d also love to know what kind of music gets you energized and motivated to address the challenges you face as Minister. Finally, is there an inspirational or motivational quote (or two) that you often turn to in life?

One of my favourite quotes is by Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

It was hard to pick just three books, so here are my top four!

To Life by Ruth Minsky Sender

I read this book in grade 7, I was 12 years old. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, this book opened my eyes to the experiences of my own family. It helped me talk to my grandmother and understand what it was like to be a survivor and to have to pick up and restart a life after living through unimaginable trauma and loss. It is an incredible story of loss, tragedy, strength, courage and renewal.

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn

I have always been a feminist. I have always believed in seeking and fighting for equality. But this book woke me up to the distinct disadvantages that women face around the world. Until I read this book I didn’t understand how dangerous giving birth was for the majority of women in the world. I learned so much and it made me want to learn even more. This book put me on a path to fight for women’s rights and women’s health around the world.

What is the What by Dave Eggers

This a fictionalized biography of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan. This book ignited my passion for protecting children from the ravages of war, building a more compassionate world, and fighting for the rights of refugees. It also led me to explore books about Africa written by Africans, which opened up a whole new literary world for me.

Anne of Green Gables Series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Was one of my favourite series as a child, written by a great Canadian author!

ECW. Are there any final comments you would like to share with ECW’s global audience on the importance of refugee children’s education in emergencies, as well as the importance of not only prioritizing education in humanitarian contexts, but also delivering quality education with ‘the fierce urgency of now’, rather than waiting until the crisis is over.

Karina Gould. When schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was quick to mobilize to ensure – to the best of our abilities – that we focused on continuity of learning for out of school children. What I would like to reiterate is that we need to remember the vulnerable populations, including refugees and displaced children, who were not in school before the pandemic and who never had access to quality education. These children deserve the chance to learn, and must not be left behind.


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

Priscille with her family. Photo © Save the Children


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

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

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

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


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

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

Learn more in this BBC French report.

Photo © UNHCR


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Save the Children. View Original.

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

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

Meet Priscille

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Ronald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Brenda and Kato

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


This story was built from the analysis and reporting in Education Cannot Wait’s upcoming 2019 Annual Report. Stay tuned for more stories, high-level virtual events and analysis from the report. All figures reflect reporting as of 31 December 2019 unless otherwise noted. Photo © Avsi Foundation

Education Cannot Wait investments are reaching refugee children and youth in crisis-affected countries around the world, providing them with the hope, opportunity and protection of an education. In places like Uganda, this means disabled girls, like Sunday Harriet, are regaining access to education, allowing them to learn, grow and thrive.

Everyone can make a difference and every action counts! This is the rallying cry of 2020’s World Refugee Day, led by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and supported by stakeholders and partner across the world, including Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises.

For refugee students living in the Palake Refugee Camp in Northern Uganda, like Sunday Harriet, even the smallest of actions can make a big difference.

As an infant, Sunday suffered a serious infection in both her ears. Now 11 years old and in primary school, Sunday’s learning ability is impaired because her hearing is now limited.  “I used to be picked by teachers and brought to the front of the classroom because I did not hear well,” she said.

Sunday’s challenges are complex. Because she has a disability, and because she was forced to flee her home, her chances of receiving quality education were limited.

The spread of COVID-19 now exacerbates the hardships faced by refugee children like Sunday.  Refugee girls are especially at risk, often pressured by economic hardship, culture and tradition to stay home and work, or vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse. According to the Malala Fund, approximately 10 million more secondary-school-aged girls could be out of school as a result of the pandemic, putting them at even higher risk.

To support Sunday, and other students like her, Education Cannot Wait provides funding for the Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda and through a fast-acting First Emergency Response to the COVID-19 pandemic, announced in early April.

In Uganda, ECW’s education in emergency COVID-19 response includes $1 million in funding to Save the Children and UNHCR, which focuses on ensuring continuous access to education, including: distance, online and radio learning; information campaigns, risk communications and community engagement in local languages, including psychosocial and mental health support; and, water and sanitation facility upgrades in schools and learning centers as a first line of defense.

Recent reports indicate that 60,000 refugee and Ugandan children are benefiting from extended learning and mental health support during the lockdown through ECW’s first emergency response.

These interconnected programmes were developed through a collaborative process, including the Government of Uganda, donors, NGOs, UN agencies, the education in emergencies working group and other key stakeholders.

To get Sunday back to learning, the AVSI Foundation screened her using a contact disability assessment tool, which helps detect children and youth with impairments. Having clearly qualified for assistance, she was referred for further clinical assessment from an ear, nose and throat specialist in Gulu, in northern Uganda, who recommended she be fitted with hearing aids.

The assistance has been life changing! Having eventually received her digital hearing aids from Kampala Audiology and Speech Centre, Sunday can now properly engage in classroom exercises and listen clearly to what her teachers are saying.

Photo © Manan Kotak/ECW


According to ECW’s upcoming Annual Report, Uganda is host to the third largest refugee community in the world as more than 1.3 million refugees have crossed its borders from Burundi, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More than 60 per cent of the refugees are under the age of 18; girls and women make up a total of 51 percent of the total displaced population.

The Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda, was launched in September 2018 and aims to improve access and delivery of quality education for refugees and host communities affected areas in the border regions. The Education Response Plan is based on the ‘Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework’ (CRRF) and these work together to make the education system more inclusive for refugees and other vulnerable groups, such as children with disabilities, girls and child mothers.

In 2019, the Uganda Education Consortium, working under the national emergency response plan, delivered a comprehensive package of services that include the distribution of scholastic materials to 150,941 children (48 per cent girls), the construction of more than 150 new classrooms, the recruitment of 640 teachers, and the establishment of referral pathways alongside accelerated learning programmes.

This multi-pronged approach helped improve the gross enrolment ratio for refugee children from 53 per cent in 2017 to 75 per cent by the end of 2019.

Taken together with other actions, this provides a strong enabling environment for the government of Uganda to roll out effective education in emergencies relief to the COVID-19 pandemic and other fast-acting emergencies that derail development gains and push budgets and coping mechanisms to the breaking point.

Photo © Manan Kotak/ECW

Every Action Counts – The Global Picture

The global population of forcibly displaced people reached 70.8 million in 2019 – the highest level since World War II. This includes almost 26 million refugees and over 41 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs), who often face significant barriers to access education in host countries.

In 2019, according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, only 63 per cent of refugee children attended primary school (compared to 91 per cent globally) and only 24 per cent of refugees accessed secondary education. COVID-19, climate change, armed conflicts and a trend toward longer periods of displacement and protracted crises are putting even more girls and boys at risk, and derailing global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG4,which focuses on universal and equitable quality education.

While host countries took in large numbers of refugees, they were not always able to accommodate the increased demand for services, and the 26 million refugees around the world face particularly dangerous, life-threatening obstacles in the fight against COVID-19. In a camp in Northwest Syria hosting 1 million people, people face cramped living conditions, little or no healthcare and a lack of access to clean water. In Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, as many as 16,000 people currently live in quarantine zones. Even worse, these multiplying crises that could result in 300,000 people starving every day, cost our economy trillions of dollars, and push millions back into poverty.

Education is part of the solution. Schools and learning centers provide refugee children with meals, they provide them with sanitation facilities, and they provide them with a safe haven to escape the fear and danger of life that they may face in exile. In short, education provides them hope.

Immediate relief is needed. ECW has expanded its education in emergencies COVID-19 response appeal to US$300 million. Much of this funding will directly reach refugee and other displaced children.

To create true transformational change, however, the education system needs to be built back better with integrated long-term approaches that bridge the humanitarian-development nexus, and put refugee children and education first.


US$1.5 million grant in Cameroon brings total ECW COVID-19 First Emergency Response to US$24.5 million across 27 countries and emergency contexts

20 May 2020, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announces a US$1.5 million allocation to support the education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Cameroon. The new funding brings ECW’s total response to the pandemic to US$24.5 million across 27 countries and emergency contexts, through its first emergency response window.

The new funding will ensure access and continuity of children’s learning in crisis-affected areas in Cameroon, reaching 3.9 million children, of whom 2.2 million are girls, as well as 8,600 teachers, 60 per cent of whom are women.

Funds are allocated to UNESCO (US$1 million) and UNICEF (US$500,000) in country. The grantees will implement the investment in collaboration with and support of the Education Cluster, the Government of Cameroon and civil society organizations.

The funding will support a range of educational activities, including scaling up an existing ECW investment that provides a hybrid learning platform with internet connectivity solutions, and radio access for non-formal and formal education and providing children the opportunity to sit for exams. It will also support life-saving risk-mitigation measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which builds upon the UNICEF, WHO and IFRC Safe-Schools’ Protocols for the Reopening of Schools.

To date, ECW’s total emergency funding for COVID-19 education in emergency responses across 27 crisis-affected countries/emergency contexts has been allocated to a total of 57 grantees comprising UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations. These implementing agencies are coordinating their efforts together with host-governments and other partners to deliver lifesaving and life-sustaining education in emergency responses with speed and agility.

Grants duration varies between six to 12 months and focus on ensuring continuous access to education, including distance, online and radio learning; information campaigns, risk communications and community engagement in local languages, including psychosocial and mental health support; and water and sanitation facility upgrades in schools and learning centers as a first line of defense.

Donors are stepping up to fill ECW’s recent global appeal for US$50 million in immediate funding to support the education in emergency response to the global pandemic. Notably, the Lego Foundation recently announced US$15 million in funding for ECW, and the UK has provided £5 million in additional funding.

Updated analysis from UNESCO indicates that 1.2 billion learners are currently affected by the pandemic, with 154 current country-wide closures. For the 75 million children and youth already impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement, natural disasters and protracted crises, COVID-19 and its ongoing economic and social impacts amplifies risks for girls and boys already pushed aside.

Additional information on ECW COVID-19 emergency grants per country/crisis (updated 20 May 2020):

ECW First Emergency Response grants announced on 2 April (learn more here)

  • Afghanistan: Total of $1.25 million allocated. Grantees: UNICEF ($1.25 million)
  • Bangladesh: Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: BRAC ($900,000), Save the Children ($600,000)
  • Brazil: Total of $250,000 million allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($250,000)
  • Burkina Faso: Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: EDUCO ($300,000), Plan International ($500,000), Save the Children ($250,000), UNICEF ($300,000), UNHCR ($150,000)
  • Colombia: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($1 million)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: AVSI ($340,000), Save the Children ($140,000), UNESCO ($520,000), War Child Canada ($500,000)
  • Ethiopia: Total of $1million allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($500,000), UNICEF ($500,000)
  • Palestine: Total of $850,000 allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($400,000), UNICEF ($450,000)  
  • Somalia – Federal Government of Somalia and Member States: Total of $800,000 allocated. Grantee: ADRA ($800,000)
  • Somalia – Puntland: Total of $650,000 allocated. Grantee: Save the Children ($650,000)
  • Somalia – Somaliland: Total of $700,000 allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($700,000)
  • Syria: Total of $500,000 allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($500,000)
  • Uganda: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($525,000), UNHCR ($475,000)
  • Venezuela: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($1 million)
  • Zimbabwe: Total of $500,000 allocated. Grantees: Plan International ($75,000), Save the Children ($175,000), UNICEF ($175,000), World Vision ($75,000)
  • Regional Response for Palestine Refugees: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantee: UNRWA ($1 million)

ECW First Emergency Response grants announced on 3 April (learn more here)

  • Central African Republic (CAR): Total of $1 million allocated. Grantees: Jesuit Refugee Service ($75,000), Norwegian Refugee Council ($175,000), UNICEF ($750,000)
  • Chad: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantees: Consortium Humanity International & Cooperazione Internazionale-COOPI ($300,000), UNHCR ($400,000), WFP ($300,000)
  • Ecuador: Total of $550,000 allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($550,000)
  • Malawi: Total of $325,000 allocated. Grantees: Save the Children ($125,000), UNICEF ($200,000)
  • Mali: Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: UNICEF ($750,000), UNHCR ($750,000)
  • Mozambique: Total of $325,000 allocated. Grantees: Plan International ($100,000), UNICEF ($150,000), World Vision International ($75,000)
  • Niger: Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: Plan International ($225,000), Save the Children ($225,000), UNICEF ($450,000), WFP ($375,000), World Vision International ($225,000)
  • Nigeria: Total of $1 million allocated. Grantees: Plan International ($125,000), Save the Children ($125,000), Street Child ($125,000), UNICEF ($625,000)
  • Peru: Total of $300,000 allocated. Grantee: RET International ($300,000)
  • Yemen: Total of $500,000 allocated. Grantee: UNICEF ($500,000)

ECW First Emergency Response grant announced on 20 May

  • Cameroon: Total of $1.5 million allocated. Grantees: UNESCO ($1,500,000), UNICEF ($500,000)


View Original on Global Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNESCO and Education Cannot Wait provide the Ministry of Education and Higher Education with online learning material for teachers and students


UNESCO Beirut / MOE&HE Lebanon / ECW Press Release

UNESCO and Education Cannot Wait provide the Ministry of Education and Higher Education with online learning material for teachers and students


12 May 2020, Beirut, Lebanon (UNESCO/Ministry of Education and Higher Education/ECW) – The COVID-19 pandemic has translated into a major education crisis. In Lebanon, 1.2 million children are affected by school closures and have seen their learning routines disrupted. While Lebanon has switched to distance teaching and learning to mitigate the effects of this disruption, challenges related to preparedness, infrastructure and capacity, as well as the digital gaps, have put additional strains on students, parents, teachers, and the educational authorities.

In this context, and in the framework of their educational response to the COVID-19 crisis, UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States (UNESCO Beirut) and Education Cannot Wait (ECW) quickly joined efforts to support the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in developing inclusive distance learning solutions to ensure that learning never stops.

As one of the tracks of the Ministry of Education’s strategy to respond to the COVID-19 crisis focuses on developing online learning as an alternative to school closures, UNESCO Beirut and ECW, with generous support from the French government, provided the Ministry with online learning material and digital resources to be used by teachers and students in Lebanon. 297 video lessons, covering Math, Science, and French classes, were provided by Reseau CANOPE, and are available on the online platform launched by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education for the COVID-19 response.

Minister of Education Dr Tarek Majzoub said: “We are happy to partner with UNESCO and ECW to facilitate inclusive learning opportunities for children during this period of sudden and unprecedented educational disruption. Special thanks to the French Government for its generous contribution that made this important initiative happen”, while adding: “This collective action will help build a more resilient system to develop more open and flexible approaches to reach all our children in Lebanon and to promote the values of citizenship, coexistence, and dialogue”.

This cooperation comes within the framework of UNESCO’s project “Supporting francophone teaching and learning in Lebanon”, funded by ECW with the support of the French government, and launched in November 2018. The project aims to promote the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in French for vulnerable Lebanese and non-Lebanese students enrolled in public schools, and is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

UNESCO’s Regional Director for Education in the Arab States, Dr Hamed al Hamami, said: “From school closures, to isolation, to a persistent sense of anxiety, the effects of this pandemic are greatly impacting children and youth. Despite the crisis, learning should never stop. This is why UNESCO is committed to supporting the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in developing remote learning solutions and ensuring inclusion and equity for all learners, so that no one is left behind. Our cooperation with the Ministry will not only help ensure continuity of education but can also contribute to building a more resilient education system for the future, through providing teachers and students with new learning material and resources ”.

Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, stated: “Lebanon deserves all our support and cooperation. UNESCO has years of experience in modeling, testing, and sharing some of the world’s most innovative learning solutions, and their ideas are now available for nations like Lebanon amidst this crisis. The admirable efforts of the Lebanese Ministry of Education to enable online learning  brings  equity and access to education for vulnerable children, including refugee and displaced girls and boys. This is how we empower these children to improve their learning, while unlocking the amazing potential for innovation. Our appreciation and gratitude to the Government of France for making this possible.”   


Additional Resources

Notes to Editors:
Information on the Education Cannot Wait Global Fund and its investment modalities are available at: 

About Education Cannot Wait (ECW)
ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. The Fund is administered under UNICEF’s financial, human resources and administrative rules and regulations, while operations are run by the Fund’s own independent governance structure.
Please follow on Twitter: @EduCannotWait   @UNESCO  @YasmineSherif1 
Additional information available at: 
For press inquiries:
Anouk Desgroseilliers,, +1-917-640-6820
Kent Page,, +1-917-302-1735
For other inquiries:



5 May 2020 – Denmark is Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) third largest donor, with US$79.1 million in contributions to date. In this insightful interview with Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation, Rasmus Prehn, we explore the importance of girls’ education and gender equality, the humanitarian-development nexus, expanded engagement with the private sector, education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic and more. A former high school teacher, with a master’s degree in social science, Minister Prehn has been a member of Danish Parliament since 2005, and was named Minister for Development Cooperation on June 27, 2019. Minister Prehn is the former chairman of the Danish Research, Education and Further Education Committee, a tireless advocate for education in emergencies, and a true champion for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG4: inclusive and equitable, quality education for all.

Denmark is a strong political advocate of education and girls’ education in emergencies and crisis countries. How do you see investments in education in crisis countries bringing transformative change for the overall development agenda?

RP: Education holds a huge potential for transformation. Both in respect to giving children the tools they need for a sustainable future and in respect to transforming society as we know it into a place where girls and boys, women and men, have equal rights and opportunities. An educated girl can significantly increase her income as compared to girls with no education. Her future children will have a much higher chance of surviving the first five years of their lives.

Girls living in emergency contexts are of particular risk of being out of school. They are also at higher risk of sexual- and gender-based violence, including teenage pregnancies and child marriage. Their sexual and reproductive health and rights are often under pressure during times of crisis. Supporting education is also a way to address these risks, as education provides a foundation for increased gender equality and for the protection of the rights of women and girls.

Denmark’s investments in education in crises have a two-fold aim: 1) to ensure continuity of learning for children so that they have the tools for a better future 2) to re-define gender and social norms and raise girls and boys to be equal citizens with equal rights and opportunities.

Since Education Cannot Wait became operational in 2017, Denmark has also become one of Education Cannot Wait’s biggest strategic donor partners and has made major investments in Education Cannot Wait over the past years. What are the key incentives for investing in this relatively new global fund?

RP: Denmark is very committed to work more effectively across the humanitarian-development nexus to ensure more sustainable education outcomes in areas affected by conflict and protracted crisis. This was a key incentive for Danish support to ECW right from the start and for the large contributions that have placed Denmark among the largest donors to ECW.

For the same reason, a key priority for Denmark is that ECW focuses on its mandate to bridge the humanitarian-development nexus to secure long-term education impact. This is only more relevant in light of COVID-19, which has led to the close down of schools in more than 190 countries worldwide. When responding to the COVID-19 crisis, there was a need for immediate action to enable continued learning and address protection risks linked to children being out of school, while also supporting resilient education systems.

In response to COVID-19, and as the LEGO Foundation – the philanthropic arm of a Danish world class private sector company – increased its support to Education Cannot Wait – you also decided to frontload financing for Education Cannot Wait. This is a wonderful way for governments and private sector to provide matching support. How would you describe this model example of engaging private sector?

RP: Denmark firmly believes in partnerships and collaboration to solve the challenges faced in the world today. We need to work together at all levels to make sure we leave no one behind. Collaboration across the public and private sector is one important way of ensuring progress towards common goals. We recognize and much appreciate the role and support of the LEGO Foundation towards education in emergencies. The Danish Government and the LEGO Foundation are currently strengthening collaboration in the area of education. Through close strategic dialogue and coordinated actions such as the matching support, the aim of the collaboration is to ensure synergies towards common goals and the realization of SDG4. We hope that this can set an example for enhanced private and public sector collaboration also in other sectors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a global impact upon all areas of virtually everyone’s life. What does Denmark see as the top three priorities moving forward to achieve SDG4 (quality, inclusive education), particularly for crisis-affected children and youth already impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement and natural disasters – and now doubly hit by COVID-19?

RP: For Denmark, quality and inclusive education is key for learning outcomes. At the same time, both quality and inclusiveness in education are impacted by the context in which children are learning. When the surrounding world is unsafe and uncertain, a pre-condition for children to learn is to ensure a protective environment. Therefore one key priority is a holistic cross-sectoral response that includes access to health care, psychosocial support and protection measures as part of education efforts.

COVID-19 has indeed added a double concern to education in emergencies. A concern that only further stresses the need to develop resilient education systems that are able to deliver quality education in crisis contexts. Be it pandemics, natural disasters or wars. A significant element is to ensure that we reach those furthest behind by using innovative and context-specific methods for distance learning. It is also important that we consider that education quality is not only about the number of children accessing education or learning outcomes, but also about teaching methods, curriculum and the social environment in schools between students and teachers, and students and their peers.

A particular concern for Denmark are the consequences that the school closures caused by COVID-19 have for both girls’ and women’s rights. We know that education is one key element to prevent social and gender norms that drive harmful practices. Where pre-COVID-19 projections showed that a decline in harmful practices could be reached, post-COVID-19 projections show that more girls will be exposed to female genital mutilation and child marriage. Therefore, quality education and establishing inclusive conditions for girls in schools through addressing harmful social and gender norms is a key priority for Denmark and also is the reason why we are part of the ECW gender reference group. The classroom reflects the surrounding society and the reverse is also true.  We must work at all levels to create inclusive conditions for girls’ access to school.

As a Member of Parliament, you have been the Chairman of the Committee on Research, Education and Further Education. What does education represent for you on a more personal level? How does this influence you in your work as a policymaker? 

RP: I could not be a bigger champion of education and skills development: this is the key to create the hope for a better future. I have immense respect for the potential offered by education at all levels to change norms in a positive way. This is why I have been preoccupied with education since my early youth. I have myself worked as a high school teacher for 8 years. I have also been a teacher in the Danish folk high schools (“højskoler”), which is an education institution invented in the 1830s with the aim to help people qualify as active members of society with the means to change the political situation and meet across social borders.