EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INTERVIEWS THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES, FILIPPO GRANDI

Filippo Grandi is the 11th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
He was elected by the UN General Assembly on 1 January 2016 to serve a five-year term, until 31 December 2020. Grandi has been engaged in refugee and humanitarian work for more than 30 years.

Filippo Grandi is the 11th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He was elected by the UN General Assembly on 1 January 2016 to serve a five-year term, until 31 December 2020. Grandi has been engaged in refugee and humanitarian work for more than 30 years.

Education Cannot Wait: As the UN agency mandated by the UN General Assembly to provide international protection and seek solutions for refugees, could you please elaborate on the overall importance of education for refugee children as a component of protection and solutions?

Filippo Grandi: School is often one of the very first things that refugee families ask about after being displaced. Keen to recover a sense of normalcy and dignity after the trauma of being uprooted, they are also heavily invested in their children’s futures. Many children and young people are displaced several times before crossing a border and becoming a refugee. For these children school is the first place they start to regain a sense of routine, safety, friendship and even peace. Education plays a key role, both in ensuring the protection of children and young people and helps families and children focus on rebuilding their lives and returning to many of the activities that they would normally have engaged in prior to displacement.

As UNHCR’s recent Education Report 2020 has shown, whilst there have been some successes in access to primary education, these have slowed down. Gross Enrollment Ratios show that 77 per cent of refugee children are enrolled in primary education, but this drops dramatically to 31 per cent at the secondary level. Girls are disproportionately impacted. Since global evidence shows the significant protective nature of secondary education for girls, this is a key aspect of work for UNHCR and partners like Education Cannot Wait.

Together, we are petitioning for refugee enrollment in education at all levels to be brought up to global levels to enable the millions of children and young people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes to build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. Allowed to learn, develop and thrive, children will grow up to contribute to the societies that host them but also to their homelands when peace allows for their return. Education is one of the most important ways to solve the world’s crises.

Filippo Grandi meets children at the Jibreen shelter in Aleppo, Syria. Jibreen is now home to over 5,000 people displaced during fighting in the city. © UNHCR/Firas Al-Khateeb

Education Cannot Wait: You are a long-standing member of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group. As you know, Education Cannot Wait is designed to ensure that children can continue their education in times of emergencies and protracted crises. Please elaborate on the special needs of refugee children during emergencies and protracted crises, and how do you see Education Cannot Wait contributing to meeting those rights and needs?

Filippo Grandi: The Global Compact for Refugees calls for measures to enable children and youth return to learning within three months of displacement. This goal highlights the important role that education – both formal and non-formal –  plays in supporting children to resume normal activities. Children can feel a sense of belonging with their peers in classrooms, have the opportunity to play and engage in recreational activities, and receive potentially lifesaving information on issues related to health, hygiene and safety. Schools also provide access to support services, such as counselling and school-feeding programmes.

Preparing refugee children to enter into the national education systems of host communities is critical and requires working closely with Ministries of Education to remove administrative and policy barriers to school enrollment.  It also entails ensuring children have the skills and abilities needed in order to thrive once they are enrolled in schools. Language learning classes – especially where the language of instruction is different – catch up programmes, and accelerated education all support children’s enrollment into school and ability to learn effectively. It is also important to provide information and material assistance to assist families overcome some of the practical barriers to school enrollment. Psycho-social support is also instrumental for children who have undergone the trauma of displacement and need help in adapting to new situations and environments.

The support provided by Education Cannot Wait enables agencies and organizations to ensure that services are provided after the onset of an emergency to address the immediate needs that have been highlighted above, focusing both on protection and education needs and working to ensure that children are prepared for inclusion in formal education programmes. Education Cannot Wait has also played a pivotal role in calling for donors to invest in education during and after emergencies to ensure children’s educational needs can be met during humanitarian crises, as evidenced by the increase in investment in education in emergencies over the last four years.

Education Cannot Wait: A significant number of pledges made by countries and other stakeholders at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum centered around education, including individual and joint pledges made by Education Cannot Wait highlighting multi-year investments to increase opportunities in secondary education for refugee children, and in working with other global funds to support quality education for refugees. What gaps in funding are there for refugee education globally and where best can donors help, including countries, civil society and private enterprises?

Filippo Grandi: While funding to education in emergencies grew five-fold between 2015 and 2019, education usually only receives between 2 and 5 percent of the total budget of humanitarian appeals. As we move from emergency situations to protracted crises, there is a risk that education spending is further deprioritized, making it harder to support host governments to continue the delivery of education services over a sustained period.

Funding gaps in education mean that it is often difficult to ensure that children and youth complete a full cycle of education, moving from primary, through secondary and to tertiary education.  Global figures show that there is a dramatic drop in enrollment between primary and secondary education and that only 3 percent of refugee youth are enrolled in tertiary education programmes.

Funding gaps also mean that those who are most in need, including children in women- or child-headed households and those with disabilities do not receive the specialized support that is required in order to fully enjoy their right to education. The joint pledge at the Global Refugee Forum by Education Cannot Wait, the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education has the potential to be a game changer in terms of ensuring that systems are strengthened and supported so that refugees and other vulnerable populations enjoy continued access to education.

Education Cannot Wait: Education Cannot Wait has dedicated its second round of COVID-19 First Emergency Response investments for refugee situations throughout the world. Could you please elaborate on some of the key emergencies in terms of refugee education for UNHCR and the difference that Education Cannot Wait’s emergency response for COVID-19 will make?

Filippo Grandi: The closure of schools around the world effectively meant that 90 percent of refugee children who were enrolled in schools and education programmes were unable to continue receiving an education.

As they are located in some of the most remote areas in countries or have limited resources at home, they were unable to benefit fully from distance and home-based learning programmes and are at serious risk of falling further behind academically. This risk is even more serious for adolescent girls where an estimated 50 percent of girls who were in school are at risk of not returning once classes resume. The closure of schools also means that many of the wrap-around support services mentioned earlier (food distribution, psycho-social support and recreational activities and learning support programmes) were disrupted.

Families who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the pandemic experience greater economic pressure and may deprioritize spending what little resources they have on schooling in order to ensure that their most basic needs are met. All these factors contribute to heighten protection risks during periods of school closure, leaving the educational futures of many refugee children hanging in the balance. 

Keeping education going during a pandemic requires resourcefulness, innovation, invention and collaboration. Education Cannot Wait’s funding for the COVID-19 response will play a key role in mitigating these risks, by finding ways of ensuring that students are able to continue learning during school closures, disseminating information to refugee families about re-opening procedures and the safety protocols that will be put in place, training teachers on adjusting to the pandemic, providing additional materials to students, implementing back to school campaigns and making much-needed improvements to water and sanitation facilities in schools. Many of these activities have already been initiated with the generous support of Education Cannot Wait. 

Education Cannot Wait: UNHCR and ECW have also jointly coordinated closely with host-governments, humanitarian and development actors in developing multi-year resilience investments, such as the Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda. How do you see this strengthening education for refugees and host-communities in the humanitarian-development nexus?

Filippo Grandi: The theme of UNHCR’s 2020 report is ‘Coming Together for Refugee Education’. This focus really echoes the Global Compact on Refugees which advocates for a “whole of society” approach to ensuring that the needs of refugees and hosting communities are addressed.  This means that a range of stakeholders have a role to play in realizing the goals of the Compact.  The presence of a clear plan and set of objectives for supporting access to education helps define roles and areas of contribution for a broad range of stakeholders. It is crucial that there are linkages between refugee and humanitarian response plans, multi-year resilience plans and longer-term sector development plans.

Education Cannot Wait’s support for education programming immediately after the onset of an emergency and the longer-term assistance provided through Multi-Year Resilience Programmes plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between humanitarian and development financing.  The inclusion of refugees in host-country education systems means that donors and other actors need to work closely with governments to increase the capacity of these systems to accommodate additional students, develop teachers’ abilities to respond to students’ needs and to ensure that children can progress through different educational levels.

Education Cannot Wait: Would there be any final comments you would wish to make to ECW’s audience globally regarding the importance of refugee children’s education in emergencies?

Filippo Grandi: Investment in education for refugees is essential to ensure that creativity and potential of young people in conflict and crisis-affected regions is not lost.  During the COVID-19 pandemic refugee students have played pivotal roles in their communities working on the frontlines as healthcare workers, making masks and soap to be distributed to those who need it, offering advice and disseminating health and hygiene information and establishing programmes for tutoring younger students. Their drive, initiative and passion would have been lost without early investment in their education. 

Education for refugees is an investment that pays off for the whole community – and the world. It is also a fundamental right for all children that is affirmed in the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This right must also be upheld in emergencies where we call on global actors to focus not only on access but on the quality of education and children’s ability to learn, leading them to a brighter and more dignified future.

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This interview is also published by IPSNews and is available in French and in Spanish.

Let’s act before it’s too late: the urgent need for action on the hidden safe school crisis

 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.

Continue reading “Let’s act before it’s too late: the urgent need for action on the hidden safe school crisis”

International coalition led by Education Cannot Wait provides new educational opportunities for 194,000 children displaced by conflict in Nigeria

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The 12-month programme will provide educational supplies, permanent schools, basic humanitarian support, and training for teachers to promote the psycho-social development of war-affected children, like this 10-year-old boy. © UNICEF Nigeria/2018

CHILDREN RETURNING HOME TO BENEFIT FROM US$2.5 MILLION IN FUNDING TO REHABILITATE 50 CLASSROOMS AND BUILD CAPACITY FOR 800 TEACHERS

New York, 10 October 2018 – Connecting a broad international coalition that includes Plan International, Save the Children, Street Child and UNICEF, Education Cannot Wait announced a new allocation totaling US$2.49 million to provide safe and equitable access to education for 194,000 conflict-affected children – 52 per cent of whom are girls – in the Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States of North East Nigeria.

The overall emergency education package includes US$210,000 for Plan International, US$249,999 for Save the Children, US$230,000 for Street Child, and US$1.8 million for UNICEF.

The 12-month programme coordinated by the Education Cluster in North East Nigeria in partnership with the Government of Nigeria, will support capacity building for 800 teachers and rehabilitate 50 classrooms. In all, 116,400 internally displaced children and 77,600 children permanently settled in these regions will be targeted with the intervention, which will provide educational supplies, permanent schools, basic humanitarian support, and training for teachers to promote the psycho-social development of these war-affected students.

“This support is essential in responding to the immediate needs of the people of North East Nigeria,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, a new global Fund that has already reached close to 1 million children living in conflict. “Education for all cannot be an afterthought in crisis. This First Emergency Response is just the beginning of our efforts to break the cycle of poverty and violence in the region, and protect boys and girls returning from conflict and still living with the scars of war. As we scale up this work through multi-year investments along with other local, national and international actors, we will expand our support to include more comprehensive actions to reach the estimated 1.8 million children in the region in need of this targeted support.”

The conflict in North East Nigeria and neighbouring states has been devastating, with schools and children often targeted in violent attacks.

“Girls were raped, children were forced into violent extremism, teachers were murdered, and families were ripped apart by this protracted crisis,” said Sherif. “If we are to reach our goal for universal, inclusive and equitable education for all as outlined by world leaders in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, immediate action needs to happen – not just in Nigeria, but across the globe.”

Since the rise of armed conflict in 2009, some 1,400 schools have been damaged or destroyed in Nigeria. In Borno State alone, 57 per cent of schools remain closed today.

According to Human Rights Watch, in some cases students recruited by Boko Haram attacked their own schools and killed their own teachers. An estimated 19,000 teachers have been displaced by conflict in Nigeria since 2009, with 2,295 killed in the violence.

“Without teachers and without schools, the children of this region have very limited opportunities. To halt the continued scourge of violent extremism in the region – and protect our most valuable natural resource, our children – we’ve partnered with key actors in this humanitarian response phase to help rehabilitate schools, train teachers, provide essential educational supplies and get boys and girls back in safe and secure educational environments,” Sherif said.

The situation in North East Nigeria continues to be a highly complex humanitarian crisis. With 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including 4.3 million children who remain the primary victims of the ongoing conflict.

“This First Emergency Response funding is specifically designed for sudden onset crises or escalations of existing emergencies such as what we are seeing in North East Nigeria and neighboring states today,” said Sherif. “This is a start, but the magnitude of the crisis requires specific, extensive, multi-year engagements to get Nigeria’s boys and girls back in safe schools and help them recover from years of conflict.”

Education Cannot Wait has been operational for just over a year, the new global Fund was created to mobilize US$1.84 billion in funding by 2021 to provide reliable and quality education to 8.9 million children affected by crisis.

Read the PDF version of the press release here

Links

 

Powerful speech by Gordon Brown on why we must fund education for refugee children

Full speech of Rt Hon Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education & Chair of the ECW High-Level Steering Group (HLSG) on Action for Refugee Education

In 2016 world leaders agreed to strengthen the international response to the global
refugee crisis and grow support to meet the needs of refugee and host communities.
This included promising “to ensure all refugee children are receiving education within a few months of arrival and to prioritize budgetary provision to facilitate this, including support for host countries”.

The new Global Compact on Refugees sets out a Programme of Action which includes commitments to “expand and enhance the quality and inclusiveness of national education systems to facilitate access by refugee and host community children and youth to primary, secondary and tertiary education”. It also commits to “provide more direct financial support to minimize the time refugee boys and girls spend out of education”.
However, more than half of the world’s refugee children – 3.7 million – remain out of school.
Despite this we believe that progress is possible and that having agreed our aims we must act to deliver them.
The High-Level Meeting on Action for Refugee Education will bring together refugee hosting states, donor governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector and civil society to agree how to accelerate and improve efforts to deliver these commitments.
The Meeting will explore efforts to:
• include refugee populations in national education systems
• improve learning outcomes for refugee and host communities
• and support greater responsibility sharing, especially via more and better financing.

Learn more: https://www.actionforrefugeeeducation.net/

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.

GLOBAL DISABILITY SUMMIT 2018: Education Cannot Wait commits to ensure disabled children in crisis settings fulfill their right to learn

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.

Hanaa, 8, who was paralysed by an exploding bomb and lost the use of her legs, solves a problem on a whiteboard in a classroom at a school in east Aleppo city, Syrian Arab Republic, February 2018. Hanaa's dream is to become a physiotherapist to help children like her. ©UNICEF/Al-Issa
Hanaa, 8, who was paralysed by an exploding bomb and lost the use of her legs, solves a problem on a whiteboard in a classroom at a school in east Aleppo city, Syrian Arab Republic, in February 2018. Hanaa’s dream is to become a physiotherapist to help children like her.
©UNICEF/Al-Issa

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!

Yasmine Sherif
Director
Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

More information on ECW’s commitments and achievements in reaching children and youth with disabilities in crisis settings is available in our 2018 -2021 Strategic Plan and our 2017 – 2018 Results Report.   

For further details on the Global Disability Summit – Charter for change, consulthttps://www.gov.uk/government/publications/global-disability-summit-charter-for-change

ECW Annual Results Report: Over 650,000 Children Reached in the Fund’s First Year of Operations

New York, 6 July 2018 – The just-released ECW annual results report  shows ECW’s investments have reached more than 650,000 children and youth affected by conflict and natural disasters during the Fund’s first year of operations from April 2017 to March 2018. In total ECW invested US$82 million in 14 crisis-affected countries.

ECW map of investments and results (as of 31 March 2018)
ECW map of investments and results (as of 31 March 2018)

ECW’s investments are geared to reach the “furthest behind”, i.e. the millions of children and youth who have traditionally fallen between the cracks of the aid system: refugees and displaced children and youth, those living in an ongoing crisis, host communities, girls and adolescent gilrs, the disabled, etc.

The Fund supports programmes spanning a wide spectrum of context-specific activities to meet education needs of crisis-affected children and youth aged 3-18 years old with a focus on improving access to education, equity and gender equality, continuity, protection and quality of learning.  These include learning materials and psychosocial support, school and classroom equipment and infrastructure, teachers’ training and support, and non-formal education programmes.

Girls account for 48 per cent of all children reached by the Fund’s investments which is a crucial achievement to reduce the gender gap in crisis settings, as crises disproportionately affect girls’ education; in Afghanistan alone, where girls represent only 39 per cent of primary level school enrolment, ECW investments reached 60 per cent of girls. Another important achievement is the inclusion of early childhood development components – a sector neglected in crisis settings – in two thirds of country programmes supported by ECW, ensuring children in crisis settings benefit from a good start.

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The report also highlights ECW’s unique role in catalyzing joint efforts between humanitarian and development aid actors to ensure more effective and sustainable responses and strengthen response capacity and accountability. In particular, ECW is delivering on its promise to ensure rapid education responses from the onset of crises: for example, when the massive influx of Rohingya refugees was recorded in Bangladesh in August-September 2017, ECW was among the first organizations to respond, proving funding to partners on the ground within 6 weeks of the start of the crisis. With 19 per cent of ECW’s funds channeled as directly as possible to local and national responders at country level, ECW is a key player in advancing the localization of aid agenda, already nearing the Grand Bargain target of 25 per cent by 2020 set by a group of the world’s biggest donors and aid providers.

This is only a glimpse of the progress ECW achieved in delivering education to some of the most vulnerable children and youth on the globe in its first year of operations.  To know more, read the full report here.