As the world marks the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic on 11 March 2021, initial progress reports on Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) COVID-19 emergency responses to date show that the Fund and its partners have already reached over 9 million vulnerable girls and boys in the midst of the worst education crisis of our lifetime.

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency education programmes supported by Education Cannot Wait are providing hope and protection to girls and boys in over 30 emergencies and protracted crises world-wide  

This press release is also available in Spanish, French, and Arabic.

10 March 2021, New York – As the world marks the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic on 11 March 2021, initial progress reports on Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) COVID-19 emergency responses to date show that the Fund and its partners have already reached over 9 million vulnerable girls and boys in the midst of the worst education crisis of our lifetime.

Within days of the declaration of the pandemic one year ago, ECW rapidly allocated $23 million in COVID-19 emergency grants to support continuous access to learning opportunities and to protect the health and wellbeing of girls and boys living in emergencies and protracted crises. Shortly after, ECW continued to scale up its response with a second allocation of $22.4 million – specifically focusing on refugee, internally displaced and host community children and youth.

“During COVID-19, our investments have been life-sustaining for children and youth enduring crisis and conflict around the world. Despite the pandemic, our government partners, civil society and UN colleagues have been working hand in hand with communities to deliver remote learning and continued education in safe and protective learning environments,” said Yasmine Sherif, the Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Yet, so many children and youth have been left behind, as financial resources are required to reach them. We risk losing entire generations of young people who are already struggling in emergencies and protracted crisis.”

The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and the Chair of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group, reinforced the urgent need for more funding to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal 4 through Education Cannot Wait – during and after the pandemic: “I call on all education stakeholders to join Education Cannot Wait’s efforts in mobilizing an additional $400 million to immediately support the continued education of vulnerable children and youth caught in humanitarian crises, stressing the need to move with speed. We cannot afford to lose more time, nor to let millions of refugee and conflict-affected children, their families and teachers lose hope.”

In total, ECW’s COVID-19 emergency grants target 32 million vulnerable children and youth (over 50% of whom are girls) in over 30 countries affected by armed conflict, forced displacement, climate-related disasters and other crises.  For these girls and boys, the pandemic has generated a ‘crisis within a crisis’, further entrenching pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequalities. Without access to the protection and hope of an education, they face multiple risks, including child labor, child marriage and early pregnancy, human trafficking, forced recruitment into armed groups, sexual exploitation and gender-based violence.

ECW’s COVID-19 emergency grants to over 80 United Nations agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations working on the ground in 33 crisis-affected countries and contexts support a wide range of interventions ranging from pre-primary (19%), primary (56%) and secondary (25%) education as well as non-formal education. These include:

  • Remote learning: with the total disruption of the usual education systems in emergency-affected areas, ECW grants support alternative delivery models, including informal education materials at the household level, as well as scaling up distance education programmes, particularly via interactive radio.
  • A focus on gender: gender-specific actions were integrated at the design stage of the response, supporting rapid gender assessment and targeted approaches for girls. Over half of the children and youth reached to date are girls and 61% of all teachers trained are women.
  • A focus on forcibly displaced population: 7 million refugee and internally displaced children and youth are specifically targeted through ECW-supported interventions.
  • Safe and protective learning environment: activities improve access to water, hygiene and sanitation to protect children and their communities against the risks of COVID-19. Messaging, tailored to local languages and contexts, provides practical advice about how to stay safe, including through handwashing and social distancing.
  • Mental health and psychological support: this includes COVID-19-specific guidance and training for parents and teachers to promote the resilience and the psychosocial wellbeing of children and youth. ECW also supports all children and adolescents to receive instruction in social emotional learning.

In addition to its 12-month emergency grants portfolio, ECW also invests in multi-year resilience education programmes that provide longer-term holistic learning opportunities for children and youth caught in protracted crises to achieve quality education outcomes.

More information on ECW’s COVID-19 response is available here.

Download ECW’s COVID-19 response factsheet.


“The choice facing world leaders is simple: act now to tackle the hunger crisis, or pay a much higher price later. Immediate action will be cheaper and save more lives than responding only after multiple famines have taken hold and a generation’s missed education has exacted a terrible toll.” ~ Gordon Brown, Mark Lowcock

In this new, compelling opinion piece featured on Project Syndicate, Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, highlight the devastating COVID-19 hunger and education crisis facing millions of vulnerable children and youth around the world. They call for urgent financing for Education Cannot Wait and its partner organizations like WFP and Save the Children to feed hungry children. They also highlight the need for funding to tackle low enrollment rates for refugee children in secondary education, particularly for adolescent girls. This is a commitment ECW has made in the Global Refugee Forum, and for which it is working closely with UNHCR to address, its key partner for refugee children’s education. They lastly flag the digital divide leaving two thirds of the world’s school-age children without internet access at home and for which a UNICEF-led project is working to bridge. They call for immediate action, so that ECW together with partners can reach more of these children with the help they so desperately need now.

LONDON – Today, 270 million people – equivalent to the combined population of Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy – are on the brink of starvation. This number has doubled over the last 12 months. And it is the world’s children who are suffering most.

An estimated 11 million children under the age of five face extreme hunger or starvation in 11 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Asia. Of these, 168,000 will die of malnutrition by the end of 2022 unless they receive emergency support. And a total of 73 million primary schoolchildren in 60 low-income countries are chronically hungry.

Hunger was already on the rise before the coronavirus pandemic, mostly as a result of war and conflict, and climate change exacerbated it. But the secondary effects of the pandemic have created a global hunger crisis.

One reason for this is that COVID-19 has broken the lifeline of school. More than 1.6 billion children have missed time in the classroom since the pandemic began, and nearly 200 million are still not back at school.

Previous crises have shown that school closures carry huge social and economic costs, including increases in child marriage and child labor. Some young people end up paying the ultimate price: complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19 in low- and middle-income countries. Ultimately, crises reverse progress on ensuring that all girls have access to quality education.

Moreover, schools provide many poor children with their only nutritious meal of the day. School closures mean that millions of children have lost their opportunity not only to learn, but also to eat. Children have missed more than 39 billion school meals during the crisis. Women and girls are often the first to miss meals, and account for more than 70% of people facing chronic hunger.

The damage caused by just a few weeks of missed nutrition can stunt a hungry child for a lifetime, and malnutrition can stunt a country’s economic progress for a generation. So, getting children back into school where they can be educated and fed must be a high priority.

With relatively little money, the international humanitarian system has achieved much. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), for example, feeds around 100 million people per year. And when COVID-19 severely disrupted commercial airline services, the UN created a logistics system to transport health and humanitarian workers and vital supplies, including food. But a crisis on this scale requires an ambitious plan that involves more than just providing school meals. Humanitarian organizations can’t do it alone.

At their June summit, the wealthy G7 economies should commission a long-term plan to address rising global food needs. The plan should include provisions for pre-emptive action: building up food stocks, developing insurance as a protection, and supporting developing-country farmers and food growers with long-term investments to help them become self-sufficient.

Policymakers must also adopt innovative ways to generate financing, including guarantee-based facilities that can maximize the use of development aid and private-sector funding, which was at the heart of the 2015 Addis Ababa proposals for financing the Sustainable Development Goals. Another priority could be a closer partnership between the UN and the World Bank – the one wholly global organization capable of mobilizing substantial additional resources on a sustained basis.

But there is a very simple, common-sense solution to the immediate crisis: new international money. At least $600 billion in Special Drawing Rights (the International Monetary Fund’s reserve asset) can be allocated to poorer countries. Leaders and lenders can agree on up to $80 billion of debt relief on the condition that the money goes to education, health, and nutrition. And the World Bank and regional development banks can rapidly expand grants and loans.

With around $10 billion this year, the world could stave off famine in Yemen, South Sudan, northeast Nigeria, and the Sahel. And it could prevent mass hunger – which immediately precedes famine – in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and other vulnerable places.

This may sound like a lot of money. But it’s the equivalent of a dollar a month from each person in the world’s richest economies, and represents a fraction of 1% of wealthy countries’ pandemic-related stimulus spending.

We need to move quickly. This means giving grants up front to the WFP and leading NGOs like Save the Children to feed hungry children and their families. With only 31% of refugee children enrolled at the secondary level, and just 27% of girls, Education Cannot Wait – which helps displaced children into school and has raised almost $1 billion in its short existence – needs to be fully funded. By directing additional resources to education, we can get 136 million children in some of the poorest and most conflict-affected countries back in school – and help them stay there.COVID-19 has also exposed another educational divide: two thirds of the world’s school-age children lack internet access at home, which prevents them from online learning. Today, only 5% of children in low-income countries have such access, compared to 90% in high-income countries. A UNICEF-led project to connect the world could bridge this gaping digital divide.

The UK government has pledged to play a leading global role in getting all children into school and ensuring that girls receive 12 years of education. But we will not achieve that noble objective unless the G7 summit addresses this issue, in addition to food security.

Time and again, education has demonstrated its power to transform individuals, families, and entire countries. But chronic hunger can have devastating consequences: cruel and preventable deaths, violent conflict, and mass displacement.

Ignoring the global scourge of hunger is thus not an option. What happens in the world’s most fragile places has knock-on effects in the most stable countries.

The choice facing world leaders is simple: act now to tackle the hunger crisis, or pay a much higher price later. Immediate action will be cheaper and save more lives than responding only after multiple famines have taken hold and a generation’s missed education has exacted a terrible toll.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2021


Stronger Together: Education in Emergencies & Protracted Crises

12 August 2020 – ‘Stronger collective efforts and collaboration are key to meeting the urgent education needs of children and youth affected by crises’: this is the unifying message from leaders and youth advocates brought together by Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and Devex in a high-level, Global Discussion held online on 12 August,  on the occasion of International Youth Day.

Over 2,550 people from across the world tuned in to watch the ‘Stronger Together: Education in Emergencies & Protracted Crises’ event live, which was chaired by UN Special Envoy for Global Education, the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, hosted by ECW Director Yasmine Sherif, and moderated by Devex Editor-in-Chief, Raj Kumar. The Global Discussion shone a spotlight on the challenges faced by girls and boys caught in humanitarian crises to access education.

The discussion was particularly relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has further compounded barriers and plunged the world into the worst education crisis of our lifetime. Eminent expert speakers from around the world underscored potential solutions to meet these challenges and the progress made in recent years, as evidenced in the new ECW Annual Results Report. They stressed the importance of building on these achievements and ramping up efforts to avoid losing hard won gains to the pandemic.

UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the ECW High Level Steering Group, the Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, kicked off the discussion by emphasizing that the world’s most vulnerable crisis-affected children and youth are now doubly hit by COVID-19. While 13 million refugees, 40 million displaced and an overall 75 million girls and boys in conflict and emergency zones already had their education disrupted, with the impact of COVID-19, another 30 million – who were in school before the pandemic – may now never continue their education. ‘It is incumbent upon us to send out a message of hope that, by getting every child who is in a conflict or an emergency zone into school, we can be the first generation in which every child is getting the chance of schooling,’ he said.

UNHCR High Profile Supporter and Syrian Youth Advocate for Refugees Nujeen Mustafa underlined that education is an inherent right and that it is ‘unacceptable and inexcusable’ for millions of children and young people to be denied this right. Recounting her story and the difficulties she faced in accessing learning opportunities as a disabled girl growing up in Syria, she called on policymakers not to see children from conflict zones as ‘a burden or a problem to solve’ but rather as ‘treasures’ who should be valued and provided with the opportunities they deserve.

Norway’s Minister of International Development, Dag Ulstein, stressed that ‘we are in the midst of a crisis that we never thought would come, which makes it even more difficult for the most marginalized ones to access education, especially in areas affected by conflict and crises.’ Minister Ulstein reaffirmed Norway’s commitment to education in emergencies and protracted crises saying ‘no one should be left behind.’ He underlined how Nujeen’s personal story is a testament to why it is so crucial to invest in the most marginalized girls and boys to fulfill their right to education and unlock their full potential.

UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly T. Clements, stated that ‘education is a lifeline for refugee children and youth’ and it is ‘our duty to provide it to them’. She highlighted how COVID-19 is making it even more difficult for refugees to access education, especially for those who lack the necessary connectivity for remote learning solutions or for those who can no longer access the specialized support they need. Clements stressed the urgency of increasing support, in particular for refugee girls, who face heightened risks of child marriages, early pregnancies and sexual violence. 

ECW Director, Yasmine Sherif, presented key highlights of the new ECW 2019 Annual Results Report showing how stronger collaboration and multilateral efforts are key to achieving inclusive, equitable quality education outcomes for children and youth in crises settings. She underscored ECW’s flexibility and lean structure as instrumental to increasing the speed of education emergency responses and the accountability to crisis-affected communities. Sherif also stressed encouraging funding trends with close to $800 million mobilized to date by ECW at both the global level and with ECW-supported country-based programmes, as well as the growing share of global humanitarian funding allocated to education that went from 2.6 per cent in 2015 to 5.1 per cent in 2019. Despite this progress, she said ‘much more remains to be done’ and appealed donors to urgently contribute an additional $310 million to ECW. ‘We are about to enter a new phase where education will be put at the forefront. If we all work together, we jointly can take this to the next level’, she stressed.

‘If my education had waited, I would not be the Minister of Education today in Afghanistan,’ said H.E. Rangina Hamidi. The first female Minister of Education since the post-Taliban era of Afghanistan related how her father’s determination for his girls to be educated led him to seek refuge with his family in the United States. Minister Hamidi stressed that 3.7 million children are out of school today in Afghanistan, 60 per cent of whom are girls. She said the COVID-19 pandemic must be seized as an opportunity to be creative and think beyond the traditional provision of education. ‘If girls cannot attend school and access traditional education, then, we need to take education to girls where they are: in their villages, in their homes,’ she said. Minister Hamidi stressed that Afghanistan has become a leader in community-based education: ‘We have successful results that show that when you take education to their communities, girls do get educated’. 

UNHCR DAFI Scholar and Youth Advocate for Refugees, Deborah Kalumbi, recounted her story as a refugee girl forced to flee her home in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo for Zambia, and the challenges she faced in accessing education in a different language in a new country. Education helped me embrace and accept my new life,’ she stressed. She also highlighted how important education is to protect refugees, in particular refugee girls who face increased risks of child marriage and early pregnancies if they are out-of-school.   

UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta H. Fore, stressed that ‘education is the foundation of all humanitarian and development responses’ and must the addressed as a continuum from the first day of an emergency through to recovery and longer-term development. She underscored five areas that must be prioritized to ensure girls in emergencies and protracted crises can have a better access to education: affordability of education, access to distance learning, community mobilization and mentoring, protection and youth participation. ‘Education is the greatest asset we can give to a young people,’ she said. Fore called on all event participants to join forces to connect every child and young person to learning in the coming years – including through access to distance learning and digital skills – which has the potential to truly ‘change the world.’

Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, Kamal Khera, stressed that ‘Education Cannot Wait has been a leader in demonstrating how education programming can be quickly and efficiently rolled out within the humanitarian, development and peace nexus’. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, she stressed the importance of seizing the opportunity of the reopening of schools to create better and more resilient education systems that provide access to the most marginalized and vulnerable children and youth, including the inclusion of refugees in national education systems.

Theirworld President, Justin Van Fleet, called on world leaders and policymakers to deliver on their commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals. ‘We have the technology and the resources we need, we have all the partners and we know what needs to be done. There is no excuse to not achieve these education goals,’ he stressed.  ‘We know that education is what unlocks the solution to the pandemic: economic growth, jobs for young people, better health, nutrition, and we know that investing in early years is what gives a child the best start in life,’ he said. Van Fleet underscored the importance for young people to hold leaders to account and to keep pushing this agenda. ‘There is no excuse to give up right now,’ he said.

Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary-General, Jan Egeland, wrapped up the discussion stressing the importance of recognizing achievements in the field of education in emergencies and protracted crises in recent years. ‘There has been progress, we need to build on that.’ However, Egeland stated that youth (15-24 years old) have been excluded from this progress and are largely ‘out of education, out of livelihoods and out of hope’ and must urgently be prioritized. He also underscored the massive setback of the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘The crisis is profound, therefore the investment in alternative education, remote education, new technology has to be much bigger,’ he said. Egeland concluded his remarks with a message from children: ‘we need education as much as we need food, it is a question of survival.’


For additional information:

Click here to watch the full recording of the event.

Explore the interactive portal of the ECW 2019 Annual Results Report

Download the full ECW Annual Report and its Executive Summary

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.

On Twitter, please follow: @EduCannotWait  @YasmineSherif1 @KentPage  
Additional information available at:

For press inquiries:
Anouk Desgroseilliers,, +1-917-640-6820
Kent Page,, +1-917-302-1735

For other inquiries:  


During the COVID-19 crisis, lockdowns and other social-distancing rules have forced schools worldwide to shut their doors, locking out a peak of 1.6 billion children. Unless the international community acts now, the consequences for this generation – especially its poorest members – will be severe and long-lasting.
View original on Project Syndicate

13 July 2020 –The oft-repeated idea that COVID-19 is “the great equalizer” is a myth. There is no equality of suffering or equality of sacrifice during a pandemic that is disproportionately hurting the poorest and most vulnerable.

And while the health emergency has disproportionately harmed the elderly poor, the unprecedented education crisis caused by the pandemic is now hurting the poorest children hardest and creating a generation that will lose out on learning. Lockdowns and other social-distancing rules have forced schools all over the world to shut their doors, affecting a peak of nearly 1.6 billion children. But while wealthier children have had access to alternatives, such as online learning, the poorest do not. The world’s least-advantaged children – for whom education offers the only escape route from poverty – have thus fallen further behind, placing the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030 even further out of reach.

Even before the pandemic, the world was falling short of this goal. Globally, nearly 260 million children were out of school, and 400 million dropped out after the age of 11. In some regions, such as rural Sub-Saharan Africa, few girls were completing secondary school, not least because of widespread child marriage. Nearly 50 countries have no laws banning child marriage, and many more fail to enforce their bans. As a result, about 12 million school-age girls are forcibly married off each year.

When schools reopen, there is a good chance that many poor children will never return. Poverty is the biggest reason why children don’t attend school, and the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis will far outlast lockdowns, especially for the poorest people.

The likely result is that more children will be pushed into the ranks of the 152 million school-age children forced to work, as 14 countries still have not ratified the International Labor Organization’s minimum-age convention. And even more girls will be forced into early marriage. When the West African Ebola epidemic that started in 2014 closed schools in Sierra Leone, the number of 15-19-year-old-girls who were pregnant or already mothers nearly doubled, rising from 30% to 65%. Most of these girls never returned to school.

With the right policies in place, economies will start to recover, jobs will slowly be restored, and social-protection policies will ease the poverty of the unemployed. But there is little protection against the effects of a foregone education, which can last a lifetime.

As it stands, more than half the world’s children – nearly 900 million boys and girls – are unable to read a simple text by age 10. That is 900 million children who do not receive the knowledge and skills needed to improve their economic lot as adults. If we do nothing to help “Generation COVID” make up for lost time, that figure could easily approach one billion or more. When schools in Kashmir closed for 14 weeks in the aftermath of the devastating 2005 earthquake, the most affected children lost the equivalent of 1.5 years of learning.

As the recently published UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report advises us, children who have fallen behind need the kind of catch-up programs that in Latin America have increased educational attainment by up to 18 months since the 1990s. But the needed support will cost money. Unless we bridge the gap in education funding, SDG4 will remain out of reach.

UNESCO estimates that before the COVID-19 crisis, 50 countries were failing to spend the recommended minimum of 4% of national income, or 15% of the public budget, on education. Inadequate funding from governments and donors has meant that many of the 30 million refugee and forcibly displaced children age out of education without ever setting foot in a classroom, despite the efforts of Education Cannot Wait and other groups.

Now, the pandemic is set to squeeze education budgets even further. As slower or negative growth undermines tax revenues, less money will be available for public services. When allocating limited funds, urgent lifesaving expenditure on health and social safety nets will take precedence, leaving education underfunded.

Likewise, intensifying fiscal pressure in developed countries will result in reductions in international development aid, including for education, which is already losing out to other priorities in the allocation of bilateral and multilateral aid. The World Bank now estimates that, over the next year, overall education spending in low- and middle-income countries could be $100-150 billion lower than previously planned.

This funding crisis will not resolve itself. The quickest way to free up resources for education is through . The 76 poorest countries must pay $106 billion in debt-service costs over the next two years. Creditors should forgive these payments, with a requirement that the money is reallocated to education, as well as health.

At the same time, multilateral financial institutions and regional development banks must increase their resources. The International Monetary Fund should issue $1.2 trillion in Special Drawing Rights (its global reserve asset), and channel these resources toward the countries that need them most.

The World Bank, for its part, should unlock more support by replenishing the International Development Association (or borrowing on the strength of it) for low-income countries, and by using guarantees and grants from willing aid donors, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which stand ready to unlock billions in extra finance for education in lower-middle-income countries through the International Finance Facility for Education.

In the next few days, both NGOs and all international education organizations will begin “back to school” campaigns. Save Our Future, a new campaign launching in late July, advocates building back better, rather than restoring the pre-pandemic status quo. That means updating classrooms and transforming curricula, implementing effective technologies, and helping teachers offer personalized instruction. Making schools safer (over 620 million children lack basic sanitation services at their schools, which particularly affects girls) and ensuring school meals (a lifeline for 370 million boys and girls) would also ease the effects of poverty and improve educational outcomes. Save the Children will add to this pressure with its own grassroots campaign focused on debt relief to pay for education.

But investing in schools is only part of the solution. In Sierra Leone, support networks for girls halved the dropout rate during the Ebola crisis. In Latin American, African, and Asian countries, conditional cash transfers have boosted school attendance. The latest Global Education Monitoring Report advocates implementing similar programs today.Generation COVID has already suffered immensely. It is time for the international community to give children the opportunities they deserve. Even when faced with momentous challenges, we remain committed to making ours the first generation in history in which every child is in school and learning. Both national governments and the international community must now step up collective efforts to achieve that goal.

About the Authors

Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, is United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity and Education Cannot Wait High Level Steering Group.


Key education stakeholders from national governments, civil society, the private and philanthropic sector, UN Agencies and donors came together on the margins of the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings on 11 April in Washington, D.C. to take stock of Education Cannot Wait’s progress after two years of operations. Photo ECW.


The High-Level Steering Group of Education Cannot Wait met on the margins of the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings on 11 April in Washington, D.C. Ministerial and senior education stakeholders from government and donors, civil society, the private and philanthropic sector, and heads of UN Agencies convened to take stock of Education Cannot Wait’s progress after two years of operations.

With more than 1.3 million children and youth reached in 19 crisis-affected countries, the Fund’s High-Level Steering Group, chaired by the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Rt Hon Gordon Brown, commended the Fund’s investment model and promising results, stressing that if “ Education Cannot Wait did not exist we would need to invent it.”


The Fund’s Director, Yasmine Sherif, presented Education Cannot Wait’s results to meeting participants, launching the Fund’s new Results Dashboard. As of 11 April, support for quality education is reaching close to 1 million children in primary, 300,000 in secondary and 70,000 in pre-primary. Overall, 51 per cent of the total children reached to date are girls.

Following a presentation by the Under-Secretary-General of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs/Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, participants at the biannual meeting discussed the instrumental role played by the Fund in advancing the humanitarian–development nexus in the education aid sector in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education for all. The meeting welcomed the Fund’s collaboration and partnerships, and its focus on results at the country-level. Participants stressed the collective need to catalyse additional and predictable financing, ensure an effective and coordinated response, build resilience of affected people and communities, and strengthen systems.


The Ministers of Education from Afghanistan and South Sudan briefed the members of the High-Level Steering Group on the education sector in their respective countries and called for stronger support from multilateral and bilateral donors, including through Education Cannot Wait.

In his moving intervention, Afghanistan’s Minister of Education, Dr. Mohammad Mirwais Balkhi, highlighted the needs of Afghanistan’s 3.7 million out-of-school children (60 per cent of whom are girls), who have lost the opportunity and hope of an education due to the ongoing conflict and insecurity, forced displacement, social and economic constraints, and other factors. He also highlighted the progress driven by Education Cannot Wait’s First Emergency Response and the recently launched Multi-Year Resilience Programme in supporting the national community-based education strategy. Through these programme, the government and implementing partners are increasing access to education in hard-to–reach areas, recruiting women teachers and reducing the gender gap, building capacity, and providing safe and quality learning opportunities.

South Sudan’s Minister of General Education and Instruction, Deng Deng Hoc Yai, shared his personal journey as a refugee, and his new hope after the Civil War for peace, security and educational opportunities for the young people of South Sudan. According the Deng Deng Hoc Yai, more than 2.2 million children are out of school in South Sudan, the majority of whom are girls. He underscored that it is a pressing issue of gender equality and human rights to ensure children are not left behind, schools are built, text books are delivered, teachers are trained and the new national curriculum is rolled out to support better educational outcomes. Education Cannot Wait and its partners are currently supporting the development of a multi-year resilience programme in South Sudan.

The meeting also included important pledges and commitments for children and youth affected by Cyclone Idai. The United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID) and Dubai Cares announced new commitments of US$5.2 million (4 million pounds) and US$2 million respectively to support a total US$14 million Education Cannot Wait allocation for emergency educational responses in the wake of the devastation from the cyclone in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Global Citizen and the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation also presented a six-figure check to Education Cannot Wait from the funds raised through Will Smith’s jump over the Grand Canyon.

With these pledges, the Fund has mobilized US$344 million since its inception and has surpassed annual resource mobilization goals since it was launched at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.


The High-Level Steering Group approved Education Cannot Wait’s new Case for Investment, which calls on partners to “rise and support our efforts to mobilize US$1.8 billion in funding for education in crisis settings by 2021. Built through integrated partnerships, these catalytic investments will support quality education for close to 9 million children annually in some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.”

The High-Level Steering Group members signalled their commitment to support Education Cannot Wait in advocating for resource mobilization with plans for a high-level pledging event at this year’s United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.


ECW High-Level Steering Group meeting April 2019

Statement by Rt Hon Gordon Brown on the Launch of the Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda

Statement by Rt Hon Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education & Chair of the ECW High-Level Steering Group (HLSG)

Today marks an important milestone in the way that the international community, together with host governments, address the crisis situation of the 75 million children and youth in armed conflict, refugee camps, natural disasters and countries affected by epidemics deprived of their right to a quality education.   These children and their education, traditionally left behind, are now not only at the center of humanitarian response and will also be supported by a new way of working: supporting the delivery of education in the humanitarian-development nexus.

Following the Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees of June last year, the Government of Uganda, together with local and international humanitarian and development partners, have worked to complete an Education Response Plan for over half million refugees from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and other countries.  Together with students from Ugandan host communities, who have been very supportive of their refugee peers, we now have plan to deliver education in a true partnership.   While the total cost of the three and a half year plan is USD 389 million, I am happy to report that Education Cannot Wait will be working to provide significant seed funding towards this programme.

I take this opportunity to sincerely thank my dear friend, Uganda’s Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni,  for her leadership and support to this comprehensive, joint plan, bringing together the in international donor agencies, UN agencies, and NGOs who have worked to make the plan a reality.

– Gordon Brown

Extended Resources


UNHCR monthly update highlights details of Education Response Plan
The Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda (ERP) was launched in Kampala on 14 September 2018 by the Minister for Education and Sports, Her Excellency Mrs. Janet Museveni, the First Lady of Uganda.

This Plan is the first of its kind worldwide and represents a huge policy step forward for refugee education globally. Speaking at this Launch Event, as above, included the
Minister for Education and Sports; Alex Kakooza (Permanent Secretary MoES); Minister Hilary Onek (Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees), Aggrey Kibenge (Under Secretary MoES), Rosa Malango (UN Resident Coordinator), Joel Boutroue (UNHCR Representative); Jennie Barugh (Former Head of DFID),
Yasmine Sherif (Global Director of Education Cannot Wait) and refugee teacher, Dumba Lawrence David from Bidibidi Settlement in Yumbe District.

The Plan sets out a vision where all refugee children, as well as host community children, have access to quality learning at all levels, including pre-primary, primary, secondary and non-formal education.

The ERP targets children and youth in 12 refugee-hosting districts in Uganda
where more than half a million children are currently out of learning and out of school.” – UNHCR Monthly Update

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