HOPE IN A WORLD GONE MAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A SENSE OF HOPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS

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

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

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

IN FOCUS

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

EDUCATION IN CRISIS: AN INHERENT HUMAN RIGHT

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

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

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

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

By Yasmine Sherif

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

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

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

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

The socio-economic value of education in crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translating moral values into action

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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