A Malian refugee student plays the role of teacher at a school in Goudoubo camp. Because of rising insecurity teachers no longer show up and students often teach each other. Photo © UNHCR/Sylvain Cherkaoui

On the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack, UNHCR and Education Cannot Wait are bridging the gap to provide refugee children with the safety, hope and opportunity of an education. In Burkina Faso, by the end of 2019, more than 3,300 schools were shut, affecting almost 650,000 children and more than 16,000 teachers. Oumar refuses to give up on his education.

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by Ag Ahmed in Dori, UNHCR Burkina Faso  (Original Story | Español)

With the violence that had been plaguing parts of the Sahel region for years beginning to rage in Burkina Faso, teachers at Oumar’s school simply stopped coming to work. Then they left the area altogether.

That put Oumar’s education, and the education of thousands of other Malian refugee children who were then living in Mentao refugee camp, on hold.

“I was very sad to have to stay home all day and not be able to continue classes,” says Oumar, a reserved but determined teenager, now 17 years old.

It was a bitter blow. Growing up, there had been no school to go to in Oumar’s home town of Mopti, and after he and his family fled Mali in 2012 as violence was igniting there, life in Mentao camp had given him his first taste of an education.

To keep his schooling going, the boy’s father decided to take him and his siblings to Goudoubo refugee camp, further to the east. There he was registered in a school in the nearby town of Dori, hoping this would allow him to sit the crucial exams that let him progress to secondary level.

But more disruption lay in wait. “The following school year, as soon as the school year started, the same security issues continued in Goudoubo,” he says. “I was very disappointed that once again my school closed and that I was not able to finish the new school year.”

Oumar is over the usual age to start secondary school, something which is common for refugee children, particularly where education is disrupted and there are no accelerated education programmes available.

In Burkina Faso alone, over the past 12 months the number of internally displaced people rose five-fold, reaching 921,000 at the end of June 2020. The country is also host to nearly 20,000 refugees, many of whom have recently fled the camps – seeking safety in other parts of the country or even returning to their homeland.

Across the Sahel, millions have fled indiscriminate attacks by armed groups against both civilians and state institutions – including schools. According to UNICEF, between April 2017 and December 2019 the number of school closures due to violence in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger rose six-fold. By the end of last year, more than 3,300 schools were shut, affecting almost 650,000 children and more than 16,000 teachers.

In Burkina Faso alone, 2,500 schools had closed because of the violence, depriving 350,000 children of access to education – and that was before  coronavirus closed the rest.

On September 9th, the UN marks the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack, with the General Assembly condemning attacks on education and the military use of schools in contravention of international law.

In a ground-breaking report, UNHCR warns the twin scourges of COVID-19 and attacks on schools, targeting teachers and pupils, threatens to destroy hard-won gains in refugee education and destroy the dreams of millions of youngsters.

This year, Oumar thought it was third time lucky. His family moved a few miles down the road from Goudoubo camp to Dori, and he was able to start his first year of secondary school in spite of being older than most of the other students. “Everything was going smoothly,” he says.

“But classes had to stop again – this time because of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Since 1 June, the three school grades that were due to take exams this year have reopened and UNHCR is doing what it can to find places for refugee children.

For the others, UNHCR, with the support of Education Cannot Wait, began buying radios for primary and secondary refugee students to ensure they had the same access as their Burkinabe peers to lessons being broadcast over the airwaves. UNHCR is also working with governments to enable emergency education for displaced children and youth via access to safe distance learning alternatives.

As he waits, Oumar refuses to be downhearted. “I still have the hope that the situation will improve so that I can go back and finish my education,” he says.


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.


Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today a new US$3.7 million tranche of funding to support education in emergencies responses in the Sahelian nations of Mali and Niger.

The new funding will expand support from ECW’s initial US$6 million First Emergency Response grant announced for Sahel this July / Le nouveau financement s’ajoute à l’allocation de 6 millions de dollars (USD) de première réponse en situation d’urgence annoncée en juillet par ECW pour la région du Sahel.Photo UNICEF Mali/Dicko

US$3.7 million grant will reach children and youth impacted by insecurity, displacement, conflict and ongoing crises in the region

Voir la version en français ci-dessous

13 December 2019, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced today a new US$3.7 million tranche of funding to support education in emergencies responses in the Sahelian nations of Mali and Niger.

The new funding will expand support from ECW’s initial US$6 million First Emergency Response grant announced this July.

In addressing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the region, the expanded funding will reach over 160,000 children and youth.

Through national governments and implementing partners on the ground, the new round of ECW funding will support the construction and rehabilitation of classrooms for 15,000 out-of-school children and youth, provide learning materials to over 100,000 students, promote good menstrual health and hygiene for over 130,000 girls, and promote more protective learning environments for more than 160,000 students.

A large funding gap for the educational humanitarian response persists in the target areas of the intervention, with estimates indicating US$42 million remaining unfunded.

Violence, displacement, insecurity and crises continue to grow across the region. More than 320,000 children and youth have been affected by school closures, and an uptick of attacks on schools has been registered across the two countries since 2017.

The ongoing education response in the two countries is yielding impressive results. In 2019, approximately 100,000 children and youth were able to access quality, inclusive education, according to Education Cluster reports. As of October 2019, the Education Cluster has reached over 46,000 girls and boys and provided 73,000 students with learning materials. More students are also receiving the psychosocial support and feeding programmes they need to cope with the exposure to the trauma of displacement and have enough food to eat every day.

“The Sahel is one of the most unstable and fragile regions on the globe. Children and youth bear the burden of armed conflicts, forced displacement, abject poverty, the effects of climate change, food insecurity and malnutrition,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Together with our partners, today, we are investing in immediately providing educational opportunities for some of the most marginalized and vulnerable girls and boys in Mali and Niger to learn and develop the skills they need to thrive and become positive agents of change.”

First Emergency Response in Niger

In the Tillabéri and Tahoua regions of Niger, over 100,000 school-aged children are in need of humanitarian assistance. The security and displacement situation remains in flux in most parts of Niger. Various regional conflicts, including the crisis in Mali, the Boko Haram insurgency and regional crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, and rising insecurity in northern states of Nigeria, are causing major displacement towards and within Niger and are having an adverse impact on economic activities and access to public services such as education. Refugee children are being left behind, with 17,000 refugees in Niger lacking access to any type of education support.

In Niger, UNICEF, Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council will implement the ECW-financed programming with US$1.3 million in total funds allocated.

Assoumane Mahamadou, Secretary General of the Ministry of Primary Education, Literacy, National Language Promotion and Civic Education of Niger, said: “We are delighted to hear confirmation of the next US$1.3 million Education Cannot Wait rapid funding allocation for Niger. This additional funding comes at a time when our education system is facing several challenges. Various regional conflicts, including the crisis on the borders of Mali and Burkina and the regional crisis of Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin have a negative impact on access to public services such as education. This funding will allow for continued support to the government’s efforts to fulfill the right to education for all girls and boys in need of schooling.”  

First Emergency Response in Mali

In Central and Northern Mali, insecurity has hindered the continuity of schooling for many children, who also are at increased risk of violence and abuses. In all, some 450,000 children need humanitarian assistance. As the crisis intensifies in the central regions, schools are closing under the threat of militant groups and intercommunity conflicts, and the situation for girls and boys grows more alarming every day. Recent estimates from the Education Cluster indicate over 1,000 schools are non-functional, affecting more than 315,000 students.

In Mali, World Vision and UNICEF will implement the ECW-financed response with US$2.4 million in allocated funds. 

Mbaranga Gasarabwe, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Mali, said: “Education is key to ensuring that girls and boys in Mali can contribute positively to the future of their country. The crisis has deprived too many children of this fundamental right. The Government of Mali is signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child and as it strives to make quality education accessible to all, it needs the support of all partners to protect children’s right to education.”


Une nouvelle allocation de 3,7 millions de dollars (USD) soutiendra l’accès à l’éducation des enfants et des jeunes touchés par l’insécurité, les déplacements, les conflits et les crises en cours dans cette région du Sahel

13 décembre 2019, New York – Le Fonds Éducation sans délai (« Education Cannot Wait » ou « ECW ») annonce une nouvelle tranche de financement de 3,7 millions de dollars (USD) pour soutenir des programmes d’éducation en situation d’urgence au Mali et au Niger.

Cette nouvelle allocation augmente le financement d’ECW dans le cadre de son investissement de Première réponse en situation d’urgence annoncé en juillet dernier pour le Sahel.

Pour faire face à la détérioration de la situation humanitaire dans la région, ce financement accru bénéficiera à plus de 160 000 enfants et jeunes.

Par le biais des gouvernements nationaux et des partenaires de mise en œuvre sur le terrain, le financement d’ECW soutiendra la construction et la réhabilitation de salles de classe pour 15 000 enfants et jeunes non scolarisés, fournira du matériel d’apprentissage à plus de 100 000 élèves, favorisera une bonne hygiène menstruelle pour plus de 130 000 filles et assurera des environnements d’apprentissage plus protecteurs pour plus de 160 000 élèves.

Un important manque de financement pour la réponse humanitaire dans le secteur de l’éducation persiste toutefois dans les zones ciblées par les interventions : environ 42 millions de dollars (USD) restent à mobiliser, selon les estimations.

Les violences, les déplacements de population, l’insécurité et les crises continuent de s’aggraver dans la région. Plus de 320 000 enfants et jeunes sont touchés par les fermetures d’écoles et une recrudescence des attaques contre les écoles a été enregistrée dans les deux pays depuis 2017.

La réponse en cours en éducation en situation d’urgence dans les deux pays obtient cependant des résultats notables. En 2019, environ 100 000 enfants et jeunes ont pu accéder à une éducation inclusive et de qualité, selon les rapports du Cluster Éducation. En octobre 2019, les acteurs du Cluster Éducation avait atteint plus de 46 000 filles et garçons et fourni du matériel d’apprentissage à 73 000 élèves. De plus en plus d’enfants bénéficient du soutien psychosocial et des programmes d’alimentation dont ils ont besoin pour faire face à l’adversité et au traumatisme liés aux situations de déplacement forcé et pour avoir suffisamment à manger chaque jour.

« Le Sahel est l’une des régions les plus instables et les plus fragiles du monde. Les enfants et les jeunes paient le plus lourd tribut des conflits armés, des déplacements forcés, de l’extrême pauvreté, des effets du changement climatique, de l’insécurité alimentaire et de la malnutrition qui y sévissent », a déclaré Yasmine Sherif, Directrice du Fonds Éducation sans délai. « Avec nos partenaires, nous investissons pour offrir immédiatement des possibilités d’éducation aux filles et garçons parmi les plus marginalisés et vulnérables au Mali et au Niger afin qu’ils et elles puissent apprendre et développer les compétences dont ils ont besoin pour s’épanouir et devenir des agents de changement positif.»

Première réponse en situation d’urgence au Niger

Dans les régions de Tillabéri et Tahoua au Niger, plus de 100 000 enfants d’âge scolaire ont besoin d’une aide humanitaire. La situation en matière de sécurité et de déplacement reste volatile dans la plupart des régions du pays. Divers conflits régionaux, notamment la crise au Mali, l’insurrection de Boko Haram et la crise régionale dans le bassin du lac Tchad, et l’insécurité croissante dans les États du nord du Nigéria, provoquent des déplacements importants vers et à l’intérieur du Niger et ont un impact négatif sur les activités économiques et l’accès aux services publics tels que l’éducation. Les enfants réfugiés sont particulièrement touchés : 17 000 réfugiés au Niger n’ont accès à aucun type de soutien éducatif.

Au Niger, l’UNICEF, Save the Children et le Conseil norvégien pour les réfugiés (NRC) mettront en œuvre les programmes financés par l’allocation de 1,3 million de dollars d’ECW.

Assoumane Mahamadou, Secrétaire Général du Ministère de l’Enseignement Primaire de l’Alphabétisation de la Promotion des Langues Nationales et de l’Éducation Civique, a déclaré : “Nous sommes ravis d’apprendre la confirmation du prochain financement rapide de 1,3 million de dollars pour le Niger dans le cadre de l’investissement du Fonds Éducation sans délai. Ce financement additionnel arrive en ce moment où notre système éducatif fait face à plusieurs défis. Divers conflits régionaux, dont la crise aux frontières du Mali et Burkina, la crise régionale de Boko Haram dans le bassin du lac Tchad et l’insécurité croissante dans les États du nord du Nigéria entraîne une situation qui impacte négativement l’accès aux services publics tels que l’éducation. Ce financement va permettre de continuer à accompagner les efforts du gouvernement à assurer les droits à l’éducation à tous les filles et garçons en besoin de scolarité.”

Première réponse en situation d’urgence au Mali

Dans le centre et le nord du Mali, l’insécurité entrave l’accès continu à l’éducation de nombreux enfants, qui courent également un risque accru de violence et d’abus. Au total, quelque 450 000 enfants ont besoin d’une aide humanitaire. Alors que la crise s’aggrave dans les régions du centre, les écoles ferment sous la menace de groupes militants et des conflits intercommunautaires; la situation des enfants devient chaque jour plus alarmante. Des estimations récentes du Cluster Éducation indiquent que plus de 1000 écoles ne sont pas fonctionnelles, ce qui affecte plus de 315 000 élèves.

Au Mali, Vision mondiale (World Vision) et l’UNICEF mettront en œuvre les programmes financés par l’allocation de 2,4 millions de dollars d’ECW.

Mbaranga Gasarabwe, Coordinatrice résidente des Nations Unies et Coordinatrice de l’action humanitaire pour le Mali, a déclaré: « L’éducation est cruciale pour assurer que les filles et les garçons au Mali puissent contribuer positivement à l’avenir de leur pays. La crise a privé trop d’enfants de ce droit fondamental. Le gouvernement du Mali est signataire de la Convention relative aux droits de l’enfant et, alors qu’il s’efforce de rendre l’éducation de qualité accessible à tous et toutes, le soutien de tous les partenaires est nécessaire pour protéger le droit des enfants à l’éducation. »


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