Seed funding grants from Education Cannot Wait will meet pressing educational needs of girls and boys caught up in the four protracted crises and help catalyze resources to fill the education funding gap

11 December 2019, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) has allocated US$64 million in seed funding grants to support four new multi-year resilience programmes in Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria. This is the largest new investment announced by the Global Fund for Education in Emergencies to date.

The seed funding will roll out interventions that are part of wider multi-year programmes facilitated by Education Cannot Wait to support quality inclusive education for marginalized and vulnerable girls and boys affected by the protracted crises in the four countries.

Taken together, the multi-year programmes aim to mobilize over US$1 billion across the four countries over the next three years to provide about 5 million children and youth with improved access to inclusive, equitable, safe and protective learning environments.

“Across the world, the number of children and youth suffering the brunt of wars, disasters and forced displacement is on the rise, as humanitarian crises are lasting longer than ever before. Girls and boys living in the most challenging conditions in Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria have been waiting for too long for the hope and protection that only education can offer,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Today, together with our partners, we are taking action to end this interminable wait. We are investing in the opportunity of a brighter future for these children and youth, their communities and their countries.” 

The multi-year resilience programmes are designed to bridge the gap between emergency response and long-term development. In ensuring no one is left behind, the programmes all have specific focuses on reaching the most marginalized and vulnerable children and youth, such as girls and children with disabilities.

The programmes were developed on the ground in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders – national   governments, UN organizations, donors, private sector and civil society. Interventions are designed to provide whole-of-child solutions in protracted crises situations where armed conflict, forced displacement, climate change, poverty, hunger, gender-based violence and discrimination are jeopardizing children’s future and derailing efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Programme interventions include everything from building protective learning spaces, training teachers and expanding school feeding programmes. Specific retention initiatives for girls and boys whose education has been interrupted due to harmful practices such as early marriage and forced recruitment are also included, as well as targeted psychosocial and mental health support to help children and youth cope with the stress and adversity that stems from living through conflict and displacement.


Multi-Year Resilience Programme in Chad  [Read the full announcement here: En, Fr]

  • US$16 million in seed funding grant allocated by ECW to UNICEF to support the first two years of the programme and help catalyse additional funding
  • Total cost of the multi-year programme: US$51 million over three years

The programme includes comprehensive interventions to reintegrate out-of-school girls and boys into learning and training programmes, improve learning environments and train teachers, support early childhood education, increase enrolment and retention and strengthen the education system in emergency situations. Psychosocial and school feeding services are also included. Out-of-school adolescent girls and boys will also benefit from non-formal education and skills development to gain basic literacy and improve their employability.


H.E. Aboubakar Assidick Tchoroma, Minister of National Education and Civic Promotion of Chad, said: “With generous funding from Education Cannot Wait, this new programme will reach girls and boy that have been left behind as the result of ongoing crises and emergency in the region. It’s an investment in our children and in a more prosperous future for the country.”


Multi-Year Resilience Programme in Ethiopia  [Read the full announcement here

  • US$17.9 million in seed funding grants allocated by ECW to UNICEF and Save the Children to support the first two years of the programme and help catalyse additional funding
  • Total cost of the multi-year programme: US$161 million over three years

The programme supports the delivery of learning through equitable access to relevant (crisis-sensitive) and quality education. Interventions target displaced children and youth, host communities as well as refugee and national teachers. The programme will bridge short-term humanitarian education responses; medium to longer-term capacity development and resilience building efforts of key education systems, institutions, and constituencies.


H.E. Dr. Tilaye Gete, Minister of Education of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, said: “This multi-year investment from Education Cannot Wait will help address one of the most important yet often overlooked needs for vulnerable children and youth in times of crisis. By building a programmatic response that brings together multiple stakeholders including the local community, this is a sustainable investment in the future of our children and in the prosperity of our country.”


Multi-Year Resilience Programme in South Sudan [Read the full announcement here]

  • US$20 million in seed funding grant allocated by ECW to Save the Children to support the first two years of the programme and help catalyse additional funding.
  • Total cost of the multi-year programme: US$189 million over three years

The programme is grounded in the reality of South Sudan, where systemic change in the education sector is needed to drive results for all children, with a focus on girls and children with disabilities, while also supporting recovery and the return of refugees and internally displaced persons and the transition from emergency to development. Given the impact of displacement, conflicts and crises, and extreme levels of poverty, the programme ensures a holistic support to learners and teachers to achieve quality education outcomes.


Multi-Year Resilience Programme in Syria

  • US$10 million in seed funding grant allocated by ECW to UNICEF to support the first year of the programme and help catalyse additional funding
  • Total cost of the multi-year programme: US$783 million over three years

As the war in Syria enters its ninth year, the three-year “Reaching Syria’s Underserved Children” programme is designed to get children and youth back in safe, protective and equitable learning environments, prevent future drop-outs, and scale up the results of the Education Cannot Wait-financed two-year Initial Investment in the country.  


To download the press release as PDF, please click here.


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. 

To date, ECW investments span more than 30 countries affected by armed conflict, disaster and forced displacement.

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Zakaria, 12, standing next to his school in Al-Jaffrah town of Deir-ez-Zor, rehabilitated by UNICEF with funding from Education Cannot Wait. Photo UNICEF/Syria
Zakaria, 12, standing next to his school in Al-Jaffrah town of Deir-ez-Zor, rehabilitated by UNICEF with funding from Education Cannot Wait. Photo UNICEF/Syria


‘I don’t want any child anywhere in the world to lose their right to learn’ – Zakaria, 12.

Stories from the Field

Special Contribution by UNICEF Syria

As violence escalated in Deir-ez-Zor, Syria, almost five years ago, Zakaria and his family had nowhere else to go and chose to stay in their hometown of Al-Jaffrah.

When fighting destroyed the only school in town, Zakaria’s only alternative was to continue his learning by walking to a school in a nearby town, an hour away on foot.  However, born with a congenital heart disease, the daily walk of over eight kilometers proved

Photo UNICEF/Syria.
Photo UNICEF/Syria.


“I felt different from other kids who could walk to school easily over the long journey,” recalls Zakaria, now 12. Despite all the challenges Zakaria continued to walk to school, carrying his heavy school bag, but still determined to continue his learning to become a teacher when he grows up.

Thanks to funding through Education Cannot Wait’s Initial Investment in Syria, UNICEF and partners rehabilitated eight schools in Deir-ez-Zor, including 116 classrooms, allowing Zakaria and 3,500 other boys and girls to continue their learning. Since its start in April 2017, the US$15 million investment has reached 177,000 children, including 85,000 girls. To support the unique needs of children growing up in conflict, the programme has strengthened the capacity of the education system to ensure a timely and coordinated education response, improved equitable access to education and learning opportunities, and improved the quality and relevance of education within a more protective environment.

“I’m so happy to be back in my original school,” says Zakaria with a grin. “I don’t want any child anywhere in the world to lose their right to learn.”

In 2019, 13 new schools are being rehabilitated in Deir-ez-Zor to ensure more children can return to their classrooms.

With the hard work of six international NGOs and 11 Syrian NGOs across the country, some 85,000 children have been enrolled and supported in education services to date. The programme also looks to empower teachers and communities. Since its start, some 2,600 teachers and other education personnel have received stipends and incentives, and 1,237 classrooms have been established or rehabilitated.

Learn More

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.

Photo UNICEF/Syria.
Photo UNICEF/Syria.



Photo Tarek in Homs
Tarek is back to learning and excelling at math and other studies. Photo UNICEF Syria.


Conflict is ripping Syria apart. It’s taking lives, uprooting families and leaving millions of girls and boys behind.

Efforts are underway to get these children back to learning. With the financial support of Education Cannot Wait, a global fund for education in crisis hosted by UNICEF, a broad coalition of frontlines heroes, international partners and donors are joining forces to address the pressing humanitarian crisis that has left 2.1 million children out of school and 1.3 million at risk of dropping out.


The children of Syria’s conflict have faces and names. One of these children is a bright 10-year-old boy named Tarek. The name means ‘Morning Star,’ a thoughtful designation in a place where dreams have been shattered for an entire generation.

Tarek has lived his life surrounded by conflict and violence. The boy who loved math and was an outgoing child when he was young, comes from the Al-Waer neighbourhood in the historic city of Homs, an area heavily affected by violence.

When he was six, a bullet ripped through Tarek’s room while he was sleeping. The trauma – and the unspeakable horror of seeing his father injured and losing other family members – left Tarek with a speech impediment.

Without support, Tarek likely would have fallen through the cracks.

“I did not have any friends and other children were making fun of me because of stuttering,” said Tarek. “I was always at home alone.”

With support from a 2-year US$15 million Education Cannot Wait initial investment launched in 2017, UNICEF partnered with international and local NGOs to create an educational programme to get children like Tarek back to learning.

In all, some 75,693 children have already been reached with back-to-learning campaigns. The programme reinforces the value of education and has provided psychosocial support for children like Tarek to get back on track.

Tarek enrolled in catch-up classes in math, Arabic and English, and is also attending group and private counseling sessions with the school’s counselor, Miss Nour.  The counselor worked with Tarek to improve his self-esteem and decrease his anxiety, which sometimes made it difficult for Tarek to see the difference between dreams and reality.

“[The counseling sessions] were one of the things I loved the most [about the programme],” said Tarek.

The boy now has “a lot of friends” and is excelling in his math studies.

Mohammad took remedial classes to get his studies back on track. Photo UNICEF Syria.


Mohammad is another victim of this senseless conflict that risked falling behind. He was forced to flee from his home town of Hama when he was just nine. Now 14, the highly gifted boy was seeing his grades slip.

“I used to be in the first place in my classes from grade 1 to grade 6, but changing residence had affected me,” said Mohammad.

With their home in Hama totally destroyed, Mohammad’s parents have limited resources to pay for school tuition.  Determined to “make up the gap” anyway, Mohammad began studying during the night to regain his grades, and signed up for a remedial education programme sponsored through the Education Cannot Wait initial investment.

“The timing of remedial classes was perfect as it prepared us to start formal school,” said Mohammad. During the programme, catch-up classes in core subjects were combined with group activities and counseling sessions to bolster students’ psychological wellbeing and teach study skills.

With this much-needed support, Mohammad significantly improved his grades, especially in English and French. He is now placed second in his class and has hatched plans to become a doctor one day. “This year, I’m trying hard to get full marks.”



Due to renewed violence, 1.6 million people were displaced across Syria, with close to half a million people displaced in Northwest Syria in the first six months of 2018, including an estimated 150,000 children. Across Northeast Syria during 2018,  80,817 people were displaced, including 25,295 school-aged children.

The first response investment was in response to the 2017 displacement crisis across the north of Syria, which is being exacerbated by the continued flow of Internally Displaced People into the area.  To respond to the escalation of the crisis in these areas, Education Cannot Wait announced a 12-month US$3 million First Emergency Response allocation to meet the most pressing needs and build on the Fund’s initial investment.

The ongoing crisis means teachers aren’t getting paid, and girls and children with disabilities face additional barriers to go to school.

Thanks to the First Emergency Response, 202 teachers have already received incentives to teach, with plans to reach a total of 600 by the end of the programme. Schools have received heaters and fuel to keep children warm during the bitterly cold winter months. Girls and boys are being transported to school, including children with disabilities.

The needs are still great. As the investment scales-up and accelerates its support, 41 schools will be rehabilitated including 430 classrooms, 500 teachers will receive advanced training and 20,000 children will receive learning materials including textbooks.

Hala is back in school.

For displaced girls like seven-year-old Hala, the combination of counseling, remedial classes, and new learning opportunities means hope for a brighter future. Hala was out of school for an entire year. Now she’s back to learning and is one of the best students in her class.

“I love school more than my home. Here, I play with my friends. I study and learn Arabic, English and math. I have a dream of becoming a doctor so that I can treat children,” said Hala.