Opinion: World leaders can and must do more for girls’ education in emergencies

That’s why we’re calling on the U.K. government to build on its leadership to date, including by increasing support for the Education Cannot Wait fund to £75 million ($94.7 million) over three years and supporting the fund to increase the amount it allocates to secondary education.

Multiple crises in neighbouring countries has triggered an influx of 450,000 refugees into Chad over the last several years, critically burdening an already strained education system. Recent analysis indicates ECW investments have already reached over 180,000 children in Chad alone. Photo © Devaki Erande/JRS

By Yasmine Sherif and Stephen Twigg

Originally published on Devex

16-year-old Kwanye’s education came to an end after militants started kidnapping girls from her school. She lives in the Lake Chad Basin, where one of the world’s most severe and underreported humanitarian crises has left 2.2 million people displaced, half of them children. The conflict has already claimed her parents and siblings and left her struggling to survive.

Now she reads her old school books so that she doesn’t forget. “I always thought education would give me a better life,” she said. “I can’t go to school when I can barely afford to eat.”

Right now, around the world, there are 39 million girls, who, like Kwanye, have had their education disrupted as a direct result of humanitarian crisis. Of these, 13 million have been forced out of school completely. That’s the equivalent of three girls for every girl in school in the U.K. — three girls whose full potential may never be realized.

World leaders are starting to listen, but more can be done to tackle this. In 2015, they launched the Sustainable Development Goals, promising that every young person completed a good quality education by 2030. Yet a new report published this week by Plan International UK warns that they are way off-track. At current rates of progress, it will be a further 150 years before the goal is reached. By 2030, 1 in 5 girls in crisis-affected countries still won’t be able to read a simple sentence.

For girls affected by crisis, education is a lifeline — and it mustn’t just be primary but a full 12 years of education. Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable in times of disaster or conflict due to their age and gender. They’re more likely to be married by 18 than to finish school. They’re at greater risk of exploitation, gender-based violence, and early pregnancy. In fact, there’s a two in three chance they won’t even start secondary school.

Education can offer these girls a safe space to learn and develop the skills they need to thrive and contribute to the peaceful recovery of their communities. Secondary education also provides an entry point for girls to access health services including mental health support and information about staying safe during natural disasters.

There are some signs of progress. In 2016, the Education Cannot Wait fund, which delivers life-changing education for girls and boys living in humanitarian crises, was established and continues to receive strong and growing support, including from the U.K. government.

Nevertheless, funding for education in emergencies remains much too low, especially for secondary education. As Plan International UK’s report shows, governments and the international community need to take much bolder action if they are to deliver on their promises.

That’s why we’re calling on the U.K. government to build on its leadership to date, including by increasing support for the Education Cannot Wait fund to £75 million ($94.7 million) over three years and supporting the fund to increase the amount it allocates to secondary education.

However, this is a global challenge and requires a global response. All governments and donors must play their part.

In times of crisis, girls want to be able to go to school. They want to be doctors, pilots, and engineers. They want to rebuild their countries. But too often their dream remains just that.

Right now, millions of girls are being left behind, and without committed political leadership, increased resourcing, and targeted action, their chance for a decent education may be lost forever. We can and must do more. Their right is our obligation.

About the authors

Yasmine Sherif
Yasmine Sherif is the director of Education Cannot Wait, a global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crisis established at the World Humanitarian Summit and hosted by UNICEF. A human rights lawyer with 30 years of experience in international affairs, Yasmine joined the United Nations in 1988 and served in New York, Geneva, and in crisis-affected countries in Africa, Asia, Balkans, and the Middle East.

Stephen Twigg

Stephen Twigg is a Labour MP and chair of the U.K.’s International Development Select Committee. He was previously shadow secretary of state for education and served as a government minister from 2001-2005, first as deputy leader of the House of Commons and later as an education minister.

 

DELIVERING EDUCATION IN CRISES

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 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. Photo UNICEF/Bangladesh.
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 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. Photo UNICEF/Bangladesh.

YASMINE SHERIF, DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT, CONTENDS THAT FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN CRISES, GENUINE SURVIVAL DEPENDS NOT ONLY ON MEETING BASIC PHYSICAL NEEDS, BUT ALSO ON ENSURING ACCESS TO QUALITY EDUCATION AND THE OPPORTUNITY FOR A PRODUCTIVE FUTURE.

Special contribution by Yasmine Sherif, Director Education Cannot Wait to the Commonwealth Education Report 2019

The 75 million children and youth in humanitarian crises have challenged us to make good on our promise to leave no one behind. The Commonwealth is neither immune, nor shies away from this challenge. It is afflicted by emergencies and protracted crises due to conflict and natural disasters. It is also the place where solutions are produced. Countries such as Canada and the UK are the driving force behind the historic 2018 Charlevoix Declaration on the quality of education for girls, adolescent girls and women in developing countries. At Education Cannot Wait (ECW), a global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crisis established by the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, we embrace the ethos of the Declaration and commit to reaching eight million children and youth in crises with quality education by 2021.

Having served for 30 years in some of the most conflict-affected areas in the world and led ECW since 2017, I am convinced that quality education for children and youth in crises is key to unlocking the Agenda for Humanity and the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030. At present, some Commonwealth countries are coping with significant humanitarian challenges. In Uganda, 1.3 million refugees, of whom half are children, are displaced due to conflict in South Sudan and neighbouring countries. Since 2017, Bangladesh has struggled to provide education for over 400,000 Rohingya refugee children and youth. As of early 2018, in Cameroon, more than half of the 3.3 million people in humanitarian need are children. In Nigeria, more than six million people – of whom 45 per cent are under the age of 15 years old – are now displaced due to protracted conflict. In Papua New Guinea, more than 23,000 school children were challenged to stay in schools affected by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake in February 2018. Safety, dignity and the right to thrive are at risk for these children and youth.

While survival requires access to clean water, adequate food, decent shelter and medical attention, survival also depends on education and attainment of human potential. Education is vital for the next generation to move beyond crisis mode and prepare for a productive future. The notion that no children and youth are deprived of learning opportunities because of crisis, is a constant reminder of the kind of future that the Commonwealth aspires to achieve: one of fairness and inclusion that ensures every child has at least 12 years of quality education. Understanding the full spectrum of challenges faced by these children and youth in accessing quality education, and hence their role in building stable and productive societies based on democratic governance, the rule of law and social cohesion is imperative to ECW.

Humanitarian crises do not only create, but also perpetuate inequality and exclusion. Yet, meeting the needs of children and youth in humanitarian crises is often seen as adding to the deficiencies of the education system; many are perceived as burdening the already overcrowded schools and contributing to high student-teacher ratios.  Teaching methods, curriculum and staff may not address the specific challenges these children and youth face, including trauma and loss of sense of purpose and self-worth. Refugee children and youth tend to experience low levels of educational attainment in their country of origin, constant mobility due to repeated displacement, being over age for their grade level and having little hope for upward professional and social mobility due to interrupted education. Girls are more likely to be excluded from education than boys, and few complete secondary education due to a host of barriers. These include, but are not limited to, violence associated with unsafe travel to schools, rape as a means if warfare, schools without sanitation facilities, teachers who demand sex for grades and early marriage. All of these factors represent very real barriers to girls’ education and need to be holistically addressed. This requires analysis that is more specific than disaggregation of data by gender, to include factors such as: age, ethnicity, marriage status, sexual orientation, disability, educational attainment, and time lived in a protracted crisis.

Solutions to reducing vulnerabilities and increasing resilience through education cannot be one dimensional. They require crisis sensitivity and connecting the dots in tackling crisis-induced vulnerabilities and threats. As such, ECW’s approach resonates fully with the approach of the Commonwealth in implementing 12 years of quality education and learning with girls’ education at the forefront. Together, we address the gendered and environmental dynamics of the complex needs of those left furthest behind. We focus on learning outcomes and prioritise gender, protection and disabilities through coordinated joint programming across the human-development nexus. We tap into the expertise and added value of host governments, multiple UN agencies and nongovernmental organisations and strengthen local capacity to respond to education needs. This multi-prong approach allows us to achieve quality education for greater impact, honour the Grand Bargain (an agreement between more than 30 of the biggest donors and aid providers, which aims to get more means into the hands of people in need) and nurture the resilience of those left furthest behind, through collective action.

In the words of a young Rwandan woman, Amelie Fabian, who recently spoke at the 73th UN General Assembly: “When you give us education, you give us power to decide our fate”. Previously a refugee, she completed her primary and secondary education in Malawi, graduated from university and now works in one of the most-renowned business firms in Canada. As her journey of empowerment shows, collectively, we can and must enable the Commonwealth’s children and youth who are coping with crises to attain the future they deserve – by accessing the opportunities we owe them.

HEALING AND RECOVERY THROUGH EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES

Children at one of Save the Children’s temporary learning spaces in Qayyara Airstrip IDP Camp, Iraq © Dario Bosio/DARST/Save the Children
Children at one of Save the Children’s temporary learning spaces in Qayyara Airstrip IDP Camp, Iraq © Dario Bosio/DARST/Save the Children

CRITICAL IMPACT OF CONFLICT ON CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH AND PSYCHOSOCIAL WELLBEING

By Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait, and Leslie Snider, Director MHPSS Collaborative for Children and Families

‘Suicide bombs, landmines, unexploded ordinance, air strikes and other forms of explosives account for three quarters of child deaths and injuries across the world’s deadliest war zones.’

Humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises currently affect millions of children around the world with serious consequences for their ability to learn, grow and develop. 420 million children – nearly one-fifth of children worldwide – are living in a conflict zone. Children are especially vulnerable in conflict situations, because a child’s experiences during the earliest years of life have a lasting impact on their physical and mental development.

Save the Children’s new research shows just how much bombs and explosives in the world’s worst war zones are hurting children both mentally, as well as physically. Suicide bombs, landmines, unexploded ordinance, air strikes and other forms of explosives account for three quarters of child deaths and injuries across the world’s deadliest war zones. Our research shows how children are uniquely injured and impacted by explosive weapons compared to adults, and that children exposed to explosive weapons are at increased risk of long-term physical and psychosocial disabilities and mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and agoraphobia.

For children in conflict, the combination of exposure to bombs and explosive weapons, grave violations of their human rights and chronic adversity, insecurity and deprivation can lead to ‘toxic stress.’ Furthermore, many children impacted by conflict do not have access to the protective environment of schools and to quality education. As a result, conflict imposes yet another significant cost on future generations and severely undermines the potential for peaceful, prosperous societies.

MENTAL HEALTH AND PSYCHO-SOCIAL SUPPORT IN AND THROUGH EDUCATION

Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for children in conflict is essential to overcome the impact of toxic stress and gives children the chance to develop to their full potential. Integrating MHPSS programming into the existing structures that support and protect children, such as educational systems, is essential to ensure children can access opportunities for healing, recovery and learning at larger scale. Education, delivered in safe, nurturing environments, is critically protective for children in conflict, and has the potential to support their healing and recovery.

LACK OF SERVICES AND SUPPORT EXACERBATE CHILDREN’S TRAUMA

However, the huge need borne from protracted crises and mass displacement are not being matched with funding and support to ensure the inclusion of MHPSS services

An 8-year-old refugee from Afrin in Syria now living in Iraq. Despite huge needs, mental health services for children affected by conflict are very limited, with just one psychologist per one million people in Iraq. © Panos/Save the Children, 2018
An 8-year-old refugee from Afrin in Syria now living in Iraq. Despite huge needs, mental health services for children affected by conflict are very limited, with just one psychologist per one million people in Iraq. © Panos/Save the Children, 2018

in emergency responses. Mental health care treatment gaps are greater than 90 per cent in the least resourced countries, and for child and family MHPSS, there is a lack of targeted, evidence-based programmes, workforce capacity and sustained funding.

THE OPPORTUNITY TO SCALE UP MHPSS FOR CHILDREN IN CRISIS: ECW AND THE MHPSS COLLABORATIVE

The MHPSS Collaborative for Children and Families, hosted by Save the Children, serves as a global platform for research, practice, learning and advocacy, that aims to build meaningful partnerships to address the critical MHPSS needs of children and families in fragile contexts at scale. Education Cannot Wait has partnered with the Collaborative in order to support the Global Education Cluster and other interagency partners to mainstream evidence-based, contextualized MHPSS into education in emergency programmes – closing the critical gap in treatment and providing safe and healing learning environments for the millions of children affected by conflict.

DEVELOPING AND DELIVERING A MINIMUM PACKAGE OF MHPSS SERVICES FOR EDUCATIONAL SETTINGS

There are practical actions all countries can take to provide the help that children affected by conflict need to make a full recovery. This must include ensuring there is the mental health support on the ground to help children recover both in the immediate aftermath, and through the crucial months afterwards.

Education Cannot Wait, together with the MHPSS Collaborative and its partners, are calling on governments, donors, private sector companies, philanthropic foundations and global leaders to support efforts to increase the provision and quality of MHPSS via education in emergencies with US$50 million in dedicated financing to be channeled through Education Cannot Wait over three years through 2021. Immediate additional funding for MHPSS services will ensure the development and demonstration of the UNICEF and WHO MHPSS ‘Minimum Service Package ‘ within education, and also support the implementation of the package in five Education Cannot Wait Multi-Year Resilience Programme countries between now and 2021.

The MHPSS Minimum Service Package will build capacity across the education sector to deliver lifesaving MHPSS for an estimated 9 million children by 2021, and ensure educational systems are effectively linked to health, protection and social services, ensuring a critical safety net for children and their caregivers. For the millions of children around the world exposed to bombs, explosive weapons, conflict, insecurity, and toxic stress, this support is urgently needed to ensure their learning and wellbeing.

For more information, read the full briefing Healing And Recovery Through Education In Emergencies

www.stopwaronchildren.org | #STOPTHEWARONCHILDREN

 

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.