118m under-fives out of school in crisis-affected countries

Photography of an assessment day at an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp in Abuja, Nigeria held by AREAi, one of the winners of Theirworld's Education Innovation Awards. At the assessment day, the AREAi team assess each child's education level for their enrolment onto AREAi's FastTrack programme.

Millions of pre-primary aged children are missing out on the quality education they need in countries affected by conflict, new research finds.

New research from Theirworld has revealed that 118 million pre-primary aged children are out of school in countries affected by crises.  

As Education Cannot Wait, the UN-backed fund for education in emergencies, commits to putting 10% of its budget to early childhood education, Theirworld’s research has found that more than half of all pre-primary aged children in conflict and emergency-affected countries have no access to the lifeline of a quality education.  

Over the past decade, emergencies have increased in scale and complexity, affecting millions of people worldwide. According to the United Nations Secretary-General, crises are “converging into a mega-crisis of conflict, climate disruption, hunger and the rising cost of living.” Young children are increasingly living on the frontline of these crises.  

For the hundreds of millions of children living in conflict zones, quality early childhood education is vital. It can protect young children from the worst effects of emergencies, providing nurturing care, psychosocial support, and restoring a sense of normalcy and routine. The first years of life are a critical period for brain development, while education and care during the earliest years have lasting impacts on a young child’s health and well-being.  

Yet globally, donors spend just 1.2% of their education aid on early childhood education, leaving behind some of the world’s most vulnerable children. Theirworld has long been calling on donors to close this gap by committing at least 10% of their education investments to early childhood education.    

Justin van Fleet, Theirworld President, said:  

“Pre-primary aged children are all too often forgotten, their needs made to seem somehow less urgent than older learners. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  

“In the first five years of life, when children’s brains are developing at rapid speed, quality education is vitally important for children growing into healthy and happy adults, especially when they are surrounded by crisis and conflict.  

“So we are pleased to see that Education Cannot Wait has committed 10% of its early childhood education aid to the early years. We hope their example will inspires others to take action, and we will work closely with donors, governments and our civil society partners to stand up for the world’s most vulnerable children.”

Notes to Editors  

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About Theirworld 

Theirworld is a global children’s charity committed to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation. 

The organisation aims to ensure that every child has access to the best start in life, a safe place to learn and skills for the future. In 2022, Theirworld celebrates its 20th year of unlocking big change for children around the world.