December 19, 2018

2018 review: a year of huge highs and horrible lows for global education

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

Attacks on schools, disasters, funding breakthroughs, refugee crises and amazing teachers were all part of the struggle to get every child an education.

We look at some of the ups and downs from a year that brought tragedy, innovation, tears and hope.

Funding for education

António Guterres, watched by Gordon Brown, is presented with the petition by Global Youth Ambassadors Ousmane Ba, Asmita Ghimire and Lian Wairimu Kariuki

Photo credit: Theirworld

Three young campaigners carried the hopes and futures of millions of children in their hands when they met the head of the UN in June. Theirworld's Global Youth Ambassadors delivered messages from 1.5 million people who are backing a new global funding plan for education.

They told Secretary-General António Guterres that action must be taken to launch the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) - which can unlock an extra $10 billion of spending to help marginalised children get into school. 

At the UN General Assembly in September, IFFEd won public support from world leaders, the business community and international donors. Crucially, it was backed by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

In February, the Global Partnership for Education's replenishment conference in Senegal raised over $2billion for the next three years for the world's poorest children - and GBC-Education joined the GPE board to further business community support for education financing.

Conflicts and safe schools

Seven long and bloody years of war have left a country in ruins, thousands dead or maimed and the future of millions of children in doubt.

Photo credit: UNICEF / Donne

The Syrian war entered its eighth year - leaving the country in ruins, thousands dead or maimed and the future of millions of children in doubt. More than eight million children have been directly affected by the conflict - six million of them inside Syria and another 2.6 million who are registered refugees in other countries.

The Education Under Attack 2018 report revealed that more than 21,000 students and teachers in 41 countries were harmed in attacks on schools and universities around the world over a five-year period.

A separate United Nations report in June said crises unfolding in Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, South Sudan and Yemen had meant rising violence against school children - with 10,000 killed or maimed in 2017.

High-profile attacks on education included 40 children killed in an air strike on a school bus in Yemen and 110 girls kidnapped from a Nigerian school. Most were returned safe.

Theirworld campaigned for the world's most powerful countries to sign the Safe Schools Declaration - a commitment to protect schools from attacks and military use. So far 82 countries have signed but three of the permanent members of the UN Security Council - China, Russia and the United States - have not.

The enormous scale of attacks on schools and threats to education suffered by millions of children was revealed this month when Theirworld launched its report Safe Schools: The Hidden Crisis.  

It said over 500 million school-age children and adolescents live in countries where schools face threats ranging from conflicts to natural disasters and gangs to gender-based violence. The report projected that without urgent action that will rise by 2030 to over 620 million young people - almost one in three.  

#WriteTheWrong campaign

Theirworld launched the #WriteTheWrong campaign to spotlight the global education crisis.

Theirworld launched the #WriteTheWrong campaign at the UN General Assembly in September - with a powerful film highlighting the global education crisis which has left 260 million children out of school.

The video depicts the mass scale of the global education crisis and the realities faced by the one in five children who are out of school.  

Theirworld President Sarah Brown said: “Many people are not aware of the scale of the current global education crisis and the impact it will have on the world’s peace, prosperity, health and sustainability if nothing is done. 

"The first step to effecting change is letting people know just how serious the problem is."

Palestinian schools crisis

Two days after schools reopened after summer, the United States announced it had halted all funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency' for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)

Photo credit: UNRWA

UNRWA is the UN agency that provides education for 526,000 Palestinian children at schools in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria and Lebanon. At the start of this year, the United States slashed its annual contribution from $250 million to $60 million., leaving UNRWA with a huge financial shortfall that meant its 711 schools were under threat. 

The agency, which provides other programmes such as healthcare, called the crisis "devastating" and warned that its very future was at stake. 

Other donors began to rally round with extra funding and advances on money already pledged. In October, new contributions of $122 million were made at a meeting of government ministers in New York.

This guarantees UNRWA's schools will remain open for the next few months until longer-term solutions are found.

Education Cannot Wait's first year

Education Cannot Wait helped some of the most vulnerable and at-risk children in 14 countries affected by conflict and natural disasters

Photo credit: ECW

Education Cannot Wait - the global fund set up to deliver education to children and youth caught up in conflicts and natural disasters - helped more than 650,000 of them in its first year of operations.

By July, it had invested $82 million in 14 crisis-affected nations, reaching some of the most vulnerable and at-risk children. The fund supported programmes in its first year that aid young people aged from three to 18 in countries such as Afghanistan, Peru, Somalia and Yemen.

Since then, it has announced funding for several more projects. In September, WCW said it would give $35 million for groundbreaking multi-year programmes that will help to educate 1.6 million children and youth in Uganda, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Other announcements included:

  • A 12-month programme to help 194,000 children affected by the conflict in Nigeria
  • An emergency response to target 60,000 vulnerable children and youth whose lives were devastated by the Indonesian tsunami
  • Education aid for over 88,000 Rohingya refugees and children from their host community in Bangladesh 

Magician Dynamo's plea on refugees

The TV illusionist and Theirworld Ambassador went to Lebanon to see the impact on children who have been left out of school.

Magician Dynamo made an impassioned plea for global leaders to keep their promise to get every Syrian refugee child into school. The world-famous British illusionist and TV star made his powerful appeal at a major conference on Syria held in Brussels in April.

Dynamo supported Theirworld's #YouPromised campaign and his inspiring film 72 Hours, about a trip to Lebanon to see refugee children, was viewed more than six million times.

He spoke up on behalf of the 689,000 Syrian refugees still out of school. Despite a promise made by the international community two years ago to get them all into education by the end of 2017, donor funding has fallen and one in three are still denied a place in the classroom.

Conflict in Yemen

Hunger, diseases and the effects of conflict are hitting the vulnerable under-fives especially hard in Yemen.

Photo credit: UNICEF

Three years of war between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels have taken a heavy toll. Two million children have had their education disrupted and hundreds of schools have been damaged or destroyed.

More than 135,000 Yemeni teachers have not received their salaries in more than two years, according to UNICEF.

Millions of people are displaced, malnourished and fighting deadly diseases.

Earlier this year, international donors pledged $2.1 billion in humanitarian aid for Yemen. So far only a third of the money has come in, said the UN. 

New Code Clubs for girls

Girls in Kenya are learning computer skills thanks to a new Theirworld partnership that will establish Code Clubs in Nairobi.

Photo credit: Youth for Technology Foundation

Girls in Kenya and Zimbabwe will learn computer skills thanks to new Theirworld partnerships.

Working with Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), the clubs in Nairobi teach girls how to build a computer, make games and artworks, and express themselves with code.

In early 2019, Code Clubs will be launched in Harare, Zimbabwe, in a partnership with Muzinda Hub.

Theirworld’s Code Clubs are designed as a low-cost, sustainable and scalable program where girls can learn to code, foster creative thinking and increase important knowledge and skills for the future, all in a supportive educational environment.

Our first Code Clubs were launched in Uganda and Kenya in March 2016, followed by Nigeria and Tanzania in October 2016. 

In 2017, we launched six more Code Clubs in Tanzania in three different regions of the country, and expanded the code clubs to Lebanon, where we work with girls from vulnerable refugee populations, including Syrian and Palestinian. 

Pre-primary education and ECD

A report published by Theirworld in April revealed that pre-primary education receives just 1% of all aid going to children under five years old - putting millions of children at a disadvantage before they even start primary school.  

The report, which stacks up all of the interventions made in the first five years of a child's life, showed education is the most underserved, falling behind health and nutrition. 

Theirworld called for donors and governments to invest in all areas of early childhood development and spend a minimum of 10% of their education budgets on pre-primary education.

This month the heads of G20 countries committed to a major early childhood development initiative when they met in Argentina for their annual summit.

It was a landmark moment for ECD - the first time the G20 has addressed the issue and a move that could help to break the global cycle of poverty and inequality, especially for the most marginalised children.

Millions of Indians protest against child marriage

Holding hands, millions of people in India protested against child marriage by forming an incredible human chain that stretched more than 8000 miles

Millions of people in India protested against child marriage by forming an incredible human chain that stretched more than 8000 miles.

Schoolchildren, teachers, parents and people from all walks of life stood yesterday in a giant line that zig-zagged across the state of Bihar. 

Officials claimed as many as 40 million people took part in the chain, which weaved through villages and towns, and across national highways.

Every year 12 million girls around the world are married before the age of 18.

World-beating teachers

Andria Zafirakou faced a variety of issues including gang violence, impoverished backgrounds and multiple languages when she became a teacher in London

Photo credit: Global Teacher Prize

Too many children are in school but not learning, a report by UNESCO and the World Bank said. Their inadequate education will leave them behind when it comes to passing exams, getting a job and taking their place in society.

To counter that, some remarkable and inspiring teachers have hit the headlines in the past 12 months. Andria Zafirakou, an art and textiles teacher at an inner-city London school, won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize for 2018

Among her achievements were working with the police to tackle a gangs problem, devising a new curriculum to encourage an ethnically-diverse student population and learning the basics of many of the 35 languages spoken by her students.

teenage Syrian refugee won a prestigious international prize for building a school and providing an education to hundreds of children who fled to Lebanon to escape the conflict. Mohamad Al Jounde was just 12 when he decided to set up a school in the Bekaa Valley refugee camp.

Global outcry over death penalty in Sudan

Activists were outraged that Noura Hussein, 19, faced execution for stabbing her husband as he raped her.

Photo credit: A World at School

Forced into a child marriage, Noura Hussein killed her abusive husband as he attempted to rape her in Sudan. 

She received a death sentence but international campaigners, including Theirworld supporters, rallied around the hashtag #JusticeForNoura and appealed to the Sudanese government for clemency. 

The sentence was reduced by an appeal court to five years in prison. The state prosecutor then tried to reinstate the death penalty.

Venezuela's hunger problem

The economic and hunger crisis gripped Venezuela and drove millions of children out of school.

Photo credit: UNICEF

We reported in May that the economic and hunger crisis gripping Venezuela was driving millions of children out of school. 

Three million of the country's eight million students had been missing classes due to lack of food, transport to get to school or basic facilities such as electricity and safe water.

Huge numbers of Venezuelans had started crossing the border into neighbouring countries such as Colombia - many of them to try to get their children into school. 

When the school year restarted in September, attendance at the country's 30,000 schools was significantly down

Rohingya refugee crisis

380,000 children living in camps in Bangladesh were prevented from getting formal schooling

Photo credit: UNICEF

A year after hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children fled from ethnic violence in Myanmar, more than 70% of them are out of school.

Over 327,000 refugee children are deprived of education around the city of Cox's Bazaar. Over 600,000 Rohingya people left Myanmar last year for Bangladesh, where they face an uncertain future in refugee camps.  

Around 60% of those fleeing ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State that began in August have been children. 

In November, it was revealed about 350,000 Rohingya refugee children are to be educated and 2000 teachers will be hired as part of a $25 million funding package from the World Bank.

Then last month it was announced that more than 88,000 Rohingya refugees and children from their host community in Bangladesh are to get aid from Education Cannot Wait.

Children with disabilities

Qabila, 10, is learning to walk with a prosthetic leg

Photo credit: DFID

As the Global Disability Summit was held in London in July, a policy brief published by Theirworld said too many under-fives with disabilities are being let down by their governments and donors

Theirworld called on governments and donors to “significantly scale up” support for children with disabilities in their first five years - including access to quality pre-primary education and early learning.

The briefing says that, as well as ensuring every child has two years of free and quality pre-primary education, governments should specifically target disabled children for inclusion.

On International Day of Persons with Disabilities this month, the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) revealed a five-year strategy to help children and others with disabilities in developing countries to fulfil their potential.

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