Actions to help educate millions of children announced by Gordon Brown

Children in conflicts, Education funding, Education in emergencies, Up for School or #upforschool campaign

Syrian students go back to class this week at a school built for them at a refugee camp school in Kilis, Turkey

A package of pioneering measures has been announced to help one million Syrian refugee children into school and to finance education for millions more.

Unveiled at the United Nations today by UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, they include:

  • An innovative strategy to get one million Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan back into school
  • A new humanitarian platform to help millions of children receive education in emergencies, such as wars, natural disasters and disease outbreaks
  • New appointments to an international commission of world leaders set up to look at the financing of global education – including singer, campaigner and #UpForSchool supporter Shakira

Mr Brown said: “Today we set out an immediately deliverable plan to provide schooling for one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan and a long-term solution that can give hope to child refugees – a global humanitarian platform and fund for education in emergencies.”

He spoke near the end of a General Assembly that has seen education pushed to the forefront of the global agenda. The new 15-year Sustainable Development Goals – ratified by world leaders at the UN – have a specific goal of Quality Education to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. But education is at the heart of all 17 SDGs.

Shakira and Gordon Brown with the #UpForSchool Petition, along with A World at School Global Youth Ambassadors Benedict Joson from the Philippines and Dawnique Shury from Guyana 

Shakira’s new role and the formation of a youth panel to feed into the new International Commission for Financing Global Education Opportunity are a recognition of the role played by campaigning young people around the world to force education into the spotlight.

The Colombian pop star and education activist handed over the #UpForSchool Petition to Mr Brown in New York on behalf of the 10 million people who signed it. The petition is a youth-led campaign which demands world leaders deliver on their promise to get every child into school.

Mr Brown’s briefing came at the end of a week which saw Syrian refugee children going back to school in Lebanon and Turkey. He said: “Education for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan must be given urgent priority to avoid the despair and desolation of a lost generation. Without education, young children are prey to early marriage, child trafficking, child labour and are vulnerable to extremism.

“For many parents the choice of staying in the region or embarking on death voyages depends on their chance of getting their children an education. While food, shelter and security are essential, it is the ability to plan for the future, for a life and a career, that gives these children hope.”

“In Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, the main barrier to progress is not the absence of classroom facilities, teachers or willingness on the part of the government to help children in need. The biggest barrier that must now be urgently removed is the absence of funds. 

A school at the UN-run Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan

“I now call on members of the international community – who know the importance of taking action in the region of Syria – to deal with this emergency and fund the one million places that we need to deliver education to refugee children.”

Three detailed reports to get one million children into school in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan were published last month by the charity Theirworld in conjunction with A World at School and the Global Business Coalition for Education. Mr Brown outlined the action needed in each country:


There are 525,000 Syrian and Iraqi pre-school and school-age children and fewer than half of these children will go to school. While 140,000 have been allotted a place in school for this year, an immediate donor investment of $25 million is needed to ensure the current target of 200,000 Syrians in public schools is achieved as we advance to our eventual aim of 525,000.


We need places for approximately 400,000 children given that only one-third of the 621,000 refugee children are in school.  And we also need a sufficient number of teachers. $24 million could prepare a cohort of 7,500 Syrian teachers to reach 300,000 refugee students in temporary education centres.


It has 215,000 school-age Syrian refugee children who need help in getting back to school. An investment of $65 million for this school year would reach the 90,000 out-of-school Syrian refugees and help sustain current efforts.

Liberian primary school children in Monrovia wait to wash their hands after returning to school following the Ebola outbreak Picture: UNICEF/Irwin  


Mr Brown said he was announcing – with UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education – a global humanitarian platform and fund as a long-term solution to the lack of money for schooling in crises. He said this was to fill the gap where children fall through the net – trapped between a humanitarian system focusing on food and shelter and the development aid system that is long term.

He added: “Next year, there will be a World Humanitarian Summit. In the run-up to this summit, before the end of the 2015, we wish to make final decisions on the humanitarian platform and fund for education in emergencies. Such a bold initiative could offer millions of the world’s displaced children their first chance of schooling.

“It would allow us to act immediately when there are natural disasters, like the recent earthquake in Nepal, and at the outset of conflicts, such as in South Sudan, with adequate provision for education in emergencies.  We could have done more at the outset of the Ebola crisis which forced five million children out of school.”


The new International Commission for Financing Global Education Opportunity – which includes more than 20 world leaders – met for the first time this week to build an agenda for action to finance and deliver education over the next several decades. 

Mr Brown, who is chairing the commission, announced three new commissioners – Shakira, Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete and former Japanese Defence Minister Yuriko Koike.

A youth panel will feed into the commission. It will be co-chaired by Kennedy Odede of Kenya and Rosemarie Ramitt of Guyana and among its members will be education campaigner Malala Yousafzai.

Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UN children’s agency UNICEF, was at the briefing with Mr Brown. He said: “You cannot reach the SDGs unless you reach the children suffering in emergencies around the world.

“The river of misery that is now flowing through Europe are on the move because they are seeking better lives and a haven from the violence. But more and more of them are saying they are on the move because they have lost hope for their children. They are moving into Europe for the futures of their children. We need to provide more education for the children there.”

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