September 28, 2018

Education Cannot Wait makes a big jump forward for children in crises

Will Smith prepares to leap out of the helicopter .. and children who are helped by Education Cannot Wait funding

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

The education in emergencies fund has got $70m of donor backing, announced new programmes - and been supported by film star Will Smith jumping out of a helicopter! 

It's been operational for just over a year. But Education Cannot Wait is already making a major impact on the lives of millions of children in crisis-hit countries.

The world's first fund for education in humanitarian emergencies, including conflicts and natural disasters, is already reaching 765,000 children and youth.

But the momentum has increased in the past few days, with world leaders gathering at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) has:

  • Announced $35 million for programmes in three countries
  • Received new donor funding pledges of almost $70 million
  • Revealed the winners of its Resource Mobilization Challenge
  • Been boosted by a charity bungee jump over the Grand Canyon by film star Will Smith

ECW was launched after campaigning by Theirworld and others for a fund specifically to provide education quickly in emergency situations. Too often, the need to get children into a safe school environment after traumatic events is overlooked.

75 million children are having their education disrupted by humanitarian emergencies

Photo credit: Education Cannot Wait

ECW is the first fund that offers governments, multilateral institutions and the private sector the chance to finance comprehensive education programmes for children and youth from the onset of crisis and through the recovery phases.

On September 21, it announced it will give $35 million for groundbreaking multi-year programmes that will help to educate 1.6 million children and youth in Uganda, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. This means that just over a year into its operations, it has invested a total of $127 million in 17 crisis-affected countries.

At the UN General Assembly this week, ECW has had a major investment boost. New pledges of close to $70 million have come from the governments of Denmark ($46 million), the Netherlands ($17.5 million on top of an earlier $7.4 million), Norway ($2.5 million to take its 2018 contribution to $10 million) and the philanthropic foundation Dubai Cares ($3.5 million, after a previous $2.3 million).

These contributions increase ECW's resources by 33% to a total of $273 million to help the fund meet the needs of the 75 million children and youth whose education is currently disrupted by conflict and crisis.

“These new pledges are an important step in solving one of the most pressing challenges of our time,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.

“For the millions of girls and boys - children and adolescents - enduring war, forced displacement and disasters, these new funds represent a lifeline and the promise of a future.”

On a lighter note, American actor Will Smith bungee-jumped from a helicopter this week to raise awareness and money for ECW. The actor - who was also celebrating his 50th birthday - said he believes “every child should have access to the transformative power of an education, which provides the chance to thrive, live and succeed”. 

After his jump, Smith said: "You have to commit. Life is hard, you might get hurt, your heart might get broken, you might lose your job - but you've still got to commit."

The three winning ideas in ECW's Resource Mobilization Challenge were announced at the Global People’s Summit - with each receiving $25,000 for developing a business plan.

They are:

Global Investment Fund by Yasser Bentaibi, 4usConsulting, from Morocco: Waqf (charitable endowments) would invest in economic empowerment programmes. The profit generated would be used to support education in emergencies.

Every Child Needs a SchoolBook Industry supports ECW by Mary Muchena-Stredwick and Rachel Stredwick from the United Kingdom: International book publishers, retailers and authors would sign-up to contribute up to 1% of the net sale of book purchases to ECW.

1-in-9 Fund by Brock Warner, War Child Canada, from Canada: Establish a publicly traded investment fund which would direct a share of the fund’s management fees to support children and youth affected by conflict and crisis. One in nine children are living in a war-affected country.

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