Education Cannot Wait helped some of the most vulnerable and at-risk children in 14 countries affected by conflict and natural disasters.
A global fund set up to deliver education to children and youth caught up in conflicts and natural disasters has helped more than 650,000 of them in its first year.
Education Cannot Wait (ECW) invested $82 million in 14 crisis-affected nations, reaching some of the most vulnerable and at-risk children. It helps them them into school and reduces the risks of them falling into child marriage, child labour and other forms of exploitation or violence.
The fund supported programmes that aid young people aged from three to 18 in countries such as Afghanistan, Peru, Somalia and Yemen. Of those who benefited, 48% were girls.
Among the children helped is 12-year-old Afghan boy Rabidullah. Conflict meant his family had to flee their home in Nangarhar Province’s Achin District.
“I suffered. I lost my home, my classmates and my teacher,” he said. The family ended up in a displacement camp in Shaheedan village near Jalalabad. Living conditions are very harsh and there is no school in the camp.
But, thanks to Education Cannot Wait’s support, local NGO WADAN is setting up community-based schools to provide quality and free education to 10,000 out–of–school children in six districts of Nangarhar.
Rabidullah’s mother said: “This programme has revived our hopes and will help build our future. We appreciate this effort to educate our children. Otherwise, we were certain that our children would have been deprived of their right to education.”
In Somalia, an Education Cannot Wait-funded project has ensured there are separate toilet facilities for girls and boys.
Amina, a grade 7 student at Awbale primary school in Marka town, said: "I used to face problems related to the usage and sharing of latrines with boys - particularly during my menstrual period, when I need to go to the toilet frequently.
"I used to go to home, which is far from the school, and sometimes I could not come back to the school and missed a lot of class hours for many days.
"Now the problem is removed and I am sure that I am improving my class performance because I have reduced my absenteeism."
Education Cannot Wait is the first global fund to prioritise education action in humanitarian emergencies. It was set up after campaigners, youth advocates, education experts and more than 60 leading charities including Theirworld called for a new mechanism and innovative ways to meet the education needs of children caught up in crisis situations.
The Safe Schools petition, with more than 250,000 signatures, was delivered by youth activists to the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2016. Education Cannot Wait was launched at that summit.
Theirworld Campaigns Director Ben Hewitt said: "For years we were told that education is not a key part of an emergency response and this has been proved wrong.
"It took campaigners, youth and education experts coming together to convince donors and other decision makers that education must be central to every emergency response - and our campaigning resulted in the creation of Education Cannot Wait.
"The campaign now is to ensure global education is fully funded and this is an area where all donors must step up to ensure every child is in school and learning, no matter who they are or the situation they find themselves in."
One in four of all the school-age children in the world live in countries affected by humanitarian emergencies such as conflicts or disasters.
Of those 500 million girls and boys, about 75 million are missing out on education, receiving poor quality schooling or at risk of dropping out of school altogether.
But education in emergencies continues to be chronically underfunded. In 2016, education in emergencies received only 1.9% of total humanitarian spending
In a report on its first year of operations - up to March of this year - ECW said donors’ contributions totalled $172 million, exceeding the initial 2017 target of $153 million.
During the year ECW delivered some big results:
- 145,994 children received non-formal education
- 319,445 children received learning materials
- 75,000 children received psychosocial support
- 29,892 children were supported through early childhood education
- 4708 teachers were trained, 61% of them female
- 1138 classrooms were built
- 300 gender-sensitive toilets were built
The fund aims to reach eight million crisis-affected children and youth with safe, free and quality education by 2021. Last week Sweden boosted the fund with a pledge of $30.6 million.
ECW focuses on improving access to education, equity and gender equality, continuity, protection and quality of learning. These include learning materials and psychosocial support, school and classroom equipment and infrastructure, teachers’ training and support, and non-formal education programmes.
The countries helped in the first year of operations up to March were Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Central Arican Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Nepal, occupied Palestinian territory, Peru, Somalia, Syria, Uganda, Ukraine and Yemen.
Last month ECW gave funds for projects in Syria and Papua New Guinea. It allocated $3 million to improve access to quality education and learning opportunities for 20,000 newly displaced children in northern Syria.
ECW also gave $1.5 million to help thousands of children back into education after an earthquake destroyed or damaged schools in Papua New Guinea
“It is urgent for children to recover a sense of normalcy in their lives after living through such a disaster," said ECW Director Yasmine Sherif.
"Going back to school is crucial to help them overcome the trauma they have endured and to ensure they continue to learn and thrive."