July 03, 2019

Safe schools, Code Clubs and early learning: a look at Theirworld's work in the first half of 2019

Helping traumatised refugee children in Turkey, launching new Code Clubs for girls, campaigning for every refugee child to be in school and gathering support for safe schools were all part of Theirworld's work from January to June

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

How our campaigns, research, programmes and youth activists are helping to deliver education and hope to children in many parts of the world.

In countries across the globe, children are already enjoying their long summer or winter break - or looking forward to it starting soon.

Holidays have begun in the United States, Canada, Turkey, Russia, Scotland, the United Arab Emirates and many other countries. In South Africa, the winter school holidays are underway. Children in other countries such as Nigeria, Mexico, England, China and Japan are looking forward to their vacations.

We're halfway through 2019 already - so what better time to take stock of a busy start to the year and look back at just some of Theirworld's work on education campaigns, projects and research?

January

Calls for action in the wake of Theirworld's hard-hitting report on safe schools continued to grow. UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva were among those demanding change to improve the safety of children and teachers in and around schools.

The report Safe Schools: The Hidden Crisis projected that 620 million girls and boys – nearly 40% of all school-age children worldwide - will live in countries where their education is at risk from environmental threats, war or violence by 2030. Around 75% of these children and young people - almost 470 million - will leave school without having achieved basic literacy and numeracy learning outcomes.

The report included a range of recommendations and a Framework for Action that outlined how these threats to the education of children can be tackled.

Here's what Fore said about our report.

February

Their News told how teachers at Turkish schools are being trained how to help traumatised Syrian refugee children.

The Trauma-Informed Schools project - run by Maya Vakfi (Maya Foundation) and supported by Theirworld - has helped more than 3,500 children and trained nearly 800 teachers to spot the signs of trauma and learn how to help those affected.

Fiona Duggan, Head of Projects at Theirworld, said: “This school training programme plays a vital part in equipping teachers with the skills they need to help Syrian children manage the trauma they have experienced, so that they can fully embrace all that school has to offer, including learning, making friends and realising their full potential.”

Learning while having fun is key to the success of Theirworld's Code Clubs in four sub-Saharan African countries and Lebanon. To mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we celebrated the achievements of the clubs and their students.

Theirworld developed the low-cost model of safe, sustainable and scalable Code Clubs, where girls can learn to code, foster creative thinking and increase important knowledge and skills for the future.

Find out from one student in Kenya why she loves going to Code Clubs.

March

Theirworld received some amazing grants from the People's Postcode Lottery organisations during March to help our work on education. 

The Dutch Postcode Lottery (Nationale Postcode Loterij) announced a 4.50 million euros ($5.10 million) award for 2019 as part of a total award of 8.55 million euros ($9.61 million).

This included a special award of 3.15 million euros ($3.57 million) to launch a unique public-private partnership between Theirworld and Education Cannot Wait to provide first-response education initiatives in emergencies, including refugee children in the Greek islands. 

The People's Postcode Lottery UK also awarded £650,000 ($860,000) to Theirworld to help fund our work on ensuring that every child has the best start in life and access to quality education.

Ahead of the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in Brussels, we looked at how education is being delivered to Lebanon's refugee population.

Thanks to the support  of the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, Theirworld will begin investing in early years education in Lebanon later this year. We have been running education pilot projects there for over three years.

Since Theirworld launched projects in two Lebanese public schools in 2015, more than 4,000 Lebanese and Syrian refugee children have benefited from education technology and nutritious daily snacks that help them to learn and to achieve the most during their school years. Theirworld's work now extends to providing extra-curricular coding classes for over 300 Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian girls.

Theirworld's annual International Women's Day event in London highlighted our #WriteTheWrong campaign for the 260 million children out of school - and its focus on safe schools where children can learn free from fear and violence.

Three amazing young women - all members of our network of Global Youth Ambassadors - shared their stories of overcoming the odds to fight for girls' education worldwide. Shazia Ramzan, Kainat Riaz and Yara Eid were targeted simply for wanting to go to school and realise their potential. 

The Theirworld #WriteTheWrong Award went to lawyer Shaheed Fatima, who has tirelessly championed for the protection of vulnerable and marginalised children living in conflict-affected areas. The Theirworld Inspiration Award was given to Jude Kelly, who has provided a platform for thousands of women's voices as CEO of the Southbank Centre in London and founder of the WOW (Women of the World) festivals. 

Shazia Ramzan, Yara Eid and Kainat Riaz at Theirworld IWD event 2019

Photo credit: Theirworld / Geoff Crawford

April

Theirworld published a report that revealed the international community has cut the funding and prioritisation of early childhood education. Leaving The Youngest Behind showed that 16 of the top 25 donors to global education aid gave nothing or reduced their previous spending on pre-primary education. 

Between 2015 and 2017, aid spent on early childhood education declined by 27%, from $94.8 million to $68.8 million. That equates to just 26 US cents per child per year in the world’s poorest countries. Children in conflict-affected countries are even worse off, with only 17 cents per child per year directed to early childhood education.

“It is shocking that world leaders talk about the importance of investing in children at the same time as they decrease support for the youngest and most vulnerable children who deserve the best start in life,” said Theirworld President Justin van Fleet.

Report

Leaving the Youngest Behind: Declining aid to early childhood education (April 2019)

Around the world rich and poor countries are failing to deliver on the promises made to the world’s youngest children, risking their development and future life chances.

Just days later, Theirworld and UNICEF called on countries and international donors to increase and prioritise their spending on early childhood education. They said action is needed urgently to help more than 175 million of the world's youngest and most disadvantaged children get access to crucial pre-primary education.

"It's not that people don't care. Every single donor and every organisation cares - but the commitments have to add up," said van Fleet at an event hosted by Theirworld, UNICEF and the Global Business Coalition for Education in Washington, DC.

From the report Leaving the Youngest Behind - how pre-primary education misses out on funding

Sarah Brown, founder and Chair of Theirworld, launched a new series of Better Angels - the podcast for the activist spirit - by exploring different types of campaigning styles, including introverts and extroverts.

The first episode focused on quiet activism, featuring some gentle voices whose powers of persuasion have marked them out as change-makers.

May

Only 2% of all humanitarian aid was being spent on education when Theirworld began campaigning in 2015 for the international community to step up their efforts and increase that to at least 4% to 6%.

The European Union has led the way since then and in May EU humanitarian aid commissioner Christos Stylianides announced that 10% of its aid spending will go to education in 2019.

He said: "The European Union is leading by example. It is a global champion of education in emergencies. We are making a concrete investment to peace by helping every child get access to school, anywhere and at all times."

Theirworld has also been campaigning for several years for the right of all children to be given a safe, quality education - free from fear of conflict and violence. 

Now 90 countries have signed up to the Safe Schools Declaration - a commitment to safeguard education from violence - and many are clamping down on the military use of schools. 

June

The Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort aims to improve understanding of how being born early affects the brain and learning in children. Funded by Theirworld, the study tests and measures the progress of premature babies over 25 years.

The cohort's annual party in Scotland's capital city brought together dozens of children and their families for an afternoon of fun and food. Parents praised the study, which draws on groundbreaking clinical and scientific research methods developed by the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory at the University of Edinburgh.

The birth cohort children get the chance to meet exotic animals at the party

Photo credit: Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort

World Refugee Day saw new statistics that revealed a record high of 70.8 million people forcibly displaced from their homes by conflicts, violence and persecutions.

But Theirworld revealed it will bring hope to refugee children living on the Greek Aegean islands. Many children living in poor conditions at reception centres will soon get access to education thanks to a partnership involving Theirworld - through the charity's work with the Dutch Postcode Lottery - and Education Cannot Wait.

Van Fleet said: "Within a few weeks, thanks to Theirworld and the Dutch Postcode Lottery, projects will begin in the Greek island camps. 

"These will offer non-formal education to children designed to jumpstart the learning process and restore their self-confidence and mental resilience, bringing a sense of normalcy to an otherwise chaotic environment."

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