‘Never stop learning, never lose hope,’ refugee Muzoon tells children in crisis-hit countries

Syrian Refugee And Education Activist Muzoon Almellehan Meets Refugee Girls In Chad
Syrian refugee and education activist Muzoon Almellehan meets Nigerian refugee girls at a sewing workshop in Daresalam refugee camp in Chad (UNICEF / Sokhin)

Children in conflicts, Children's welfare after natural disasters, Education Cannot Wait, Education in emergencies, Refugees and internally displaced people, Right to education, Safe schools, Safe Schools Declaration

To mark the anniversary of the Education Cannot Wait fund being launched, the Syrian teenager has sent a powerful message to children affected by humanitarian emergencies.

Around the world, more than 75 million children are being denied an education because of humanitarian emergencies.

Conflicts, natural disasters and health crises have seen them forced out of school, at risk of dropping out or receiving poor-quality education.

That leaves millions of children exposed to the threats of child labour, child marriage, trafficking, exploitation and extremism. The picture is particularly bleak for girls, who are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys in conflict-hit countries.

Despite that, less than 2% of humanitarian aid goes to education. But one year ago a big step was taken towards tackling the crisis, when the world’s first fund dedicated to providing education for children in emergencies was launched.

The Education Cannot Wait fund is now helping to provide schooling in 10 countries affected by emergencies, including Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.

To mark the anniversary, Syrian refugee and education advocate Muzoon Almellehan has written a powerful letter to fellow refugee children. The 19-year-old’s message is also featured in this new Education Cannot Wait film. 

“I know how you are feeling right now,” says Muzoon, who was 14 when bombing in Syria forced her family to flee to Jordan, where they lived in a refugee camp. 

“It may feel like everything is dark and hopeless. But there is light ahead.

“I want to encourage you not to give up on your hopes and dreams for the future. 

“Do everything that you can to stay in school because an education will help you build that future. With knowledge, we grow stronger.”

Muzoon ends her letter with: “Never stop learning and never stop dreaming. Never lose hope.”

Syrian Refugee Muzoon At Chad Refugee Camp 3 Unicefsokhin

Muzoon knows the importance of education for the future of children in emergencies (UNICEF / Sokhin)

The Education Cannot Wait fund was launched with the aim of reaching more than 13.6 million children and youth living in crisis situations with quality education over the next five years and 75 million by 2030.

It has a funding target of $3.85 billion over five years and aims to bridge the gap between humanitarian interventions during crises and long-term development afterwards, through predictable funding.

More than a year before the Education Cannot Wait launch, Gordon Brown – the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education – had called for such a global emergency education fund to be established.

“Refugees and internally displaced children all deserve hope and opportunity at the onset of a humanitarian crisis. Education cannot wait,” he said in January 2015.

Ecw Mazoon 3

The teenager went to Chad to highlight the need for education during humanitarian emergencies (UNICEF)

When the fund was launched last year at the World Humanitarian Summit, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said: “Children don’t need education even in emergencies – they need education especially in emergencies.” 

Last year a $42 million investment was announced by the fund, to give almost 1.5 million children in conflict-hit Chad, Syria and Yemen access to a quality education over the next two years.

Children in another seven countries will benefit from a $20 million investment revealed last month. 

The money will deliver quality learning, teacher training, psychosocial support and new school facilities in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Peru, Uganda, Ukraine and Somalia.

In response to the need highlighted by the launch of the Education Cannot Wait fund, the Global Business Coalition for Education created REACT (Rapid Education Action). This initiative mobilises private sector resources and connects them to local organisations that are advancing education efforts in emergencies. 

“Through this, we want to matchmake those ready to help with the people and organisations on the frontline of the education effort in crisis settings,” said Tom Fletcher, Senior Adviser to GBC-Education. 

“To date, more than 50 companies have joined, and they are starting to get traction.”

Read Tom Fletcher’s blog for examples of how REACT is working and for more about Education Cannot Wait. 

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