World Humanitarian Summit: campaigners welcome launch of Education Cannot Wait fund

The #SafeSchools petiton is handed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by A World at School Global Youth Ambassadors Wanja Maina, Courage Nyamhunga and Anoka Abeyrathne, watched by Sarah and Gordon Brown


The launch of the Education Cannot Wait fund today was welcomed by many of those who have spent months and years campaigning for it.

The announcement at the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey was heralded as a game-changer for a generation of young people impacted by emergencies and crises – locked out of opportunity and hope for a brighter future.  

But there were warnings for world leaders that they will have to match the goodwill and promises with real commitment and money if the fund is to succeed and deliver education urgently where it is most needed.

The fund will support children and young people who have had their education interrupted by emergency situations such as conflict and natural disasters and other crises. About 75 million children had their education disrupted by emergencies in 2015 but only 2% of humanitarian aid was spent on education.

Sarah Brown, President of Theirworld – the children’s charity behind A World at School – said: “The launch of the fund is a landmark moment as we continue with our commitment to get every child into school and learning.

“Now we have a dedicated, accountable fund where donations can be directed, we hope this will lead to increased private sector investment and new innovative partnerships to bring education to all.”

Sajiha Batool is one of A World at School’s Global Youth Ambassadors. She had this message for world leaders at the summit: “We cannot deprive any more children of their right to education. We cannot stand by while children are shut out from the opportunity for an education.

“A generation is looking up to you, and you are going to decide the future of generations to come. We are waiting and watching. A historic step has been made and this should be celebrated – but history will only judge success on how many vulnerable children have been given safety and a brighter future through education. We are watching.”

A Nepalese boy walks to school past the rubble of destroyed buildings left by the 2015 earthquake Picture: A World at School/Claire Wilkinson

Ben Hewitt, Director of Campaigns for A World at School, paid tribute to the many governments, donors and charities who have campaigned for this moment- including 250,000 supporters who petitioned for safe schools for children in emergencies.

He said: “The launch of the Education Cannot Wait fund is an historic milestone, as it has the potential to transform the lives of millions of children and families living in crises around the world, and lay the foundations for a more positive and peaceful future. 

“The range of diverse support has put us on the right trajectory and this is the start of the campaign to see it fully funded in the months ahead – this must be a top priority as we know education cannot wait.

“For the children, young people, communities and organisations around the world that we have been campaigning with, this has been a long time coming – and it is just the start of the hard work needed to ensure that all children in situations of conflict and disaster can get a good education.

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“That work must begin now, with the diverse donors and funders making sure Education Cannot Wait is fully funded over the next five years. This will be the focus on our campaign in in the coming weeks and months.”

In April, more than 50 leading global charities called on the international community to commit to the fund – they included Theirworld, World Vision, Oxfam, ActionAid, and Muslim Aid. See the full list here.

That group today issued a statement after the fund was launched. It said: “Education Cannot Wait is a milestone in efforts to ensure that no child or young person will have their education and their hope for the future ended due to war, natural disaster or other emergencies.

“More than 75 million children had their education disrupted by emergencies. These children are increasingly vulnerable to vulnerable to all forms of exploitation including trafficking, child labour, early and forced and extremist groups.

Global Youth Ambassadors from Lebanon have campaigned for safe schools

“As the first ever fund aimed at getting education to children affected by emergencies, it is finally a significant recognition that the world has been failing these children.”

The group said they applauded the leadership shown already by countries and foundations who have commited to help the fund. See A World at School’s special fund tracker to see who’s given what.

Kolleen Bouchane, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Global Business Coalition for Education and Theirworld, said: “The launch of Education Cannot Wait is a significant moment in acknowledging the important protections offered by education in the worst situations. We must immediately build on this start and support new donors to come to the table and existing donors to be increasingly ambitious to scale up this fund to meet the need.”

Dean Brooks, Director of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, said: “We’ve been fighting to get to a moment like this for a very long time. So many people and organisations have come together to create this moment.

“We now have something to build on and keeping up momentum over the next several months as September at the United Nations General Assembly is a key moment to push for the rest of the $150 million needed to fund the first year and $3.85 bn for the first five years.”

Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of the global telecommunications group Econet, said: “We cannot let children lose hope and opportunity when a disaster or conflict strikes. Instead, we must ensure they have safety, protection and education. 

“This fund marks a turning point in protecting education for the most marginalised children – an issue that should be a priority for governments and the private sector.”

Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete – who will be on the fund’s steering group – said, “The new education in emergencies fund with bridge the humanitarian-development divide to provide life-saving education.

“Bilateral and multilateral donors must fully finance this initiative because education cannot wait.”