The provision and protection of education during periods of emergency is not a choice, but an obligation.
-UN Special Rapporteur on Education’s report, 2011
Education is a human right and a crucial investment. It holds the key to a better life for children and youth worldwide: a life with less poverty, better health and self-reliance. It holds the key to a better society; education, particularly girls’ education, is one of the most powerful tools for creating economic growth, decreasing the likelihood of conflict, fostering resilience and impacting future generations with wide-reaching economic and social benefits.
Yet wars and disasters deny generations the right to education. One in four of the world’s school-aged children – nearly half a billion – live in countries affected by crises. For the vast majority of these children, education is interrupted or never attained. Over 62.5 million children in 32 countries affected by crisis are out of school, and many of those who are in school are not safe and not learning [UNESCO UIS, 2016]. Girls are particularly disadvantaged, being 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys in countries affected by conflict [ODI, 2016]. Today’s crises are long and protracted, resulting in extensive periods of displacement and disruption; subsequently, refugees are five times less likely to attend school than other children. Moreover, in the majority of conflicts around the world, schools, universities, students, and teachers are targeted for attack as a tactic of war, and education institutions are used for military purposes putting them at risk of attack by opposing forces.
In emergencies, quality education enables children and youth to survive and thrive at times of great uncertainty and vulnerability. Quality education bolsters children and youth’s resilience amidst adversity, supports their socio-emotional and cognitive development, provides a safe space that can act as a platform for other life-saving services, and protects them from the violence, abuse, and exploitation that rise precipitously during emergencies. In the long term, education can break the cycle of violence and conflict and promote peace and reconciliation, helping children contribute to building better futures, opening opportunities, and teaching tolerance and conflict resolution.
Education is one of the first services demanded by families and children and young people during crises—and yet it is all too often the first service suspended and one of the last services resumed. According to 16 studies covering 17 different emergencies, 99% of children in crisis situations identified education as a priority [Save the Children, 2015]. However, despite a 126% increase in humanitarian requirements for education needs since 2005, funding has increased by just 4%. There is a clear need to bring actors and resources together to deliver a more ambitious, joined-up response in line with national policies and plans in emergency contexts and beyond.
If we are to be truly accountable to the people most affected by crisis, then we must do more and better to provide education in emergencies that ensures children are in school, safe and learning.
In adopting the Sustainable Development Goals, governments pledged to deliver inclusive and equitable, quality education for all by 2030. However, without greater investment, improved coordination and capacity to deliver quality response, and more accountability to those affected by humanitarian crises, the world will fall far short of that goal. To see meaningful change in the lives of crisis-affected children and youth, we must see a catalytic shift in approach and ambition.
More and better funding for education in emergencies is essential to reach children during conflict and crisis with safe, quality education opportunities that help them heal and learn:
We therefore call on all actors to provide significantly greater investment in education in humanitarian and protracted crisis contexts to ensure children can access a safe and high-quality education during every phase of an emergency. Funding must be quick, available to be disbursed immediately; long-term, disbursed predictably over multiple years; flexible, allocated to non-formal as well as formal solutions; equitable, spread evenly across all emergencies and intended to reach all children; additional, not displacing other aid and support; and directed to evidence based interventions.
Above and beyond funding, improving the delivery of education in crises requires unprecedented levels of commitment, coordination, and capacity across a wide range of audiences.
Call to action!
Underpinning these efforts must be a concerted effort to expand our knowledge of “what works” to achieve quality outcomes for children as well as how, for whom, where and under what conditions, in order to promote meaningful learning that can inform programs and improve accountability.
We therefore call on all stakeholders to define and strive for meaningful outcomes for attendance, safety, learning, and well-being for crisis-affected children, and to collect timely data to monitor progress towards these outcomes; undertake more rigorous research to ensure that we understand what works and that programming is informed and evidence-based; communicate results across stakeholders--including to families/communities; and use evidence to inform policy and programmatic decisions.
Useful advocacy tools:
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This page is a product of the INEE Advocacy Working Group (AWG). The AWG was established in 2012 with a focus on the Education Cannot Wait: Call to Action, and now functions as the network's primary space for achieving INEE Strategic Priority 1: serve as a global advocate and thought leader, promoting education for all and in all circumstances.