Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

Post-Dakar: Post-2015 agenda lacks focus on education in crisis contexts

2 April 2013

By Lori Heninger, INEE Director

Much is happening in preparation for the post-2015 agenda; consultations, meetings, surveys, all to gather inputs from the international community on ways forward.  This blog will focus on the recent World We Want’s Thematic Consultation on Education in the post-2015 development agenda, held in Dakar on 18-19 March. I was present at this meeting, representing INEE.

Strong words make the case

During the two days of meetings, presenters focused on education access, equity and quality. Gordon Brown, in a video to the group, stated, “universal learning is a goal of goals, or a super goal, because without education we cannot unlock the other development goals, such as employment opportunity, gender equality, environmental care and good health.”

The need for education in crisis situations was cited repeatedly by presenters; however, the most powerful intervention came from Desmond Birmingham of Save the Children. He said,

“Ministers, ladies, gentlemen.  In the three minutes I have to make this intervention, tens, possibly hundreds, of children will be killed, injured, maimed, tortured or driven from their homes in Mali, Syria, Afghanistan, and many other senseless wars and conflicts that continue to blight the lives of children and young people around the world. For these children, education is a dream. It was a dream, 23 years ago when the global education community met in Jomtien. It was a dream 13 years ago when many of the same members of the global education community met here in Dakar. And it remains a dream for more than 20 million children who are denied their right to education because they have the misfortune to be born into a conflict or are caught in a natural disaster. It is also a dream for millions of children who are born poor. 

And what is our response? 

  • 2 % of humanitarian aid goes to education. 
  • Total aid for basic education in low income countries is less than 1 / 10,000th of global GDP, and we hold more global meetings.
  • The cost of this meeting – including our travel and our accommodation - would pay a year’s salary for 200 primary school teachers in Senegal.  
  • 6 day’s global military expenditure would fill the financing gap for education and ensure that every child receives a good quality education.
  • And if all countries – developing and donor countries - followed their own advice to countries and allocated 20% of their aid to education – and 50% of that to basic education – more than half of the financing gap would be filled.

We believe that this is a minimum investment to achieve the goals that we all agree are essential to ensure equitable growth: no child is left out of school and that every child in school is learning…Education Cannot Wait.”

Education in crisis contexts?

Given the lifting up of education in crisis during the meeting, it was extremely disappointing to have to search for the words “education, conflict and emergencies,” which were buried in the summary document that went to the UN High-Level Panel in Bali. Perhaps even more unfortunately, there is no mention of education in fragile contexts.

We knew in Dakar in 2000, when the Education For All goals were being crafted, what we still know today: without a strong, actionable focus on access to quality education and learning for the most marginalized, a group that is incredibly hard to reach, we will not reach the current MDGs. 

Education in emergencies and fragile contexts, and protecting education from attack, need to be at the forefront of all education guidelines and strategies for today, as well as for the next 15 years. As Director of INEE, I strongly encourage those who created the summary document to reconsider their assessment of the meeting to ensure the most vulnerable are given highest priority today and for the next round of education goals.

Education cannot wait.  Our children cannot wait.


Lori Heninger has been the Director of INEE since May 2010. Prior to this position, Lori directed both the Quaker United Nations Office in New York, and HiTOPS, a youth health center in Princeton New Jersey.  Lori worked on education in emergencies during her time with the Women's Refugee Commission. She has a BA in education, and a Masters and PhD in social work, and is based in New York at the International Rescue Committee.