The UK has established its global leadership on education in emergencies by making a significant financial commitment to Education Cannot Wait, a global fund which has reached over 1.4 million children and youth living in crisis in its first two years of operation.
The Prime Minister made the announcement of £90 million over four and a half years which will provide 600,000 girls and boys affected by crisis with quality learning opportunities.
Answering civil society’s call to action
Earlier this year, UK civil society, including Save the Children, called upon DFID to invest £75 million over the period 2019-2021, to help Education Cannot Wait meet its goal of providing education to nearly 9 million children annually by 2021.
When children and young people are displaced, the case for education is amplified. Children affected by crisis tell us that education is the key to their futures and that it cannot be delayed. It helps mitigate the impacts of conflict and displacement, providing them with a safe place to learn. And it is a key contributor to long-term stability and prosperity.
UK civil society has warmly welcomed the announcement – it reaffirms the UK’s role in supporting the most marginalised communities in the world, as well as the UK’s commitment to multilateralism in response to international challenges.
Investment in forgotten crises, including in the Sahel
Education Cannot Wait is able to operate in some of the most challenging states globally, extending the impact of UK aid to places which fail to receive the media or global attention they deserve.
One third of the £90 million will be allocated to these forgotten crises, including in the Sahel region of Africa. In this area, more than 11 million children and youth are out of school and more than 50% of them are girls. Harmful social norms, significant rates of household poverty, conflict and religious extremism exacerbate the barriers for girls, leading to school closures and student dropouts.
Other donors must step up
The timing of this announcement at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Biarritz, France is particularly welcome as it’s just three weeks before Education Cannot Wait’s replenishment event at this year’s UN General Assembly in New York. The fact that this pledge from a globally respected donor is large and over multiple years should inspire confidence amongst other international donors.
We urgently need to see the other G7 countries and those outside that group including Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Australia stepping up so that Education Cannot Wait can meet its replenishment target of $673 million into its Global Trust Fund by 2021.
UNHCR’s new annual report on education shows small gains
UNHCR’s latest annual report on education – Stepping Up – shows that while there have been some small gains in enrolment, 3.7 million refugees remain locked out of learning. Primary school enrolment for refugees is up from 61% to 63% (the global average is 91%) and secondary enrolment is up from 23% to 24% (global average is 84%).
UNHCR says these slight gains are thanks to more refugees being included in the national education systems where they are hosted. A range of countries have made significant progress, including in Uganda, Chad, Turkey and Mexico – giving refugees access to schools, offering catch up classes or languages support and training more teachers.
The principle of sharing the responsibility for hosting refugees, as set out in the Global Compact on Refugees, means that donors need to provide finance to refugee-hosting countries in order to meet refugees’ basic needs, such as education.
The Global Refugee Forum is the next opportunity for progress
While investment into Education Cannot Waits’ Global Trust Fund is critical, we must not forget that investment should be given additionally in-country to back Multi-Year Resilience Programmes. This is an important way for donors to meet the objectives behind the Global Compact on Refugees by making further pledges in support of education in refugee contexts at the Global Refugee Forum in December.
We called for a global plan of action on refugee education to be developed and with the invaluable support of UNHCR and others, this plan is now being produced.
Education is one of the greatest investments we can make. We must ensure the UK’s recent announcement for Education Cannot Wait acts as the clarion call to others to step up.