Doing more and better for education in emergencies

A three point plan for ensuring that new global action improves funding, support and collaboration

Somali refugees attending school in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. © Save the Children

Somali refugees attending school in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. © Save the Children

At the World Education Forum in Korea last week a new global education goal, which will replace the education Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is under discussion.

The proposed new goal is to ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.’

It is considerably more ambitious than the education MDGs which committed the world to providing universal primary education and to ensuring that both boys and girls benefited equally.

To have any chance of reaching the new goal we know that we’ll need to do more and better if children affected by emergencies are to have any chance of enjoying an inclusive and equitable quality education.

Crises and conflict should not interrupt children’s learning

For the vast majority of children affected by emergencies, whether they are conflict, natural disasters or pandemic diseases their education is put in peril by these crises.

Children living in conflict or emergency-affected areas make up a quarter of the world’s primary school-aged population, yet they represent half of the 58 million children out of school globally. This is a staggering figure – yet it is likely to be a significant underestimation when we consider that:

  • at least 25 million children are living as refugees or are displaced; and
  • 175 million children are likely to be affected by disasters every year.

As we know, it only takes a few crises to send millions of children’s learning into free fall as recent emergencies show:

  • 5 million children were out of school in Ebola-affected countries in the past year;
  • nearly 3 million as a result of the four year-long Syria crisis; and
  • right now almost 1 million children are no longer learning as a result of the Nepal earthquake and are unlikely to go back to school anytime soon with almost 24,000 classrooms damaged or destroyed.

Education during conflict and crises is severely underfunded

One of the persistent challenges in providing education to children caught up in emergencies is a lack of funding.

On average, education receives less than 2% of total humanitarian aid committed through emergency appeals and the education sector routinely receives less than half of the funding it asks for to meet children’s educational needs.

In 2013 only 3.4 million children in emergencies received educational services out of 9 million children the sector was hoping to reach.  Globally this meant that only 12% of the estimated 28.5 million children out of school due to conflict and emergencies were reached in 2013.

Earlier this year Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Education, called for the establishment of a new fund for education in emergencies.

That call has prompted a renewed conversation, which Save the Children strongly welcomes, about how best to solve the persistent funding gap for education in humanitarian emergencies.

There is no doubt that more and better funding is absolutely essential and that a new funding mechanism with dedicated resources to support educational service provision in emergencies could play a vital part in closing the existing funding gap.

In addition to mobilizing more resources Save the Children believes that any new global action, including a dedicated fund, provides an important opportunity to address other critical barriers to providing an education to children caught up in crises.

We have consequently published More and better: Global action to improve funding, support and collaboration for education in emergencies. The report sets out three principles for which we want to see global action in support of education in emergencies. This includes a new funding mechanism. These principles are:

1. More and better funding

A new fund or platform should of course deliver more funding but that funding must be:

  • additional
  • timely, predictable and flexible
  • based on need
  • used to support quality educational outcomes
  • used to incentivise contributions from other sources

2. More and better support

Beyond increasing the volume and effectiveness of funding a new fund or platform should:

  • strengthen the capacity of existing systems, structures and organizations, including national governments, the Education Cluster and UNHCR
  • increase investments aimed at risk reduction, conflict sensitivity and strengthening preparedness
  • enhance monitoring, research and impact evaluation of education in emergency interventions
  • undertake better tracking and monitoring and funding and spending

3. More and better collaboration and commitment

A new fund or platform should contribute to the development of new policies, practices and systems which incentivize national and international education, development and humanitarian sectors to work together and allow them to demonstrate leadership of and commitment to education in emergencies, including by:

  • Harness the collective power of all education in emergencies funding
  • Create more alignment with wider education aid, architecture, policy and practice
  • Address the wider structural and political barriers to effective education in emergencies provision
  • Ensure integrated emergency programming remains a priority
  • Create a forum for high level political commitment to education in emergencies

Doing all of this will be essential if we have any chance of ensuring the children affected by conflict, natural disasters and pandemic diseases are to enjoytheir right to an inclusive and equitable quality education.

We look forward to working with colleagues to advance these principles including by contributing to the design of new global action including a new education in emergencies fund.

Additional background on the call for a new fund for education in emergencies, a brief overview of the funding crisis and the case for education in emergency contexts along with more details on how these principles could be advanced via new global action, are set out in ‘More and better: Global action to improve funding, support and collaboration for education in emergencies.