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Girls education in emergencies: no more business as usual

Girls education in emergencies: no more business as usual

Education is a fundamental right. However, in times of conflict and disaster, it can be significantly disrupted – often permanently. This results in millions of children being denied the opportunity to have a quality, safe education. And yet, it’s at such times that education is critical.

“Education brings stability, normality and routine into a child’s life, which is absolutely essential, especially when they are displaced,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

A generation without education is doomed. We need to be heard and participate, we need a future. We have a right to education and we want to go to school.

Betty, 17, a displaced young woman in northern Uganda

A shocking message to the world

More than 75 million children and young people aged 3 to 18 are currently out of school in 35 crisis-affected countries.

Girls are especially at risk, and are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school in countries affected by conflict than boys.

One example of this is South Sudan, where just 10% of girls aged 15 to 19 have completed primary school. Devastatingly, in 2013 there were only 730 girls in the whole country enrolled in the final year of secondary school.

Girl reading book at temporary camp for people displaced by violence in Niger's Diffa region
Many schools in Niger's Diffa region have been affected by recent attacks by Boko Haram. We’re working in 31 primary schools to rebuild and construct new classrooms, school toilets and boreholes for 7,718 students.

Despite these statistics, education still receives less than 2% of humanitarian aid, a shocking message to the world about the value of so many children’s futures.

Clearly we need a different approach – business as usual cannot continue. In fact, to reach the 75 million children out of school there needs to be a further $8.5 billion of investment.

And that’s exactly what’s happening.

A new global fund

Last year at the World Humanitarian Summit, a new global fund called Education Cannot Wait (ECW) was announced. Prioritising education in emergencies, the fund is the first of its kind.

Here at Plan International UK we've been working to ensure all children receive a quality education in emergencies for many years, and we have been involved with ECW since the start.

Last month, I attended a one day meeting of the Executive Committee of ECW to hear about its progress and its huge ambition for the future.

The fund has five core functions:

  1. Inspire political commitment, so education is viewed by both governments and funders as a top priority during crises.
  2. Plan and respond collaboratively, with a particular emphasis on enabling humanitarian and development actors to work together on shared objectives.
  3. Generate and disburse additional funding to close the $8.5 billion funding gap needed to reach 75 million children and youth.
  4. Strengthen capacity to respond to crises, nationally and globally, including the ability to coordinate emergency support.
  5. Improve accountability by developing and sharing knowledge, including collection of more robust data in order to make better-informed investment decisions, and to increase knowledge of what works and doesn’t work.
Children receive new school supplies during distribution in Yei
The protracted conflict in South Sudan has forced more than 1.8 million children out of school. We’re working with our partners to distribute school supplies to the few schools remaining in Yei.

Within a year ECW has achieved a huge amount. $55 million has been disbursed to fund quality education for an estimated two million vulnerable children in Chad, Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen.

In April 2017, ECW announced a further U$20 million for seven crises in Peru, Central African Republic, Madagascar, Somalia, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Uganda.

But much more needs to be done.

To reach all 75 million children missing out on school, the fund will need more money, more political support and more collaboration.

As world leaders prepare to meet next month at the UN General Assembly in New York, Plan International UK will be working with ECW, governments and other partners to ensure that education in emergencies is a global priority.

Find out more about our policy work

with children and their communities during emergencies