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Education in emergencies isn’t just a right – it’s a necessity

13th June 2022 - 7 min read

Damien, Angela and Tabeth are three young leaders determined to prioritise education for children forced to flee their homes. Here’s why.

Laura Oakley
is Editorial & Content Manager at Plan International UK

Humanitarian crises are growing and lasting longer, robbing children and young people of their right to education. Not being able to go to school often has huge consequences on their lives.

Damien, Angela and Tabeth are determined to ensure this issue is seen, heard and acted upon.

They’re part of Youth For Education in Emergencies (Youth4EiE), a global youth panel, set up in partnership with Education Cannot Wait, and supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The panel is calling on world leaders to prioritise education for children and young people who are living in crisis.

Here they put into their own words why education in emergencies is so important – especially for those who have fled their homes, communities and even their country.

Damien: “School is a safe environment”

Education in emergencies isn’t just a right – it’s a necessity
Damien, 18, Malawi

In March 2022, it was estimated that 2 million children had fled Ukraine. One can imagine how difficult it must be for these children and young people to adapt to new people and cultures.

This is why it is essential for them to stay in school even when things are this difficult. School is a safe environment for them. They can also access essential mental health services and have some form of stability and sense of belonging.

In Moldova, there are 50,000 children from Ukraine of which 1,800 of them are in school. Elsewhere in Poland, the president of the Institute of Public Affairs, Jacek Kucharczyk, stated that the surge in children from Ukraine was something their education system was not prepared for.

These numbers are proof that there is more that needs to be done to assist children to stay in school, from Ukraine and beyond. More funding is needed to help with the situation.

It is also important to pay more attention to girls and young women who have had their education affected. Some 129 million girls are not in school, and girls in conflict are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.

This then makes assisting girls a priority to curb the problem of exclusion in accessing education and ensure refugee girls’ futures are given another chance.

Angela: “When fleeing, a lot is lost”

Angela, 23, Malawi
Angela, 23, Malawi

Internally displaced people are those who have been forced to flee their homes, but do not cross a country border. Often they are fleeing conflict, violence, human rights violations or climate-related disasters – or even a combination of these.

When fleeing, a lot is lost. Among them are identities. This means internally displaced people may find it hard to settle and register in new places of residence. They may also be subjected to neglect and discrimination, denying them essential benefits and services.

When children and young people are internally displaced, their education is often put on hold. Access to schools may be difficult especially in places of conflict where schools may be shut or travelling to school is deemed unsafe, especially for girls.


"Children who remain out of school for a long due are at risk of great harm. This includes forced marriages, sexual abuse and exploitation, child labour, and recruitment as child soldiers."

- Angela


Disabled children may also miss out on attending classes even when they wish to because they have migrated to a place where the schools and structures present are not inclusive.

And sometimes there simply aren’t any educational services whatsoever. Only 2-4% of the world's humanitarian funding goes to education in emergencies.

This can affect children and young people’s whole life since being able to go to school is an important part of their wellbeing – not just for studying but also access to other services like recreational activities. Being in a safe learning environment with other young people is also crucial to help them heal from trauma.

Children who remain out of school for a long time are at risk of great harm. This includes forced marriages, sexual abuse and exploitation, child labour, and recruitment as child soldiers. If subjected to any of these, they may never go back to school.

Tabeth: What needs to be done

Tabeth, 24, Zimbabwe
Tabeth, 24, Zimbabwe

When calamities strike, it is often children and young people – especially girls - who are forced to flee and face the problems that follow.

Prioritising education in emergencies helps give back some power to those forced to flee. It is crucial because it provides:

  • a safe space for children, where they are protected from physical harm
  • a venue where children can learn about lifesaving topics like preventable diseases, nutrition, and hygiene
  • a safe space to learn new skills and values, such as peace, tolerance, conflict resolution, democracy, and human rights
  • routine, stability, normality, and hope to children’s lives, helping to improve their psychosocial wellbeing
  • a place to keep learning, to ensuring brighter futures.

Being able to continue their education without disruption ensures children and young people are not left behind. And when a crisis ends, it helps them integrate back into their normal lives.

Here are 7 things government and world leaders can do to help ensure the educational needs of displaced and refugee children and young people are met:

  1. Allocate more funds specifically for education in emergencies.
  2. Establish better coordination structures for education response.
  3. Ensure support reaches vulnerable groups.
  4. Ensure safe and protective places of learning which are inclusive and supportive spaces for all children.
  5. Provide immediate and quality education.
  6. Provide distanced learning/self-learning programmes.
  7. Build resilience within education systems.

The Youth4EIE project was launched in partnership with Education Cannot Wait and with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

ecw and ppl


Find out more about Damien, Angela and Tabeth and the rest of the Youth4eEiE panel.

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