‘We Have Promises to Keep’ – Education Cannot Wait results report shows how investments reach 7 million crisis-impacted children and adolescents in the world’s toughest contexts. However, the report indicates there is still much work to be done as 222 million school-aged children and adolescents caught in crises urgently need educational support.

Rohingya refugee girl Rohima Akter, 13, is excited about learning to write in the Burmese language in the UNICEF learning centre in Cox's Bazar.? ?The new curriculum provides Rohingya refugee children with formal and standardized education.? Credit: UNICEF Bangladesh

Rohingya refugee girl Rohima Akter, 13, is excited about learning to write in the Burmese language in the UNICEF learning centre in Cox’s Bazar.? ?The new curriculum provides Rohingya refugee children with formal and standardized education.? Credit: UNICEF Bangladesh

United Nations, Aug 23 2022 (IPS) – Syrian refugee children are among the most disadvantaged in Iraq. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 53 percent of school-aged Syrian refugee children in the country were enrolled.

Across the globe, in Bangladesh, more than 890 000 Rohingya refugees live in 34 congested camps in Cox’s Bazar. COVID, fire, monsoons, floods, and landslides impacted education.

In Nigeria, since the conflict began in north-eastern Nigeria in 2013, at least 2,295 teachers have been killed, more than 1,000 children abducted, and 1,400 schools destroyed.

Yet, Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, believes that progress can be made to prevent the children from Syria, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Chad, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Pakistan, and South Sudan among other regions, from falling off the education system and consequently missing out on lifelong learning and earning opportunities.

“There is no dream more powerful than that of an education. There is no reality more compelling than to attain one’s full potential. We must keep our promise: to provide inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG4) and Human Rights Conventions,” says Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

“While progress is being made, we still have a long way to go. Today, we are faced with the cruel reality of 222 million children and adolescents worldwide in wars and disasters in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America who need urgent financial investments to access a quality education.”

This progress has now been documented in ECW’s We Have Promises to Keep: Annual Results Report released today. The annual report comes on the back of ECW’s estimates laying bare the plight of crisis-impacted children and adolescents and how this plight remains less visible to the global community.

According to ECW, 222 million school-aged children and adolescents caught in crises urgently need educational support. These include 78.2 million who are out of school and 119.6 million who are in school but not achieving minimum competencies in mathematics and reading.

Worst still, an estimated 65.7 million of these out-of-school children—or 84 percent—live in protracted crises, with about two-thirds or 65 percent of them in just ten countries, including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen.

Conflict, forced displacement, climate-induced disasters, and the compounding effect of the COVID-19 pandemic fueled increased education in emergency needs, with funding appeal of US$2.9 billion in 2021, compared with US$1.4 billion in 2020.

While 2021 saw a record-high US$645 million in education funding—the overall funding gap spiked by 17 percent, from 60 percent in 2020 to 77 percent in 2021, according to the newly-released annual report.

“ECW’s solid results in our first five years of operation are proof of concept that we can turn the tide and empower the most marginalized girls and boys in crises with the hope, protection, and opportunity of quality education. We can make their dreams come true, whether it’s to become a nurse, a teacher, an engineer, or a scientist,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.

“With our strategic partners, we urge governments, businesses, and philanthropic actors to make substantive funding contributions to ECW to help turn dreams into reality for children left furthest behind in crises.”

Towards delivering the promise of lifelong learning and earning opportunities, the report shows ECW investments with strategic partners reached close to 7 million children and adolescents, 48.4 percent of whom are girls, since becoming operational in 2017.

Despite the ongoing multiple and complex challenges of COVID-19, conflict, protracted crises, and climate-related disasters, the annual report reveals that the fund and its partners continue to expand the response to education in emergencies and protracted crises globally.

In 2021 alone, ECW mobilized a record-breaking US$388.6 million. Total contributions to the ECW Trust Fund are now top US$1.1 billion.

Across 19 countries supported through ECW’s Multi-Year Resilience Programmes, donors and partners mobilized more than US$1 billion in new funding for education programmes.

Through its strategic partnerships, ECW reached 3.7 million children and adolescents across 32 crisis-impacted countries in 2021 alone, including 48.9 percent girls. An additional 11.8 million children and adolescents were reached through the fund’s COVID-19 interventions that same year, bringing the total number of children and adolescents supported by COVID-19 interventions to 31.2 million, of which 52 percent are girls.

But these highlights are tempered by concerns over an increase in the scale, severity, and protracted nature of conflicts and crises, continued attacks on education, and record-high displacements driven by climate change, conflicts, and other emergencies.

For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly deepened the global learning crisis. In 2020 and 2021 alone, 147 million children missed over half of in-person instruction, and as many as 24 million learners may never return to school, according to UN estimates.

These challenges notwithstanding, the report provides more evidence of progress made by focusing on quality learning outcomes for the most marginalized children in crises. Of all children reached by ECW’s investments to date, half are girls, and 43 percent are refugees or internally displaced children.

Additionally, ECW grants indicate “improved levels of academic and or social-emotional learning; 53 percent of grants that measure learning levels showcase solid evidence of increased learning levels compared to 23 percent of grants active in 2020.”

Overall, the share of children reached with early childhood and secondary education increased substantially. Early childhood education increased from 5 percent in 2019 to 9 percent in 2021. Secondary education increased from 3 percent to 11 percent for the same period.

On inclusivity, estimates show that 92 percent of ECW-supported programmes demonstrated an improvement in gender parity. Today, more girls and boys are completing their education and or transitioning to the next grade or level, with a weighted completion rate of 79 percent and transition rate of 63 percent.

Teachers were not left behind as nearly 27,000 teachers—52 percent female—were trained and demonstrated increased knowledge, capacity, or performance in 2021.

To address the special needs of children and adolescents traumatized by war and conflict, over 13,800 learning spaces now have mental health and or psychosocial support activities. The number of teachers trained on mental health and psychosocial support topics doubled in 2021, reaching 54,000.

Ahead of its High-Level Financing Conference in Geneva in February 2023, the organization called on government donors, the private sector, foundations, and high-net-worth individuals to turn commitments into action by making substantive funding contributions to ECW.

The funding has already made a difference in Nigeria, where since January 2021, ECW partners facilitated 26,775 new school enrolments, an increase of 49.4 percent over the previous year.

In Cox’s Bazar, where 77 percent of children study at home, ECW partners supported the caregivers with bi-monthly visits and through radio broadcasting and the distribution of educational materials.

And in Syria, a consortium of partners was able to significantly improve conditions for children, with 74 percent of children showing an improvement in mathematics.


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