Education Cannot Wait: Helping Children and Youth Desperate to Learn in ‘A Crisis Upon Existing Crises’
Around the world, 75 million vulnerable, school-aged children and youth are already missing out on their education because they are caught in armed conflicts, forced displacement, natural and climate-change-induced disasters, and other protracted crises. These girls and boys are now doubly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic: ‘A Crisis Upon Existing Crises’. What we consider to be essential is not always attainable – many of these children are in desperate need of educational assistance.
Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the global fund for education in emergencies, established in 2016 by international humanitarian and development aid actors – is working to change that. ECW strives to make education a top priority on humanitarian and development agendas and to ensure that education is accessible to all crisis-affected children and youth. In times of emergency, the importance of education is often spoken of, yet, the funding rarely reflects the urgency or the necessity.
Education Cannot Wait is revamping the way education is delivered in times of emergency and is working to ensure more funding is directed to education in emergencies; already it has mobilized well over half a billion dollars to do so in just three years, with a target of mobilizing US$1.8 billion by 2021.
“Now more than ever, crisis-affected youth need our help.”
“The list of threats continues to grow, with COVID-19 now taking up a sizeable spot. Girls and boys enduring armed conflicts, disasters, forced displacement, and other crises are now at extreme risk with the additional hardship of the global pandemic. There is no end in sight to how much these young souls have to suffer, and they must be our absolute top priority,” says Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait Director.
“With an additional $50 million, Education Cannot Wait and our partners can continue to scale-up life-saving and life-sustaining education services which not only provide hope and opportunity but also help to protect the health and wellbeing of these young people at a time when they need it the most. Through Education Cannot Wait’s COVID-19 response, these children and youth have a greater chance of continuing their education through remote learning, access support for their mental health in a difficult time like this, and be given a chance to protect their health,” explains Sherif.
ECW brings governments, humanitarian actors and development efforts together to create a faster and more collaborative response to educating girls and boys impacted by crises. Most importantly, with its UN and NGO partners around the world, this innovative global fund strives to provide these children and youth with quality education that is safe, free, inclusive and accessible – and the ECW team is working around the clock to make this a reality for every single girl and boy by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG4 on quality education!
In times of crisis, governments and aid organizations often strive to provide affected populations with urgent basic necessities, like food, water, and shelter. Education is usually a lower, add-on priority on the list, with only 2 to 4 percent of humanitarian funding allocated to ensuring education remains accessible. 
Less often considered is that children who are forced out of school by emergencies – particularly girls, but boys as well – are more exposed to risks of violence, exploitation, child labor, trafficking, child marriage, and recruitment by armed groups. Without a stable education, they lose their chance, and indeed their human right, to fulfill their potential and they often find these risks make it difficult to ever return to school when it reopens. Education is not only important for all children and youth to guide them to a better future but is also crucial for families struggling to keep their children safe and for societies to build a peaceful life.
During the recent ‘One World: Together at Home’ global broadcast special, which featured artists like Lady Gaga, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and Celine Dion, the CEO of the LEGO Foundation, John Goodwin, announced their new US$15 million funding contribution towards Education Cannot Wait’s COVID-19 emergency response.
“Research shows that while learning through play is vital for children’s psychological, emotional and cognitive health and development, it also hones the resilience they need to overcome adversity and build their futures, which is needed now more than ever given the crisis we’re currently up against,” Goodwin said in his announcement.
The LEGO Foundation contribution was preceded a few days earlier by a US$6.26 million contribution to ECW from DFID-UK. These two recent contributions bring Education Cannot Wait US$21.26 million closer to its urgent US$50 million appeal to public and private sector donors to replenish its emergency funds reserve to immediately deploy essential education services for crisis-affected children and youth facing the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, just as education cannot wait, neither can emergency funding for ECW, so it can help crisis-affected children and youth desperate to learn in some of the world’s toughest war zones and emergency contexts. To learn more, please follow @EduCannotWait on Twitter and visit their website at: educationcannotwait.org