By the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit its stride, multiple humanitarian emergencies had conspired to deny 128 million children access to an education. When the UN global fund, Education Cannot Wait was launched in 2016, the number of crises-affected children and adolescents missing out on schooling stood at 75 million.
Since then, the United Nations agency has provided quality education for 4.6 million children trapped in more than 30 of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Fund officials say they now will be able to help an additional 2.5 million children and youth thanks to a generous contribution from the German government of more than $228 million.
The money, they say, will allow millions of young people caught up in armed conflict, forced displacement, climate-induced emergencies and other disasters to get an education.
Germany’s Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Katharina Stasch, says COVID-19 has threatened gains made in all areas, including education. She says many children cannot and do not return to school even when they re-open. She says this is unacceptable as education is key to tackling all the challenges of our time.
“Worldwide, there are 34 million displaced children and youth," said Stasch. "Their number will continue to grow as a result of the global climate crisis and girls are particularly at risk. We have a shared responsibility not to lose this generation. We must not leave anybody behind.”
The director of Education Cannot Wait, Yasmine Sherif, says her agency provides children with a full package of curriculum, learning, protection, school feeding, and psycho-social services. Everything that is necessary to achieve a good standard of education.
“Which is absolutely critical if we are to achieve any of the other sustainable development goals or human rights," said Sherifh. "Unless the generation of children and youth in countries like Burkina Faso, Chad, Syria, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Rohingyas receive a 12-year education, we will achieve very little elsewhere in the goals that we have set for ourselves.”
Sherif acknowledges Education Cannot Wait operates in challenging environments that are in a constant state of flux. She says the program can function despite the many crises and conflicts around the world because of its status as a United Nations Fund.
As such, she says the agency has systems and security in place that provide protection. This structure, she says, also enables agency staff to have contact with de facto governments and militia groups they otherwise would not enjoy.