Fri, 01 Jul 2022

By Joyce Chimbi

"We speak of the 222 million dreams representing each 222 million children and adolescents sustaining the extreme hardship of emergencies and protracted crises. Their dreams are profoundly driven by their experience of wars and forced displacement. This is our moment to empower them to turn their dreams into reality." Yasmine Sherif, Director, ECW

Students attending class at the Souza Gare school in the Littoral region, Cameroon. The school hosts displaced children who have fled the violence in the North-West and South-West regions. Photo credits: ECW/Daniel Beloumou

Students attending class at the Souza Gare school in the Littoral region, Cameroon. The school hosts displaced children who have fled the violence in the North-West and South-West regions. Photo credits: ECW/Daniel Beloumou

Nairobi, Jun 22 2022 (IPS) - It is not enough that they were robbed of their childhoods and their shattered young lives defined by bombs, bloodshed and death. Now, crisis-impacted school-aged children are falling off the academic bridge that could lead them out of the carnage.

Not only has the number of crisis-impacted school-aged children requiring education support grown from an estimated 75 million in 2016 to 222 million today, but they are also furthest left behind proficiency standards, according to a new report by the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW).

A young Palestinian refugee attends school in Lebanon. Photo credits: ECW/ Fouad Choufany

A young Palestinian refugee attends school in Lebanon.

Photo credits: ECW/ Fouad Choufany

"Around the world, 222 million children are having their education cruelly interrupted. Their dreams for the future are snatched away by conflicts, displacement and climate disasters, UN's Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The study paints an alarming picture of the academic life of crisis-impacted children inside makeshift refugee settlements, damaged classroom walls and communities torn apart by war and disaster.

Of the 222 million crisis-affected children and adolescents in need of urgent education support, "an estimated 78.8 million are out of school. Close to 120 million are in school but not achieving minimum proficiency in math or reading. One in ten crisis-impacted children attending primary or secondary education is achieving proficiency standards.

Further, 84 percent of out-of-school, crisis-affected children and adolescents live in protracted crises. Of these, about two-thirds are in ten countries, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen. These countries are also specifically targeted through ECW's ground-breaking multi-year investments.

Student attending class at a local school in Ungheni, Moldova. The school hosts Ukraine refugee children who attend class with Moldovan pupils. Photo credits: ECW

Student attending class at a local school in Ungheni, Moldova. The school hosts Ukraine refugee children who attend class with Moldovan pupils.

Photo credits: ECW

The war in Ukraine is pushing even more children out of school, with recent estimates indicating the conflict has impacted 5.7 million school-aged children. Behind these numbers, millions of vulnerable girls and boys worldwide await a global collective action.

The ECW study shows the response to education in emergencies, and protracted crises remains chronically underfunded and that the funding gap appears to have worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

In response to the urgent global education crisis, ECW and strategic partners launched the #222MillionDreams resource mobilization campaign in Geneva on July 21, 2022.

"This is a global call to action: we speak of the 222 million dreams representing each 222 million children and adolescents sustaining the extreme hardship of emergencies and protracted crises. Their dreams are profoundly driven by their experience of wars and forced displacement.

"This is our moment to empower them to turn their dreams into reality," said Yasmine Sherif, Director, ECW.

"While the world struggles with the devastating impacts of armed conflicts, COVID-19 and climate change, 222 million children and adolescents live through these horrific experiences. They dream to become their full potential rather than a victim. Do not let them down. It is our duty to empower them through quality education and to help make their dreams come true."

As such, the campaign calls on donors, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and high-net-worth individuals to urgently mobilize more resources to scale up ECW's investments, which are already delivering quality education to over 5 million children across more than 40 crisis-affected countries.

"In the face of these crises, the UN's fund for education in emergencies, ECW, is standing with children across 40 countries. We need governments, businesses, foundations and individuals to support the vital work of ECW," says Guterres.

"We need their ideas and innovations as we look ahead to September's Transforming Education Summit. Help us place education within reach of every child, everywhere. Help us keep 222 million dreams alive."

Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the ECW High-Level Steering Group, says the financial resources to ensure every child and young person can receive a quality education is attainable.

"Now, we need to take responsible action for the 222 million children and youth in emergencies and protracted crises. Governments, the private sector, and foundations can and must unlock these resources. Only then can we empower them to reach their potentials and realize their dreams," he said.

The campaign stresses that it will be too late for children waiting for wars or climate crises to end to have the opportunity to learn and thrive. Acting now empowers crisis-impacted children with the tools they need to become positive change-makers through safe, inclusive, quality education.

"In times of crisis, children experience uncertainty with regard to their future and are faced with a total disruption of their routines. Going to school provides children with protection, a sense of normalcy and hope and is a means to provide longer-term perspectives," says Patricia Danzi, Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

"We know that after school disruption and closures, many children will not continue their education. Switzerland is committed to contribute to reducing the risk of lost generations through its support of education in emergencies. We are thus partnering with ECW."

Global leaders have committed to "ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all" through the 2030 Agenda for SDG 4. The new estimates indicate that COVID-19 and other factors have derailed two decades of education gains.

According to the UN, basic school infrastructure is lacking in many Least Developed Countries. Only 54% of schools have access to safe drinking water, 33% have reliable electricity, and 40% have hand washing facilities.

Students attending class at a school near Mugina in Cibitoke Province, an area that has experienced a rise in landslides due to climate change in Burundi. Photo credits: ECW/Amizero

Students attending class at a school near Mugina in Cibitoke Province, an area that has experienced a rise in landslides due to climate change in Burundi.

Photo credits: ECW/Amizero

In light of these needs, Guterres is convening the "Transforming Education Summit" in September 2022. The Summit seeks to "mobilize political ambition, action, solutions and solidarity to transform education: to take stock of efforts to recover pandemic-related learning losses; to reimagine education systems for the world of today and tomorrow, and to revitalize national and global efforts to achieve SDG4."

With the urgent need to respond to the significant education needs of vulnerable boys and girls trapped in emergencies and protracted crises, the #222MillionDreams campaign encourages people everywhere to call on world leaders and world-leading businesses to act now.

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