Children demand world leaders step up as donor conference raises about half of $1.5 bln target to boost education in emergencies
GENEVA/ LONDON, 16 February 2023 – Children are calling on world leaders to step up and invest in their futures after today’s donor conference raised just over half of the US$1.5 billion target needed to increase access to education in some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, Save the Children said.
Donor countries pledged about US$826mln towards the appeal at the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference in Geneva. Children at the forum told Save the Children that leaders need to listen to children in crisis, and prioritise funding to ensure all children have access to safe, quality education.
“School is our second home, and it is one of the places where we spend the most time, so leaders need to make sure that it is a safe space for every child,” said Ana Sofía*, 14, from Colombia - one of the most dangerous places to go to school. “If we had more resources, we would feel safer, and there wouldn't be so many school dropouts because we wouldn't be afraid to go to school.”
When children do not go to school, they miss out on the chance for a bright future. For children in emergencies, education is often a lifeline and gives them a sense of normalcy and safety.
Last week’s deadly earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria halted the education of millions of children. Thousands of buildings have been damaged and destroyed, including children’s homes and schools. Education in Syria was already hard hit by 12 years of conflict, with over two million children out of school at the beginning of this year.
In south-eastern Türkiye, Syrian refugee children who were already experiencing high dropout rates and a lack of quality education, now face the risk of never returning to the classroom without urgent funding.
Conflict, climate change and the aftermath of COVID-19 are disrupting the education of 222 million school-aged children around the world. Yet, children overwhelmingly identify the opportunity to go to school and learn at times of crisis as their top priority above all else.
Nafisa*, 17, from Nigeria, told Save the Children that the biggest issues facing children could be tackled if world leaders actually listened to what children had to say.
“Children have the right for their voices to be heard. When children speak up for themselves and address the issues they’re facing, their problems can be eradicated,” said Nafisa. “Education is very important for all children as we are the leaders of tomorrow.”
Nafisa started advocating for education for girls in Nigeria after seeing how the ongoing conflict in the northeast of the country was negatively impacting children, especially girls.
She added: “Girls who are forced to early marriage have the right to be educated, but this right has been deprived. They deserve to be educated because we need role models that make our dreams come true.”
Birgitte Lange, CEO of Save the Children Norway and Save the Children’s representative at the conference, said:
“Education is a fundamental right for every child and that right does not end in times of emergency. Today’s announcement of US$826mln pledged for Education Cannot Wait is a landmark milestone for the financing of education in emergencies, but we are disappointed that just over half of what is needed was pledged.
“Nearly one in every 10 children’s education around the world is being affected by conflict, climate change and COVID-19. These children need world leaders to step up and invest in their futures, instead too many donors fall short of expectations and the scale of urgency required.
“The amount pledged today must be used as a springboard to bring more donors on board and top up existing pledges. Otherwise, millions of children living in some of the toughest and most complex crises will ultimately pay the price and continue to miss out on an education.”
Save the Children is calling on leaders to listen to children’s demands and urgently step up to meet the full US$1.5 billion target. A pathway to fully-funding Education Cannot Wait still remains in sight.
Save the Children runs education programmes around the world to ensure children keep learning no matter what.
*Names changed to protect privacy
Notes to Editors:
- In Colombia, more than 90,000 children, teachers and caregivers have been supported by Save the Children for a safe return to school. Save the Children’s Catch-up Clubs in Colombia help children catch-up on missed learning, with 81% of boys and girls have reached the highest level of reading and writing skills.
- Colombia is one of the most dangerous places to go to school , with attacks on schools spiking during the pandemic. Access to education is especially difficult for children who have fled to Colombia, with 29% of Venezuela refugee and migrant children out of school in 2022. Three quarters of refugees and migrants from Venezuela struggle to access basic services in Latin America and the Caribbean | R4V
- In Nigeria, Save the Children plays a key role in improving access to education for vulnerable, marginalised out of school children, adolescents, girls, boys and children living with disabilities. In the Northeast, we are enabling children affected by conflict to access safe learning opportunities by providing temporary learning spaces for children, supporting re-enrollment of out of school children, and strengthening the recovering education system through teacher training.
- In the last three years, Save the Children has supported more than 3,000 Syrian refugees in Hatay, Türkiye, with education activities to help prevent them from dropping out of school.
- In Syria, Save the Children supported more than 55,800 children through education activities in 2022.
- Syria Earthquake Response: Education Cannot Wait Announces US$7 Million First Emergency Response Grant and Calls on World Leaders to Provide Matching Contributions for Education Response
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