Let’s not forget those in crisis contexts on World Children’s Day

Published by
Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)
Written by
Kate Moriarty
Out of School
Coronavirus (COVID-19)

For children and young people affected by crisis, education is one of their highest priorities and key to unlocking their potential.

Today we mark World Children’s Day, a day to celebrate the rights of children and young people, to understand their concerns, their demands, and their hopes. 

Education is part of their story. 

For the majority of the world’s children, education is part of their everyday routine, an opportunity to grow and learn. For many children and young people – across all contexts - school is also a place to feel protected and feel safe. 

2020 been a year when nearly all children and young people around the world have faced the threat of the COVID-19 virus and the challenges and stresses that it brings to their families and communities. Hundreds of millions of them have been -  and continue to be - shut out of school due to the pandemic. The full impact of COVID-19 related school closures is yet unknown, but many acute impacts are clear: loss of learning, lack of access to wider services like nutrition, health care, and protection, to name a few. Balanced and contextualized decision making on school closures and reopening is therefore key.


20th anniversary report coverIn the midst of this global education emergency, we must not forget the millions who have already had their education interrupted by conflict and environmental disasters, and those who have never even set foot in a classroom. New data published last week in our anniversary report  ‘20 Years of INEE: Achievements and Challenges in Education in Emergencies’ shows that humanitarian emergencies have a devastating impact on access to, and completion of, a quality education. Nearly half of all the world’s out of school children and young people live in crisis-affected countries (based on analysis of data provided by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics). In 2019, 127 million primary and secondary aged children and young people living in crisis-affected countries were denied their right to education. 

Yet we know that for children and young people affected by crisis, education is one of their highest priorities and key to unlocking their potential. 

“Education for us children is the hope we will be able to have a better future, with better opportunities and the opportunities to select other paths than that of violence.” 

-- Jhon Freidy, youth from Colombia, speaking at INEE 20th anniversary event   

Click the video to hear Jhon Freidy’s remarks and more as part of the INEE 20th Anniversary event on 9 November 2020.

For primary aged children, the situation is most stark. Three quarters of primary aged children who are out of school live in crisis-affected countries. Adolescent girls are even more likely to bear the impact of crisis, and fare particularly badly when compared to their peers in other non-crisis contexts, with over half adolescent girls of upper secondary school age out of school in crisis-affected countries. The new data published in our report highlights the devastating impact that crises have on girls and young women who are more likely to be out of school, leaving them vulnerable to early marriage, pregnancy, and sexual exploitation. 

For the child or young person growing up in a context affected by conflict or crisis, their right to quality education is still highly unpredictable. Crises are on the rise and are becoming more protracted. Yet as needs for education have grown as a result, the funding has not kept pace. This suggests that, while global initiatives have increased the visibility of education in humanitarian funding requests, their success in translating this into funding has been limited. Funding for education in emergencies continues to lag behind the 4 percent of humanitarian aid funding proposed by the Global Education First Initiative in 2012, and is considerably less than the European Union’s more recent target of 10 percent. Spending on education also continues to lag far behind other sectors.

This means that opportunities for education for children and young people depend on where they live, and/or on whether they live in a crisis context that is of interest to funders. It also depends on whether they are a child or young person with disabilities, or a girl, or from a low-income family. 

“I love school a lot but I can’t go there…I feel bad I want to go to school.”

-- Osama, child in Syrian, in INEE Member Stories video

Click the video to see Osama and others in the 'Member Stories' video made for INEE's 20th anniversary.

Ultimately, their education and protection, their ability to reach their full potential and have hope for the future, depends on the political will of their own or their host country government, donors, and the international community. 

To ensure children and young people affected by crises are not left further behind and are able to enjoy their right to quality education, the following actions must be prioritized:

  1. Education must receive its fair share of humanitarian funding, including an increase in the current target of 4 percent of humanitarian aid going to education. 
  2. The international education aid architecture (humanitarian and development) must work in a consistent and predictable way to ensure that education needs in forgotten crises are met. 
  3. Quality education can be provided in crisis situations by investing in teachers and expanding research  
  4. Education in emergencies actors must prepare to respond rapidly to crises and to draw from local knowledge and expertise. 

INEE, now 20 years old, is more equipped and determined than ever to continue the fight to ensure quality education for all children and young people affected by crisis. Read more in our anniversary report, and join us at inee.org.