GCE-US Statement on Education in Crisis and Conflict Settings

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GCE-US Statement on Education in Crisis and Conflict Settings

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Today, GCE-US Executive Director, Dr. Edwin Gragert, with the coalition, released the following statement on education in crisis and conflict settings:

The Global Campaign for Education-U.S. Chapter, a broad-based coalition of over 80 members (1) dedicated to ensuring universal quality education for all children, expresses its serious concerns over the lack of access to education and learning in crisis and conflict settings, and calls on the U.S. Government to increase its financial and political support to address this issue.

Universal access to a quality education and learning is not only a human right, but it plays a critical role in protecting children, providing opportunity, and breaking the cycle of poverty, especially for girls.

For children in crisis situations, education is an absolute necessity.  Education is both life-saving and life sustaining.  In the midst of destruction, violence, and instability, school is a place of learning and opportunity, a sanctuary for healing and health, and a haven of normalcy and hope for the future.  Neglecting their right to education undermines not only their future, but also the future of their societies.  Lack of education leaves children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including recruitment into armed groups, child labor and early marriage.

Sadly, too many children lose access to education because of events beyond their control.  In the 35 countries most affected by violence, 65 million children from age three to 15 are at risk of missing out on learning (2). Over one-third of the world’s out-of-school primary aged population lives in conflict-affected states.  An additional 175 million children are likely to be affected by natural disasters every year, and most of them will face disruption to their schooling (3).

For example, in Syria, one in four schools have been destroyed or damaged, and more than two million children within Syria are out of school.  In addition, more than 700,000 Syrian children in neighboring countries (including Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan) are not in school.  Education systems in refugee-hosting countries face incredible pressures that harm education outcomes for both refugee and host country children.

In Nigeria and surrounding countries, 1.4 million children are on the run due to attacks by Boko Haram and more than 208,000 displaced children aren’t receiving an education.  Students and teachers have been deliberately targeted: more than 300 schools damaged or destroyed, and at least 196 teachers and 314 school children killed by the end of 2014.

In part due to lack of access to education, we are also witnessing hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving on Europe’s shores in a desperate attempt to seek safety and security for themselves and their families.  They are fleeing war-torn homelands, refugee camps and squalid tenements in host countries, where they have limited opportunity to support their families and their children are unable to go to school.

Though the number of children affected by crisis is at an all-time high, global financing for education in emergencies has not kept pace.  Education is consistently the most underfunded and under-prioritized sector in humanitarian response.  On average, less than two percent of humanitarian aid supports education and learning opportunities.  Moreover, less than ten percent of official development aid for education supports children in crisis countries.

We appreciate the U.S. Government’s incredible support and generosity in funding humanitarian response efforts globally.  However, U.S. support for education in emergencies is inconsistent, limited, and hard to track.  According to a recent analysis sponsored by Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council, total reported U.S. Government contributions to humanitarian education (as reported through the OCHA managed Financial Tracking System) amounted to only $25 million in 2014(4). The U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance rarely funds education interventions and does not report on education as a standalone sector in its annual report.  Although we know that funding from other parts of USAID sometimes supports education programming in crisis settings, a full accounting, and understanding, of such programs is not publicly available.

Clearly, more needs to be done to recognize the importance of investing in education and learning programs for displaced children and for communities affected by crisis and conflict.  There are numerous examples of programs that improve access to quality and safe education for children in crises; find creative ways of integrating children back into school, including through informal and alternative education; provide psychosocial assistance for children and training for teachers; and support the development of technical, vocational and life skills training for adolescents and youth.

For example, immediate opportunities exist to support the education of at least one million out of school refugee children in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.  These should be prioritized as a critical part of the response to the Syria crisis (5).  Longer-term efforts to strengthen existing funding mechanisms, rapidly coordinate and deliver education in emergencies, and leverage new financing should also be given urgent attention. In this vein, we strongly urge the U.S. Government to continue to engage in, and make resources available, to support efforts currently underway to find a new solution to bridge the gaps between development and humanitarian aid to education, as a follow-up to the July 2015 Oslo Summit on Education for Development.

We strongly urge the U.S. Government to significantly increase its investment in programs that improve access to quality and safe education for all children in and from conflict and disaster zones and protracted crises; promote efforts to limit disruption to learning during a crisis; find creative ways of integrating children into or back into school, including through informal and alternative education; and support the development of technical, vocational and life skills training for adolescents and youth. We also call for a full accounting of U.S. support for education in emergencies and protracted crises, from all foreign assistance accounts.

By addressing access to education for children and young people in crisis settings, the U.S. and its partners — particularly the Global Partnership for Education and national governments — can ensure that the most vulnerable are provided with hope for the future.



  1. For a list of members of the Global Campaign for Education-US, see https://gce-us.org/members
  2. Overseas Development Institute (2015) Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises: Toward a Strengthened Response (Background paper for the Oslo Summit on Education for Development).
  3. UNESCO (2015). EFA Global Monitoring Report: Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges.
  4. NRC and Save the Children (2015). Walk the Talk: Review of Donors’ Humanitarian Policies on Education Oslo: Avenir Analytics, commissioned by Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children.
  5. A World at School (2015). Scaling Up to Reach One Million Refugee Children: Accelerating Progress on Education for Syrian Refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.