UN and partners called for urgent action on education in emergencies at education summit

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Aisha Khurram, a youth lawyer from Afghanistan, told the Transforming Education Summit that despite suicide bombings and terrorist attacks, she continued her education. She reminded delegates that education was important as food, water and shelter for young people.
  • by Naureen Hossain (United Nations)
  • Inter Press Service

Khurram, a youth advocate from Afghanistan, shared her experiences at the Transforming Education Summit (TES) session on “Education and Learning in Times of Emergencies and Protracted Crises.”

The session was organized by UNICEF, UNESCO, UNHCR, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), Global Partnership for Education and the member states South Sudan and Ecuador. It took place at the UN headquarters in New York on the second day of the summit, called “Solutions Day”.

“Don’t be surprised if I tell you that I survived all these years by accident,” Khurram said. “My school was destroyed several times by suicide bombers and my university was attacked by terrorists, who shot at students in the middle of lectures. And I remember sitting in a place where windows were shattered and walls stained with student blood on them.’

Regardless of the circumstances, she was determined to continue her education.

“But those bullets, bombs and attacks never stopped us from getting our education. Because we knew what the result would be. We knew what was at stake. We’ve seen it first hand. How the absence of education is fueling insecurity and instability in Afghanistan.”

The second day of the Summit was dedicated to launching or scaling up initiatives by the UN and its partners that align with the Summit’s five thematic pathways of action, targets that focus on areas that need more attention, such as designing safer and inclusive schools and education funding.

In the context of education in times of crisis, the aim of the session was to strengthen Member States’ commitments to implement effective evidence-based solutions and to mobilize partners to support Member State-led actions within clearly defined timelines.

Early on in the session, the Commitment to Action: Education in Crisis was put forward, proposing the measures needed to transform education at all stages of planning and implementation in times of need. This would provide education for the most marginalized and vulnerable children and young people affected by emergencies.

His many speakers and diverse experiences made it clear that education should be treated and delivered with the same degree of necessity and urgency as securing food, clean water and health in times of crisis.

The session was moderated by the Director of Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies and Co-Chair, Geneva Hub for Education in Emergencies, Dean Brooks.

“The purpose of this session is to see how we can generate the necessary commitments from partners and mobilize action,” he said.

The speakers present represented the Member States and their partners among UN agencies, civil society organizations and advocates.

Khurram also spoke about the current state of education in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban insurgency in August 2021, reminding attendees that more than 60% of the 4.2 million children out of school were girls. Girls are no longer allowed to go to school in secondary education, a measure that has led to condemnation of the Taliban worldwide.

“An education crisis is a humanitarian crisis,” Khurram said. “Education is just as important as food, water and shelter for young people.”

ECW Executive Director Yasmine Sherif told the session that there was an urgent need to resolve crises, such as those in Afghanistan.

“Because of the multilateralists we have in the United Nations… that we have access to, we can talk to the de facto authorities in Afghanistan. We can talk to the different warring parties, we can follow the different population groups; the children and the young are our number one,” she said. “We are able to reach those who are furthest behind.”

“The UN has a three-decade coordination system that brings together civil society, led by the Ministry of Education, and the United Nations. That is why we bring everyone together, instead of competing, in one joint program.”

ECW research has shown that forced displacement, triggered by emergencies caused by environmental or climate-related disasters, armed conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic, has disrupted the education of more than 222 million children. This includes 78.2 million out-of-school students and at least 120 million students who are in school but lagging behind in reading and maths.

The education sector was severely underfunded. It received only 21% of the requested funds in 2021. That same year, 2.5% of global humanitarian funding was allocated to education, which was below the target of 4%.

This highlights the urgency to fund education to reach the most vulnerable and marginalized children and young people today, now more than ever. This makes the participation and collaboration of multiple stakeholders crucial for the transformation of education.

“Education is underfunded in times of humanitarian crises… We must provide education as development in the humanitarian context. That takes skill, it takes speed and it requires funding,” said Sherif, adding that it would take an estimated $1.5 billion to reach up to 20 million children by funding agencies and programs that work in vulnerable areas.

Member States’ representatives also discussed the need to protect education in times of crisis.

“Education is more than the right to learn,” said Buthaina bint Ali Al-Nuaimi, Qatar’s Minister of Education and Higher Education. “It brings stability… We need to protect the rights of children and young people.”

“We cannot see education as a separate part of health, clean water, sanitation and food,” said Maria Brown Pérez, Ecuador’s education minister.

This session will prepare Member States and partners to commit to the Commitment to Action, which will pave the way for the Spotlight Session on Crisis Situations on the Summit’s Leaders’ Day on September 19.

Report of the IPS UN Office


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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service





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