Educational Access for All: The Education Cannot Wait Fund

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BOZEMAN, Montana — The importance of accessible education cannot be understated as education provides a vital framework for overall international development. These educational opportunities promote sustainable personal development for each individual, leading to advanced community involvement and contributions that can break cycles of poverty and strengthen societies as a whole. The Agenda for Humanity suggests that “75 million school-aged children and youth are in desperate need of educational support,” while noting that education receives less than 2% of humanitarian funding. Current data indicates that with 1.8 billion of funding in 2021, the Education Cannot Wait fund is capable of providing, “Life-transforming dividends for nine million children and adolescents while also accelerating progress for all SDGs.”

Education Cannot Wait in Chad

At the end of 2019, the Education Cannot Wait fund launched a new initiative in Chad, a region faced with increasing educational concerns amid widespread conflict within its borders as well as with the neighboring nations of Sudan and the Central African Republic. This nation currently ranks second last on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index based on factors such as education and health and how these factors influence economic potential.

This low ranking reflects in UNICEF’s recent data, reporting that only 19% of girls and 40% of boys have access to lower secondary education while only 10% of girls complete this lower secondary education. In total, UNICEF has determined that 2.3 million of the total 4.3 million people needing humanitarian assistance in Chad are children. The Education Cannot Wait fund has directed funding toward these 2.3 million children to create a sustainable impact for overall national development.

In collaboration with UNICEF, the Education Cannot Wait fund focuses on reintegrating children back into schools, training for different trade skills development, improving learning environments and training teachers. Other guidelines are also in place to improve overall educational stability. The previous investment from 2017-2019 reached 186,000 total children, trained more than 1,000 educators and constructed or rehabilitated 150 classrooms.

Assisting in Lebanon

At the start of 2021, the Education Cannot Wait fund allocated $1.5 million in funding to Lebanon through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Dating back to the Palestine War in 1948, the number of Palestinian refugees has grown to more than seven million displaced worldwide. This issue has been historically exacerbated by frequent conflict in Israel as well as the refusal of the Israeli government to allow these refugees back into the country after fleeing or exile. For the majority of refugees entering Lebanon, the only option is to live inside UNRWA camps with strict restrictions from the Lebanese government including limited access to healthcare and education.

This new initiative provides direct support to children within these refugee camps and adds $1.5 million to the previous $1.5 million apportioned to Lebanon for emergency relief for schools damaged during an explosion in Beirut and the $2.8 million COVID-19 response to stabilize education in 2020. Specifically, the previous $1.5 million in emergency relief funding supported rebuilding 40 schools in Beirut, which allowed more than 30,000 children to return to school.

This most recent program focuses on providing a safe and healthy school environment for vulnerable refugee children as well as supporting the retention of children already in schools by providing necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to continue safe schooling during the pandemic. Providing educational access and opportunities for advancement allow these Palestinian refugee children to continue academic growth despite these dire circumstances.

Improving Education in Burkina Faso

The Education Cannot Wait fund has also recently implemented an additional multi-year program focused on improving educational opportunities for the children of Burkina Faso. Citizens of Burkina Faso as well as around 20,000 Malian refugees face ongoing nationwide violence causing massive population displacement and instability. In 2020 alone, more than 450,000 people were displaced due to widespread armed conflict and frequent violence perpetrated against civilians.

This national security emergency has led to the closure of more than 2,500 schools impacting roughly 350,000 students. Thus far, the Education Cannot Wait fund has provided $11.1 million in funding to be directly implemented by both UNICEF and Enfants du Monde. In this region of increasing violence, funding from this program aims to provide safe and protective learning environments and takes a holistic approach to provide support for students’ mental health, psychosocial health and nutrition.

The violence-afflicted regions of Boucle de Mouhoun, Centre-East, Centre-North, East, North and Sahel are the primary recipients of this initial round of funding with the aim of reaching 144,000 children in total. The Education Cannot Wait Fund also aims to raise another $48 million in additional funding from public and private donors to reach more than 800,000 targeted children in the region. Education reduces the risk of these children becoming involved in the ongoing armed conflict. It also reduces the risk of child marriage, child labor and early pregnancy. It instead allows students to reach their full potential and create positive change.

Education as a Key to Poverty Reduction

The Education Cannot Wait fund focuses on improving national instability by addressing unequal access to education as a root cause. As shown with the new programs in Chad, Lebanon and Burkina Faso, this global fund aims to provide safe and sustainable educational access to promote keeping children in school and out of cycles of poverty and violence. Providing educational access in nations ravaged by violence, poverty, natural disasters and other emergencies promotes an upcoming generation of qualified individuals with the skills to promote positive change within their respective communities. This allows countries to combat emergencies with their own resources, reducing the need for international aid and increasing overall national security.

Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

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