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Collaboration, Innovation, and Flexibility Required to Address Challenges of Education in Crisis
May 30, 2017

Collaboration, Innovation, and Flexibility Required to Address Challenges of Education in Crisis
Expert panelists discuss ways to improve access to and quality in education for refugees and displaced persons.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA (JRS/USA) together with Global Campaign for Education-US (GCE-US) commemorated the one-year anniversary of Education Cannot Wait - a joint, global effort to mobilize collective action and significant funding for education in emergencies - with a panel discussion on Capitol Hill that highlighted the current state of access to education in crisis and conflict settings.

Education Cannot Wait global fund was launched last year at the World Humanitarian summit to join governments, humanitarian actors, and development efforts to deliver a more collaborative and rapid response to the educational needs of children and youth affected by crises.

During the panel discussion held at Russell Senate Office Building, speakers representing USAID, Global Partnership for Education, and the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies stressed the need to adopt flexible and adoptive response to address the challenges of access to education.

Speaking at the event, Executive Director of JRS/USA, David Robinson said “Education plays a vital role for those who are displaced as they will be tasked not only with rebuilding their lives, but rebuilding their communities as well.”

Since our founding 37 years ago, the Jesuit Refugee Service has offered services to forcibly displaced persons. Now operating in more than 45 countries globally, we are rooted in the Jesuit commitment to excellence in education and offer education programs for refugees and other forcibly displaced persons both in refugee camps and in non-camp settings.

“We’re employing methods to ensure that students have access to a quality education, including outreach campaigns to reach out-of-school students, training and professional development opportunities for teachers, and partnerships with local educational institutions to foster integration and livelihoods opportunities,” Robinson said.

However, as conflicts and natural disasters multiply around the world becoming more frequent and protracted, more than 75 million school-age children remain out of school and only less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid goes into education.

“There are faces behind these statistics,” said Alex Palacios, panel participant and Chief of Staff at Global Partnership for Education (GPE) – a global NGO that supports educations programs in 65 developing countries. Palacios explaned that education is a life saving program, and that the lack of access to education could leave a whole society behind, requiring intervention at international level. One example of the work the GPE Is doing is in Yemen where 17,000 schools are damaged due to the ongoing conflict, two million children are out of school, and the international community hadn’t done much. Palacios explained that though the situation is dire, since the establishment of Education Cannot Wait fund, Yemen is one of the countries getting help together with Syria, Afghanistan, Chad, and Central Africa Republic. The fund aims to reach all crisis-affected children and youth with safe, free and quality education by 2030.

Protracted nature of most crises displaces people for an average of 17-20 years and this is one of the challenges Dean Brooks, Director of Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, raised at the event. He also pointed out the need to improve the global data to facilitate a coordinated response. “Even though there are 13.1 million newly displaced people just last year, we still don’t know the number of children and youth,” said Brooks stressing this poses a serious challenge to deliver.

Another speaker, Nina Papadopoulos, Team Lead, Education in Crisis and Conflict at USAID, also noted that there were challenges in getting education to children in crisis. She explained that the the need for flexibility is vital, as no two USAID education programs look the same. She also explained that it’s important that education be addressed immediately, as studies have shown that the longer children are out of school, the harder it is to get them back in the classroom.

All panel participants encouraged global coordination, through efforts such as the Education Cannot Wait fund, and a continued focus on education in crisis and emergencies.

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