Yasmine Sherif in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with refugee children from the Central African Republic. Credit: Education Cannot Wait (ECW) NEW YORK, Jun 19 (IPS) – The funding could reduce the number of extracurricular accommodations to zero, says Yasmine Sherif, director of Education Cannot Wait (ECW), as the world commemorates World Refugee Day .
In an in-depth, exclusive interview with IPS in New York, Sherif shared her vision of a world in which the dignity and the right to believe in better prospects are repatriated child refugees – something that she believes can be achieved through education.
“If you sit down and listen to young refugees in Bangladesh, Colombia, Lebanon or Uganda, the vast majority will tell you that they dream of becoming someone who leads a better life, who helps others, who helps their communities or theirs is served by the country, ”says Sherif. “They know that the way to get there is through training. They understand the value of an education. That is their hope. This is her dream. ”
Sherif documents the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the escalation of violence in Palestine and the ongoing conflicts on child refugees, especially in the past year.
An astonishing 128 million children and young people urgently need help, 75 million more than before the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the funding of millions of people already affected by conflict, record displacements and climate shocks,” she says. “For these children, COVID-19 is one crisis after another. 79.5 million people are currently on the run, more than ever since World War II. Almost half – 34 million – of the displaced are children and young people and 48 percent of all school-age refugee children do not go to school. ”
Many of the displaced have never set foot in a classroom, she says.
“Most of them haven’t had an education for so long that they now lack the most basic skills in reading, writing and math.”
Sherif speaks about the recent escalation of violence in Palestine, which has been particularly severe for the organization as ECW lost 66 children in Gaza.
“Nine entire families were struck from the registry office,” she says, including Obaida, a 17-year-old from Hebron in the Aroub refugee camp in the West Bank.
“We have a video of Obaida from our program that talks about his aspirations, dreams and fears. Now he’s dead. It’s heartbreaking to see these fears manifest, ”she says. “Here we are all trying to support these already vulnerable, suffering, but heroic children and young people, only to see them die before our eyes.”
Long-term conflict exacerbates the refugee crisis, and long-term ECW projects are working with some success to provide education to some vulnerable young displaced persons – but educating girls remains a challenge.
Cameroon, for example, is home to almost 447,000 refugees and asylum seekers, most of them from the Central African Republic (CAR), but also from Nigeria.
“While the school attendance of CAR refugees in Cameroon has generally risen from 40 to 46 percent in the last seven years, the school attendance of girls has not increased significantly due to the usual socio-cultural and protective barriers,” says Sherif.
Girls are left behind, she confirms.
“Refugee girls are often exposed to layers of disadvantage and vulnerability. For this reason, the ECW has committed itself to increasing the proportion of girls who are supported by its program to 60% of the total children reached. ”
However, Sherif warns that a funding gap could hamper ECW’s efforts.
“Our funding gap for 2021-2023 is $ 400 million to maintain the same level of commitment to these children and youth who have been most lagged behind in the crisis,” she says. “The additional $ 400 million will help ECW reach an additional 4.5 million children and will benefit young people – including 2.7 million girls – affected by conflict, climate change and COVID-19 over the next three years an apprenticeship. ”
As the world ponders the plight of refugee children on World Refugee Day 2021, Sherif asks:
“Isn’t it a shame that we as a human family fail to reduce the number of refugees dropping out of school to zero and to increase girls’ access to quality education to 100%? This is something that can be done. It is possible with financing. ”
IPS: In commemoration of World Refugee Day on June 20 – which this year has the motto “Heal, Learn and Shine Together” – there is a special focus on the education of refugee children. How important is education as an element of normality in crises in which children often have to flee alone, but also with their families due to violent conflicts? YS: When families with their children are at such risk that they have no choice but to run for their lives and even cross the border to another country for safety and protection, you can imagine how her life has become unusual. This anomaly traumatizes children and adolescents. It paralyzes them with fear, impairs their feeling of security and personal security, makes it difficult for them to concentrate and think clearly. They worry about what’s next and how much more they’ll have to go through before it’s all over.
All they have left is their will to survive, and that means hope and dreams. If you sit down and listen to young refugees in Bangladesh, Colombia, Lebanon, or Uganda, the vast majority will tell you that they dream of becoming someone who leads a better life, who helps others, their communities, or their serves country. They know that the way to get there is through training. They understand the value of an education. That is their hope. This is your dream.
For these refugee children and young people, education is the only chance for normalcy. It is vital to their mental health, physical protection, and development. What’s the alternative? They sit and wait for the crisis to pass 10-20 years later and they can go home. Well, most conflicts last even longer. Look at Afghanistan or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are talking about decades and generations. It is unacceptable for the world in the 21st century to keep them waiting.
Yasmine Sherif in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with refugee children from the Central African Republic. Credit: Education Can’t Wait (ECW)
Now look at the numbers of their reality: 48 percent of refugees do not go to school today. These numbers are even more evident in girls and older students. Only 27 percent of girls in secondary education are in training and only 3 percent of all refugees are in higher education.
One should ask the question: Isn’t it inconceivable that a world so rich in resources, so rich among those who have so much and are so modernized, cannot fulfill the basic human right to education in this way? Isn’t it a shame that we as a human family fail to reduce the number of out-of-school refugees to zero and to increase girls’ access to quality education to 100%? This is something that can be done. It is possible with funding.
IPS: Many countries that host refugee children and adolescents have benefited from the ECW programs – including Afghanistan, Uganda, Bangladesh and Chad. They also have programs in Colombia, for example for Venezuelan refugees. This includes several multi-year programs for refugees and displaced children. Did Covid-19 affect the fundraising for the projects? Are there sufficient funds available, and if not, what needs to be done? YS: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted funding for millions of people already affected by conflict, record displacements and climate shocks. According to the United Nations, 235 million people worldwide will be dependent on humanitarian aid and protection in 2021 alone – an increase of 40 percent in one year. Among those in urgent need of help are 128 million children and young people whose education was interrupted by humanitarian crises, compared to 75 million before the pandemic broke out. For these children, COVID-19 is one crisis after another. 79.5 million people are currently on the run, more than ever since World War II. Almost half – 34 million – of the displaced are children and young people, and 48 percent of all school-age refugee children do not go to school. Most of them have been out of school for so long that they are now lacking the most basic skills in reading, writing and math. Many who were forced to leave their homes at a young age have never set foot in a classroom.
That brings us back to the solution: the financing. Despite encouraging progress in recent years, education for displaced children and adolescents is still severely underfunded as, according to UNESCO, only a third of current funding needs are met. Improving education funding for refugees and internally displaced persons therefore requires bringing together humanitarian and development aid in line with commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the Refugee Global Compact.
Gone are the days when humanitarian workers on one end of the spectrum and development actors on the other end of the spectrum contributed. The time is over when silos and competition for funding take over cooperation and coordination and a more enlightened awareness of cooperation arises for others to stay.
For this reason, Education Cannot Wait was created. To end the silos and competition, to bring humanitarian and development actors together through the coordination system established by the United Nations to work together on collective outcomes, which in the education sector means learning outcomes. Education is a developing sector, but funding cannot be limited to children and young people living in traditional development environments.
ECW brings a development sector into a crisis or humanitarian environment. In addition to a crisis-sensitive approach, this requires a much greater understanding of the abnormal context and a much stronger commitment to cooperation, joint programming, coordination and, above all, significantly higher funding.
As such, the primary strategic goal of ECW is to instill political will, which translates into more funding through higher funding levels as well as multi-year and predictable funding. Only in this way can we ensure that refugees are guaranteed to become part of the national education system and only then can all those in emergency situations be reached who are otherwise considered “unreachable” due to the abnormalities of a crisis context. So far, we have seen an upward trend in financing and, as a result, reached a considerable number of children and young people with a child-friendly, high-quality education in a very short time. Still, it is nowhere near sufficient or adequate. Millions more are still waiting for an inclusive high-quality education.
By combining the funds raised into the ECW Trust Fund and the funds used in the country for ECW’s multiannual resilience programs, ECW has mobilized 1.5 billion. Thanks to close cooperation with our strategic donors and emergency actors on site and within the humanitarian coordination structure, we were also able to increase humanitarian funding from 2.4% to 5.1%.
Still, the ECW’s funding situation requires strong donor action to step in and ensure that ECW is well funded for 2021 and beyond to meet its multi-year funding commitments. If all previous multi-year resilience programs of the ECW had been fully financed, our investments would have reached 16 million children and young people instead of the previous 5 million – albeit a considerable number given the short duration.
Everything revolves around funding. The system, the structure, the partnerships, the coordination mechanisms, the joint programs, the speed, the governance structure and above all the willingness and expertise of all our partners in government, civil society, UN organizations and local communities are in place. The ECW model as a catalytic fund is now a proven model based on external evaluations and actual results.
Our funding gap for 2021-2023 is $ 400 million to maintain the same level of commitment to these children and youth who have been most lagged behind in the crisis. This is a humble calculation to take into account the economic recession resulting from COVID-19. We have tried to meet our strategic donor partners, current and new, halfway as we are all equally committed. The additional $ 400 million will help ECW reach an additional 4.5 million children, and young people – including 2.7 million girls – affected by conflict, climate change and COVID-19 will receive one over the next three years Training.
IPS: As ECW Director, you recently visited the DR Congo and urged the world to take note of the dire circumstances affecting 200,000 children and young people in the ongoing crisis in the DRC. They estimated it needed $ 45.3 million. How does education help young girls faced with early marriages, GBV, and many other trauma?
YS: You have to go to the refugees to understand what they are going through. Go to them. Be with them. Listen to them. This is what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and I did when we met the refugees who came to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from the Central African Republic. We could also see the tremendous commitment of the government, UNHCR, UNICEF and a number of civil society organizations working hand in hand with host communities and refugees to make a difference: build schools, train teachers, provide quality learning materials, etc. What In turn, they need funding more than anything.
Yasmine Sherif with Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Credit: Education Cannot Wait (ECW) In other parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is a large country affected by multiple and long-lasting crises, as in many places around the world, women and girls are significantly disadvantaged by pre-existing ones harmful gender norms, gender discrimination, and the low social status of women and girls, which contribute to high rates of gender-based violence such as sexual, physical, emotional or economic violence, as well as harmful traditional practices such as child marriage. The ongoing displacement of the population, insecurity and conflicts exacerbate the cycle of violence against women and girls.
The consequences of GBV are severe and often life threatening. We know that exposure to GBV can lead to serious negative health outcomes such as HIV / AIDS and STI infections, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, maternal and child mortality, and even suicide. Aftermath of GBV can also lead to emotional and psychological distress, such as post-traumatic stress and depression. Social stigma, rejection, and isolation are very common for gender-specific survivors, who are often blamed for what happened to them. As a result of this stigma, most survivors never report the incident. When it comes to education, the physical and psychosocial effects of gender-based violence have consequences for learning, attendance, whereabouts and performance.
Education plays a key role in combating and ending gender-based violence. Schools provide a safe space for girls and boys where harmful norms that encourage gender inequality and sexual violence can be challenged in order to promote gender equality and prevent sexual violence. Identifying and addressing the risks and barriers of gender-based violence related to access and retention in educational services in order to ensure safe and protective learning environments for girls, boys and teachers reduces the risk of school-related gender-based violence and increases access and retention in schools thus reducing the risk of exposure to gender-based violence in the family and in the community or by other third parties (e.g. armed groups).
In addition, education can address the root causes of gender inequalities and help transform harmful gender roles, norms and norms through community mobilization, teacher training, gender awareness raising among girls and boys, and the development of gender equality curricula Convert power relations into positive norms. Forecasts show that only 1 in 3 girls in crisis countries will have completed secondary school by 2030; 1 out of 5 girls in crisis countries will not be able to read a simple sentence, and girls in crisis countries only receive an average of 8.5 years of education in their lifetime.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than a third of girls marry before they turn 18 and around 10 percent are married before they turn 15. This number is related to lack of access to education, which makes marriage more likely, and one reason girls are prevented from getting or staying in an education in the first place. Still, the impact of raising a girl doesn’t stop with her. The knowledge, skills, and empowerment it provides are vital to the fate of any community or country. According to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), for every additional year of secondary education a girl receives, child mortality falls by 10% and her country’s resilience to climate disasters improves by 3.2 points.
Before the recent influx of around 92,000 refugees into the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2021, there were already over 173,000 refugees from the Central African Republic. UNHCR continues to register all CAR refugees, but preliminary figures show that around 70 percent of primary school children did not have access to education prior to arriving in the DRC, and only 5 percent of children aged 12-17 had secondary school had visited. The First Emergency Response Grant, which ECW made available during the UNHCR / ECW mission to deal with the refugee emergency in the Central African Republic, supports primary and secondary education, in particular equal access for girls, school capacity for teachers and the development of school infrastructure. With the resources available, when it matters most, we can make a difference.
IPS: Apart from the programs mentioned above, refugee girls – in Africa, Asia and elsewhere – very often remain the furthest behind. Many are often not only survivors of armed conflict, but also of gender-based violence (GBV). How is her trauma treated in ECW programs? YS: Refugee girls are often disadvantaged and vulnerable. For this reason, the ECW has committed to increasing the proportion of girls supported by its program to 60% of the total number of children reached. We also recognize that both girls and boys who have experienced the trauma of conflict are more vulnerable and may be poorly prepared for class. ECW therefore supports a holistic approach that prioritizes physical safety and psychosocial support in addition to the learning outcomes.
The ECW’s whole-girl-child approach helps create referral channels to professional help for those affected by gender-based violence; it strengthens the ability of teachers to teach in a gender-sensitive manner; It creates spatial space that is appropriate and accommodating to girls’ needs and helps prioritize the recruitment of female teachers who are themselves some of the best lawyers and role models for girls in crisis.
As highlighted in the ECW Gender Strategy (2018-2021) and the ECW Gender Policy (2019-2021), we are committed to addressing gender-based violence in all of our investments with our partners. This leads to a number of measures, such as: B. A mandatory gender analysis in all ECW investments, assessing and identifying the different needs of girls and boys, including an analysis of the access to and physical safety of learning environments to identify risks of gender-based violence, and the ability of educational staff to Address the risks of GBV and securely transfer survivors. Such analysis becomes an integral part of program design, program implementation, and the measurement of results and actual results.
In Afghanistan and South Sudan, to name a few examples, ECW investments are aligned with the National Girls’ Education Strategies, which aim to address the root causes of gender inequality and gender-based violence through education. As protection is another priority of ECW, our investments add an extra dimension that is so important in crisis countries by making the environment in and around schools safe and gender free through risk reduction measures and capacity development of educational staff, school safety plans, codes Violence of behavior and education and at the same time advocate respect for international law and the declaration on safe schools.
IPS: Refugee and forcibly displaced communities have also faced the challenge of COVID-19 for the past 18 months, with many communities locked down. How has COVID-19 affected the ECW programs and what measures is the ECW taking to combat the pandemic? YS: The COVID-19 pandemic created a double emergency. Already disadvantaged by the crisis, COVID-19 has made the barriers between children and adolescents and their education complex and increased. In light of what could lead to lost generations in crisis countries, ECW concentrated its resources where this dual emergency is most likely to address the already abnormal conditions for school-age children and adolescents, with a focus on refugees, girls and children with disabilities. Thanks to our First Emergency Response Window and the strong collective support of our Executive Committee, ECW was able to quickly and easily reprogram existing multi-year plans to respond to the crisis. At unprecedented pace, ECW had allocated $ 23 million to support 9 million girls and boys at risk who had quick access to distance learning, classroom safety protocols, water, sanitation and hygiene to prevent and prevent further spread of the disease Disorder preventing their training.
IPS: Do these countries and communities that host refugee children have enough trained educators and carers to provide them with the quality support they need? How does ECW help meet these challenges? YS: Next to the parents (considering that many children and young people have lost either one or both parents due to conflicts, separations on the run, etc.), teachers are the greatest contributors to a child’s education and development. However, in many of the countries where ECW operates, there are simply too few qualified teachers trained to provide quality teaching. ECW’s investments help education ministries improve the capacities of existing teacher cohorts, recruit and train new teachers, and advance the professional development of volunteers, facilitators and teachers, which often includes refugee teachers.
As teachers themselves are often victims of conflict and displacement, ECW investments are also focused on the well-being of teachers. They are mentors and bearers of hope for their students and yet they too have often experienced the same consequences of a crisis as the girls and boys in their classrooms. Teaching in support groups and personal wellbeing training not only helps teachers deal with difficult circumstances, but also helps their own wellbeing.
IPS: ECW has programs in Palestine that were exposed to air strikes on Gaza last month. How has the conflict affected your projects in the region? You and your team recently visited Lebanon, where Palestine refugees have been housed for decades. How has the recent and long-term conflict and insecurity in the region affected the number of displaced people and how are your programs dealing with them? YS: The escalation of the conflict in the Middle East is extremely worrying and alarming. Everywhere you turn your head you see innocent people struggling and suffering in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya and Palestine without adequate solutions and courageous support.
ECW operates on multi-year funding in all of these countries in the region, as is now the case in Syria and Palestine and is currently being developed for Iraq, Lebanon and Libya. We have eight first emergency aid measures active in all of these countries, which address both Covid19 and the specific escalation of crises in places such as Gaza, northern Syria, the coastal governorates of Yemen, the Beirut explosion and the refugee crisis in Iraq, Lebanon and Libya.
In Palestine, the recent escalation was particularly severe as we lost 66 children in Gaza, many of whom were part of the ECW program – 9 entire families were cleared from the registry office – Obaida, a 17 year old from Hebron, Aroub Refugee, too Camp in the West Bank was killed this week. We have a video of Obaida from our program that talks about his aspirations, dreams and fears. Now he’s dead. It is heartbreaking to see these fears manifest. The Norwegian Refugee Council speaks of similar losses, as does UNRWA. Here we are all trying to support these already vulnerable, suffering, but heroic children and young people, only to see them die before our eyes.
In response to the crisis in the Gaza Strip, ECW is now launching further emergency aid with UNRWA and UNICEF to provide MHPSS and catch-up education over the summer to 50,000 children hardest hit by the recent attacks, especially those in the 8,000 families that have lost their home. The investment will also help repair and equip around 30 slightly damaged schools so that the new school year can resume on time in September.
The support of UNRWA, UNICEF and the many local partners is essential to ensure minimal support for the Palestinian refugees in the region. UNRWA currently supports around 526,000 Palestinian refugee children and employs more than 22,000 educational staff from the refugee community – we cannot stop these efforts until a just and lasting solution is reached.
IPS: ECW announced earlier this month a $ 1 million grant to ensure refugee children and adolescents from the Central African Republic (CAR) have access to quality learning in Cameroon. This is just one of the grants that are made available in crisis areas in Africa, how important is the support of the refugee community there? How is the grant spent and how many children could potentially benefit from it? YS: Das Programm in Kamerun zielt darauf ab, über 6.000 neu vertriebene Mädchen und Jungen aus der Zentralafrikanischen Republik zu erreichen. Der Schwerpunkt liegt hier darauf, sicherzustellen, dass diese Kinder sofortigen Zugang zu den höchstmöglichen Lern- und Schutzdiensten haben. Die Rückkehr ins Klassenzimmer, unter Freunden zu sein, wird dazu beitragen, das Trauma der Vertreibung zu begrenzen. Es wird auch sicherstellen, dass insbesondere Mädchen die bestmöglichen Chancen haben, ihr Lernen fortzusetzen, da wir wissen, dass sie mit jedem Tag, an dem sie die Schule verlassen, seltener zurückkehren.
Wir müssen dafür sorgen, dass diese Kinder, die zu Hause Konflikte erlitten haben und nun ins Ausland vertrieben werden, nicht vergessen werden. Die Unterstützung der gesamten Flüchtlingsgemeinschaft ist unerlässlich, um diesen Kindern die besten Chancen zu geben, sich zu entwickeln. Wir können sie nicht zurücklassen.
Kamerun beherbergt fast 447.000 Flüchtlinge und Asylsuchende, die meisten aus der Zentralafrikanischen Republik, aber auch aus Nigeria. Die jüngsten Gewalttaten nach Wahlen in der Zentralafrikanischen Republik zwangen etwa 6.700 Flüchtlinge – mehr als die Hälfte sind Kinder – aus der Zentralafrikanischen Republik nach Kamerun. Während der Schulbesuch von CAR-Flüchtlingen in Kamerun in den letzten sieben Jahren im Allgemeinen von 40 auf 46 Prozent gestiegen ist, hat der Schulbesuch von Mädchen aufgrund der üblichen soziokulturellen und Schutzbarrieren nicht signifikant zugenommen. Die ECW-Finanzierung an unsere Partner, die vor Ort zusammenarbeiten, wird über 6.000 Flüchtlingskindern und -jugendlichen (3.500 Mädchen und 2.400 Jungen) den Zugang zu sicheren Lernumgebungen ermöglichen. Auch rund 1.000 Kindern und Jugendlichen in der Gastgemeinde wird geholfen. Klassenzimmer werden gebaut, Wasser- und Sanitäranlagen werden modernisiert, Lernmaterialien, Hygienesets und andere Schulmaterialien werden bereitgestellt.
Mädchen sind benachteiligt, und wir müssen diese Tatsache ständig im Auge behalten, wenn wir Prioritäten setzen. Daten aus dem jüngsten Bildungsbericht des UNHCR zeigen, dass mehr als 1,8 Millionen Kinder – oder 48 Prozent aller Flüchtlingskinder im schulpflichtigen Alter – keine Schule besuchen und Mädchen stärker betroffen sind. Nur 27% der geflüchteten Mädchen besuchen die Sekundarschule, und nur 50% aller geflüchteten Mädchen in der Schule werden wahrscheinlich nicht zurückkehren, wenn die Klassenzimmer nach COVID-19 wieder geöffnet werden.
In einer Welt, die nichts mehr will als Frieden und Sicherheit, nichts anderes als Stabilität und den Schutz unseres Planeten und vermutlich eine Entwicklung, die zeigt, dass wir tatsächlich vorankommen, ist es traurig zu sehen, dass wir bei der Gewährleistung nicht weiter gekommen sind Zugang zu inklusiver hochwertiger Bildung für jedes Kind und jeden Jugendlichen. Das sind Kinder und Jugendliche, die inmitten klimabedingter Konflikte, bewaffneter Konflikte, langwieriger militärischer Besatzung und Vertreibung auf Bildung hoffen.
Es ist die Zeit gekommen, in der Worte nicht ausreichen. Jetzt müssen wir unsere Ängste überwinden und handeln. Letztendlich können Führungskräfte, die sich um unsere gemeinsame Menschlichkeit kümmern, die Dinge nicht nur aus der Ferne, sondern auch aus der Tiefe sehen. So erkennen sie die Beziehung zwischen sich selbst und ihrer Führung, der Welt insgesamt, nicht zuletzt der in Krisenländern ums Überleben kämpfenden jungen Generation und unseren gemeinsamen universellen Werten. Sobald diese Einsicht erreicht ist und die Verbindung hergestellt ist, bin ich davon überzeugt, dass die Finanzierung freigesetzt wird, um jedem einzelnen Kind und jedem Jugendlichen Zugang zu seinem grundlegendsten Menschenrecht zu verschaffen: dem Recht auf eine inklusive, kontinuierliche und sichere, hochwertige Bildung.
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