Education & Family

Call for global education emergency fund

Children in Syria playing by a destroyed tank Image copyright EPA
Image caption Millions of youngsters in conflict zones have no access to school

An emergency fund to provide education for young people caught up in conflicts and natural disasters is being proposed by UN envoy Gordon Brown and a coalition of charities and campaigns.

An education summit in Oslo, Norway, will hear calls for funds for education alongside other emergency aid.

Unesco has published figures showing 124 million children are out of school.

Mr Brown says support is needed for a "vast group of vulnerable children denied the basic right to education".

The Oslo summit will hear warnings that the rising numbers of refugee families and displaced persons, caught up in conflicts such as those in Syria and Iraq, need to have access to education as well as other humanitarian aid.

Mr Brown will call for a dedicated, multi-million-dollar global education fund which could be deployed to help families in emergencies, whether wars or disasters such as earthquakes.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The conflict in Syria has destroyed decades of progress in education, says Unesco

The level of humanitarian support available for education projects is overwhelmed by the scale of the demand, he says.

"Despite the mass exodus of child refugees, currently just a tiny percentage of humanitarian aid is spent on education," says Mr Brown.

"A humanitarian fund for education would have allowed us to help Syrian refugees and those caught up in the Nepal earthquake emergency without having to spend months sending the begging bowl around the international community which is what happens now."

Mr Brown says that emergency aid focuses on food, medicine and shelter - and longer-term development projects do not provide for the educational needs of young people caught up in wars or disasters.

Image copyright AP
Image caption There are 65 million children caught up in war zones and disasters

The former UK prime minister will speak at the Oslo summit alongside Julia Gillard, the former Australian prime minister, who chairs the Global Partnership for Education which co-ordinates international education aid.

Ms Gillard said that more than a third of out-of-school children "live in conflict-affected countries and miss out on an education - often for months or even years to come".

She said that "we must ensure education in humanitarian crisis situations as a matter of urgency".

The call for an emergency fund is being backed by groups including Oxfam, Save the Children, World at School and ActionAid.

The Overseas Development Institute has put a price tag on how much it would cost to provide an education for 65 million children caught up in wars or natural disasters.

The think tank will tell the Oslo summit that it would cost $4.8bn (£3.1bn)- or an extra $74 (£48) per child.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Humanitarian aid for refugees needs to include aid for education

The summit will also address the global problem of millions of young people having no access to education.

Research from Unesco, published on Monday, shows that this problem is getting worse rather than better, with figures showing that 124 million young people are out of school. But international aid for education is less now than five years ago.

The UN agency says that the funding is "grossly insufficient" for proposed new targets for all young people to have access to 12 years of education.

Silvia Montoya, director of the Unesco Institute for Statistics said the most recent data showed the "devastating impact of the civil war in Syria".

"Before the conflict, nearly every child was enrolled in primary school but by 2013 nearly two million children and adolescents were out of school. It took just two years of civil war to erase all education progress made since the start of the century."

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