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28.5 million children still waiting for an education because of conflicts

This post originally appeared on the Global Education First Initiative site on 23 September 2013.


NEW YORK, 23 September 2013 – Global leaders from governments, international organizations and civil society today warned that 28.5 million children in countries affected by conflict are still being denied access to learning – and that they must not be made to wait any longer for an education.

More than half of the world’s 57 million primary-school-age children who are out of school live in countries scarred by war and conflict and are denied the right to an education, compared to 42 percent in 2008.

According to data from Save the Children, conflicts, fighting and displacement in countries such as Syria, the Central African Republic, Mali, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo have largely contributed to this increase.

Tens of thousands of schools have been attacked or are occupied by armed forces, heightening the risk that children caught up in these crises will never go to school or will drop out.

Today’s Education Cannot Wait event, held for the second consecutive year during the United Nations General Assembly, was chaired by Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education. It was convened in support of the Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, launched one year ago.

"We must make an intentional and deliberate turn from past policy responses to humanitarian crises where education has typically been underfunded," said Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education. "Today, with nearly one million Syrian refugee children, we have the opportunity to take immediate action and demonstrate that we can not only prioritize but deliver on the promise of education for all - education without borders - providing hope and opportunity even in the most dire circumstances."

Attacks against schools, students and teachers are a gross violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, amounting to war crimes. Yet, schools continue to be bombed, looted and occupied, used for political purposes and inhabited by displaced families. "We’re here today because education should never be a casualty of crisis…or a cost of conflict," said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “Education cannot wait for battles to end...or disasters to be averted...or funding to be available. Education cannot wait...because children cannot wait."

"Education in emergency situations is severely underfunded, accounting for merely 1.4 per cent of humanitarian aid," said Alice Albright, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education. "We should at least double this amount, make it more effective, and improve coordination among governments, donors and humanitarian agencies."

Quality education requires investment and planning to give children living in some of the toughest parts of the world hope and a chance to shape their futures.

Recognizing this, leaders at the Education Cannot Wait event made a united call for action including:

- More planning for emergency prevention and integration of emergency preparedness and recovery in education sector plans and national budgets
- Prioritizing education in emergencies by increasing humanitarian aid to education and improving the way its delivered on the ground
- Protection of children, teachers and education facilities from attacks
Education should not be interrupted as children who miss out on school are often unable to catch up and experience cumulative disadvantage throughout their lives.

"In emergency situations, parents and caregivers ask for education for their children; it’s one of the first things they talk about. They know education’s value," said Lori Heninger, Director of the International Network for Education in Emergencies. “If we are not providing education in emergencies, we are not being accountable to those people we are serving, those who have already lost so much."

"Education cannot and must not wait. We all have a duty to the children of the world to deliver good quality education regardless of the hostile conditions under which they live," said Tove Wang, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Norway.

The leaders agreed that education must play a central role in any post-2015 development plan.

"Education must be built into peace building – not bolted on – and it must be tied with longer-term development," said the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova. "This is essential in the push to 2015 and in the global agenda that follows."

The full list of participating organizations includes UNICEF, Save the Children, Global Partnership for Education, Office of the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, International Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), Education Cluster, UNESCO, UNESCO-IIEP, Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, UNHCR and Plan International.

To read a copy of the Call to Action please click here.

For more information please contact:
Shimali Senanayake, UNICEF, Media, New York Tel: + 1 917 265 4516 

Eileen Burke, Save the Children: Tel: + 1 203-216-0718 

Alexandra Humme, Global Partnership for Education: + 1 202 458 5511 

To learn more about the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Education First initiative, visit


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