An earth­quake in ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

In mid-April, a 7.8-mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck Ecuador, killing at least 500 peo­ple and in­jur­ing an­other 4,000. The im­me­di­ate pri­or­ity is re­lief and res­cue – search­ing for sur­vivors (100 peo­ple are still miss­ing), re­unit­ing loved ones, and pro­vid­ing care, water, shel­ter, and food. But once this is ac­com­plished, the work will have to con­tinue.

In par­tic­u­lar, some 150,000 young peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to UNICEF es­ti­mates, will have to be provided with psy­choso­cial sup­port, and a sense of nor­malcy, pro­tec­tion, and hope. And the best way to do that is through the rapid pro­vi­sion of ed­u­ca­tion.

When hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief ef­forts ne­glect the need for ed­u­ca­tion, young peo­ple are left on the streets – vul­ner­a­ble to traf­fick­ing, vi­o­lence, extremism, and ex­ploita­tion. More­over, the fail­ure to pro­vide up-front ed­u­ca­tion in­vest­ment dur­ing crises makes the pro­vi­sion of a broad range of so­cial ser­vices less cost-ef­fec­tive, as con­sis­tent learn­ing spa­ces aid in the de­liv­ery of health, coun­selling, and other fam­ily ser­vices and train­ing.

In Le­banon, Turkey, and Jor­dan, many Syr­ian refugee chil­dren have waited six years to re-en­ter a class­room. Sim­i­larly, the roughly one mil­lion chil­dren af­fected by the 2015 earth­quake in Nepal and five mil­lion stu­dents who were shut out of school when the Ebola cri­sis gripped West Africa have strug­gled to con­tinue their stud­ies.

The chil­dren in Ecuador risk fall­ing through the cracks of an in­suf­fi­cient in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian-aid sys­tem, in which less than 2% of aid is di­rected to­ward ed­u­ca­tion. These chil­dren are in dan­ger of join­ing the 80 mil­lion chil­dren around the world whose ed­u­ca­tion has been dis­rupted by cri­sis, emer­gency, or con­flict.

Sadly, of the 133 ed­u­ca­tion ap­peals made since 2010, just six – four of them re­lated to the Syr­ian cri­sis – re­ceived nearly half of all fund­ing. In 2015, four ed­u­ca­tion ap­peals re­ceived no fund­ing at all. As a re­sult, hu­man­i­tar­ian ap­peals provided ed­u­ca­tion to just 12% of chil­dren and youth in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions last year.

As an up­per-mid­dle-in­come coun­try, Ecuador does not qual­ify for many mul­ti­lat­eral as­sis­tance ini­tia­tives for ed­u­ca­tion. It will be the re­cip­i­ent of funds from emer­gency ap­peals, but only a small amount will trickle through the sys­tem to sup­port ed­u­ca­tion. In the ab­sence of other fi­nanc­ing op­tions, ex­ist­ing devel­op­ment fund­ing is of­ten si­phoned off to mount an emer­gency ed­u­ca­tion re­sponse, as hap­pened in the ar­eas af­flicted by the Ebola virus and the Nepal earth­quake. In this way, our fail­ure to plan for crises hin­ders progress to­ward long-term ed­u­ca­tion goals.

That is why pol­i­cy­mak­ers are work­ing on an ini­tia­tive to en­sure that no chil­dren are de­prived of an ed­u­ca­tion be­cause of an un­ex­pected cri­sis or emer­gency. At the World Hu­man­i­tar­ian Sum­mit, to be held in Istanbul in May, a new Ed­u­ca­tion Cri­sis Plat­form and fund will be launched. Once it is es­tab­lished, sup­port would be made avail­able to hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers and ed­u­ca­tors to de­velop im­me­di­ate plans for the pro­vi­sion of ed­u­ca­tion to chil­dren af­fected by emer­gen­cies, based on the recog­ni­tion that hu­man­i­tar­ian, devel­op­ment, and se­cu­rity needs can no longer be ad­dressed in si­los.

An in­jec­tion of fi­nanc­ing, sup­port­ing a com­mon strat­egy de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with gov­ern­ments, would en­able the im­me­di­ate de­liv­ery of ed­u­ca­tion in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions. The fund will thus fill the gap in co­or­di­na­tion and pro­vi­sion of ser­vices by strength­en­ing the sys­tem at its weak­est point, pro­vid­ing a bridge to longer-term devel­op­ment.

If this ini­tia­tive had been in place be­fore the earth­quake in Ecuador, it could have provided 12 months of emer­gency sup­port, help­ing the coun­try un­til it could re­in­state ed­u­ca­tion ac­cord­ing to its na­tional plans. In a more pro­tracted cri­sis, like that of Syria, the fund­ing plat­form could help neigh­bour­ing coun­tries es­tab­lish, with the sup­port of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, a long-term fi­nanc­ing strat­egy, per­haps by bro­ker­ing an ar­range­ment whereby donor gov­ern­ments could pay the prin­ci­pal over 30 years on con­ces­sional loans from the World Bank.

In Nepal, the pro­posed ed­u­ca­tion plat­form could have helped meet im­me­di­ate needs and bridge the gap to the Nepal School Sec­tor Re­form Plan 2009-2016. De­vel­oped with and sup­ported by the Global Part­ner­ship for Ed­u­ca­tion, this $60 mil­lion, four-year grant could have ben­e­fited from ad­di­tional re­sources at this point of cri­sis, so that the devel­op­ment dol­lars orig­i­nally al­lo­cated to the sec­tor were not jeop­ar­dised.

The need will only be­come greater. The world is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the largest refugee cri­sis since World War II. As mil­lions leave ev­ery­thing be­hind in search of se­cu­rity and a fu­ture for their chil­dren, our cur­rent, short­sighted ap­proach has be­come un­ten­able. Some 124 mil­lion young peo­ple are al­ready out of school, and a quar­ter-bil­lion will leave fourth grade with­out mas­ter­ing ba­sic skills. A huge co­hort of young peo­ple lack­ing the skills nec­es­sary for this cen­tury – let alone last cen­tury – is emerg­ing, par­tic­u­larly in the world’s most marginalised and volatile coun­tries.

At the re­cent IMF/World Bank Spring Meet­ings, world lead­ers made clear that ad­di­tional re­sources must be sought to im­prove the de­liv­ery of ed­u­ca­tion in emer­gen­cies. Of­fi­cials from ma­jor donor coun­tries – in­clud­ing Nor­way, the United King­dom, the United States, Canada, and the Euro­pean Union – joined with min­is­ters from coun­tries af­fected by emer­gen­cies (such as South Su­dan and Le­banon) and civil­so­ci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tives in a meet­ing con­vened by UN Spe­cial En­voy Gor­don Brown, Ju­lia Gil­lard of the Global Part­ner­ship for Ed­u­ca­tion, Tony Lake of UNICEF, Irina Bokova of UNESCO, and Filippo Grandi of UNHCR. All agreed to es­tab­lish the Ed­u­ca­tion Cri­sis Plat­form.

The plat­form will be launched in less than a month – too late, un­for­tu­nately, to help the chil­dren in Ecuador, but not too late for those whose ed­u­ca­tion will be jeop­ar­dised when the next cri­sis in­evitably oc­curs. Cat­alytic donors – foun­da­tions, phi­lan­thropists, busi­nesses, and non-tra­di­tional sup­port­ers – are needed. If they step up, we can lever­age sig­nif­i­cant fi­nanc­ing and en­sure that all chil­dren re­ceive the ed­u­ca­tion they need, pre­vent­ing an­other lost gen­er­a­tion.

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