We cannot allow education to be neglected

Last week, we published Ending the Everyday Emergency – a report calling for clearer commitments to ensure resilience is a cornerstone of solutions to end recurrent slow-onset emergencies.

Today we’re launching another report reinforcing that call. A creeping crisis: the neglect of education in slow-onset emergencies focuses on what’s happening to children and their education across the Sahel and east Africa.

It shows that the knock-on effects of drought and malnutrition permeate all aspects of children’s lives, with a huge impact on education and long-term development prospects.

Crucially, the millions of children currently affected by malnutrition across drought-affected regions are at high risk for many reasons; but recent evidence shows that malnutrition has an irreversible impact on brain development, affecting children’s ability to learn.

This means that what does or does not happen will affect many children now and throughout their lives.

Forced to drop out

We estimate that 8.5 million children are missing out on primary school across both regions. Many children have been forced to drop out of school in slow onset emergencies – either to migrate or to support their families by doing household work or income-generating activities.

Even before the crises, generations of children have been missing out on their right to education, resulting in a huge impact on their own prospects and those of their communities.

Our new report has four key messages:

1. Education must be a key sector in ongoing emergencies: providing children with learning opportunities has often been neglected, as evidenced by the high numbers of illiterate youth in both regions.

It’s crucial to address education in the context of malnutrition crises, protracted and recurring drought, and to ensure that children are learning about disaster risk reduction.

2. Integrated approaches – bringing all sectors together to work on children holisticallyare needed: the humanitarian community must place an emphasis on what children need in order to reduce the vulnerabilities caused by the crises and regain normality in their lives.

Education is a key platform to ensure children benefit from all basic services, with schools at the centre.

3. Education builds and supports resilience: coping strategies and valuable lessons on environmental education and disaster preparedness can go a long way in ensuring children are better able to cope and support innovative solutions for their families and communities in future crises.

As an assessment from Ethiopia’s Dollo Ado camp puts it: “Education is one of the only ways they [children] can step outside the camp boundaries, if only in their minds, and they understand that.

“It is the only way children will acquire the skills needed to navigate the unknown path ahead or return one day to their homeland with the skills necessary to rebuild what was destroyed or lost.”

4. Education funding must be secured to enable education’s multiple benefits: education remains the most underfunded sector in all country UN-led Consolidated Appeals Processes (CAPs).

If the Education Cluster and implementing agencies lack funding, less children will be reached in time to prevent higher drop-outs in the run-up to back to school periods starting now until October.

To sum up…

Children’s education must be a top priority for any humanitarian decision maker and governments aiming to bring an end to recurring emergencies and build resilience among the affected populations.

Neglecting children’s right to education at this stage will only exacerbate the impact of the recurrent droughts, affecting the youngest populations and their prospects for development post-drought.

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