Why is this important?
Children are highly vulnerable during and in the immediate aftermath of crises. The risk of them being forcibly displaced or separated from their families is particularly high in emergency situations. In crises, girls and boys are easy targets for armed groups or criminal gangs who recruit them as combatants or intelligence sources, or use them for sexual exploitation or forced labour. Children can be injured and killed during attacks, and are frequently the victims of landmines and other unexploded ordnances. According to UNICEF, 75 million children are out of school in the world today due to emergencies.
In crises, children's education is disrupted. Schools can be destroyed or used for military purposes. Education in such circumstances tends to be of poor quality, with schools lacking teaching materials, equipment and qualified teachers. Girls living in conflict-affected countries are particularly vulnerable; they are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys. During conflict, they also face a much greater risk of experiencing gender-based violence, early marriage and pregnancy.
Education can be lifesaving. In schools children are not only physically and psychologically safer, but also in the best place to learn the necessary skills to build a future for themselves and their communities. Education is crucial for the development and well-being of every child. It helps girls and boys regain a sense of normality and overcome the trauma of a crisis and disruption.
Education in emergencies is significantly underfunded as a humanitarian sector. Despite recent increases, as of 2017 still less than 3 % of global humanitarian funding is allocated to education. This is mainly because other life-saving emergency actions often take priority over education during crises, despite the overwhelming benefits of education for children, and the priority that affected families and children themselves attach to it.
How are we helping?
When the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, it dedicated the monetary award of the prize to launch the EU Children of Peace initiative. Since then, the EU has scaled up its humanitarian funding for education in crises each year. The total amount spent on education in emergencies reached €132 million between 2012 and 2016, including €34 million through the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey and €10.5 million through the Emergency Support Instrument. This goes hand in hand with the Commission earmarking an increasing percentage of its annual EU humanitarian budget to education in emergencies, as per the commitment by Commissioner Stylianides made at the Oslo Summit on Education for Development and again at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. Having exceeded a 4% target in 2016, for 2017 this figure will be 6%.
The Commission's funding is delivered through its humanitarian implementing partners, notably non-governmental organisations (NGOs), United Nations agencies, and International Organisations carrying out humanitarian projects. By the end of 2016, nearly 4 million boys and girls in 50 countries around the world will have benefitted from these projects: in Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Venezuela and Yemen.
EU-funded educational activities are tailored to take into account the different needs of children based on their age, gender and other specific circumstances. They range from the improvement of access to education, to the provision of school materials and uniforms, the transportation to educational centres, the rehabilitation of damaged schools, and the construction of new learning spaces. The EU also funds education projects facilitating access to non-formal education, life-skills and vocational training (particularly for girls), psychosocial assistance, and recreational activities. Humanitarian projects that strengthen the quality aspects of education, including through the recruitment of qualified teachers and training of teaching staff, are also supported. Finally, the EU funds actions raising awareness among parents, caregivers and community leaders about their children's education. In March 2017, the EU launched its largest ever humanitarian programme for education in emergencies. This €34 million Conditional Cash Transfer Programme will enable some 230 000 refugee children to attend school in Turkey.
In parallel, the Commission is involved in international discussions that shape global policy on education in emergencies. The independent evaluation of the Commission's Actions in the Field of Protection and Education of Children in Emergency and Crisis Situations, published in November 2016, helps determine the way forward. On 30 November 2016 the Commission organised a Forum on Education in Emergencies which attracted over 200 participants, including decision-makers, humanitarian experts and practitioners. The Forum was successful in taking stock of, and participating in, current policy discussions. Building on this momentum, in October 2017 the Commission will host the annual meeting of the Global Education Cluster in Brussels.