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DEFENDING THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES: FROM UGANDA TO NEW YORK


(Picture: a young man representing the children's parliament of Rhino Refugee Camp presents his demands during the launch of the Call to Action for Whole-Child Support for Children and Young People in Emergencies. Credit: World Vision Uganda)


In the last 6 years, the number of children affected by crises and in need of educational support has grown by over 100 million: from 75 million in 2016 to 222 million in 2022 as a result of rising conflict, climate disaster and the COVID-19 pandemic. When such emergencies strike, it is often existing vulnerable and marginalised communities who are hit hardest by the devastating impacts. Child and youth rights are put especially at risk, as well as poor access to health, food, nutrition and protection, their education is likely to be disrupted or denied too.


With the overwhelming number of competing needs during emergencies, the life-saving role of education can often be overlooked by decision-makers. Youth and student activists across the world are determined to change this and ensure education in emergencies is prioritised in the attention and budgets of leaders. 100 Million has been supporting youth- and student-led organisations, including those led by young refugees, in these efforts. From local organising efforts in refugee settlements to leading an in-depth consultation process on a new global Call to Action for whole-child support for children and young people during emergencies.


This Call to Action, (CtA) developed alongside key global stakeholders such as the Global Student Forum, Global Campaign for Education, World Vision, Plan International and Education International, has been endorsed by almost 100 organisations, with the majority of them youth- and student-led organisations from the Global South. To launch this important advocacy tool 100 Million helped organise a special event at Rhino Refugee Camp in Northern Uganda, with and alongside the children and young people whose rights the CtA aims to uphold.


According to UNHCR, Rhino Camp is home to roughly 135,000 refugees of which 44% are children, with the vast majority fleeing conflict in the neighbouring countries of South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. Far from meeting decent conditions for learning, according to World Vision, the desk to pupil ratio reaches 1:12 in Rhino Camp primary schools, resulting in many children sitting on the floor to attend class, and there is a gap of 8996 desks, 383 teachers and 400 toilets needed for children to be able to continue learning safely.

(Picture: Minister of Primary Education of Uganda, Dr. Joyce Kaducu at the launch of the Call to Action for Whole-Child Support for Children and Young People in Emergencies in Rhino Refugee Camp. Credit: World Vision Uganda)


The launch event, held on the 13th September 2022, saw the participation of the Minister of Primary Education of Uganda, Dr. Joyce Kaducu, UNHCR and UNICEF representatives and camp leadership. Children and young people from Rhino Camp were the keynote speakers of the event and delivered powerful interventions on the challenges they face, including lack of resources and teachers, overcrowded tent-classrooms and a failure to support them to heal from the trauma they have experienced


Just three days later, world leaders began meeting in New York for the annual UN General Assembly and historic Transforming Education Summit (TES). Convened by the UN Secretary General, the TES sought to mobilise political ambition, action, solutions and solidarity to transform education. During the many high-level discussions taking place, 100 Million was committed to amplify the demands made by refugee children in Rhino Camp to protect education in emergencies.


We, alongside partners the Global Student Forum, Plan International and World Vision, co-hosted a spotlight session on Education in Emergencies at the high-level 'Unlocking the Futures of Learning Festival' on the 19th September where 100 Million Africa Regional Organiser Winnie Nyandiga moderated a discussion between young refugees Esther Ngemba from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nataly Rivas from Ecuador. The spotlight session, the only fully youth session of the whole Unlock Festival, heard strong contributions on how to deliver quality education during crises, including passionate calls for comprehensive mental health and psychosocial support for learners and teachers, gender transformative approaches to address gender-based violence and more equal representation of southern voices in decision-making processes. You can watch the full session below:


“Every single refugee child around the world may have lost their home and everything else, but the one thing they do have is their power and this power is their knowledge and they continue to have hunger for more knowledge and that’s something that we [the international community] can give that’s stable for them” - Esther Ngemba

The Minister of Primary Education of Uganda who took part in the launch event at Rhino Camp also attended the Ministerial Roundtable on Education in Emergencies on the 17th of September, bringing the demands from the CtA and voices of children in Rhino Refugee Camp to the highest levels of global decision-making at TES.


As a result of these combined efforts, the Commitment to Action for Education in Crises Situations, one of only six official UN TES Calls to Action, and defending Education in Emergencies was a key demand of the official Youth Declaration on Transforming Education:


“We particularly call upon decision-makers to increase funding for education during and after emergencies in the adversely affected regions and territories through official development assistance, humanitarian aid, public financing, and others until all children and youth have equitable access to quality education, particularly girls and young women, refugees, and displaced persons;”


Children on the move or living in refugee and IDP camps are some of the world’s most marginalised children who continue to experience multiple, reinforcing human rights abuses.

Defending the right to education in emergencies, and ensuring the commitments made by political leaders in New York turn into action on the ground, remain a priority for 100 Million. The next core moment for the campaign is advocating for decision-makers to put their money where their mouth is at Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Financing Conference (HLFC) in February 2023. Co-convened by the governments of Switzerland, Germany, Niger, Norway and South Sudan, the conference aims to raise $1.5 Billion for the multilateral fund’s critical work responding to education needs during crises.


100 Million is supporting youth activists, including current and former refugees and IDPs, to both attend and influence the HLFC to demand governments commit to fully financing EiE. All from youth- and student-led organisations working on EiE from Nigeria, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan, a delegation of five young people were chosen to represent the ECW Student- and Youth-led subgroup that 100 Million also supports. Without adequate financing, the right to quality education will remain an empty promise to millions of vulnerable children fleeing or living in crises they had no part in creating.


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