By Gabriela Miranda
While the education in emergencies (EiE) sector is booming, with new initiatives always emerging, it continues to be largely underfunded within humanitarian assistance. When crisis strikes, education seems to not be the top priority for political leaders, as witnessed during the last G7 Summit. The world is facing an unprecedented education crisis, with irreversible damage caused to future generations by COVID-19-related school closures and a rollback of years of progress on women’s and girls’ rights. It is critical that actors in the education sector and beyond come together with a common goal – to support children through holistic, collective, and intersectoral approaches with a long-term view.
The 2022 G7 Summit left a bitter aftertaste, and its outcomes have strongly been criticized by civil society. Commitments fell short, not only for the global hunger crisis, one of the main priorities of the summit, but also on gender equality. Education advocates were extremely disappointed education was barely included in the leaders’ political agenda and are weary of new declarations lacking monitoring systems and clear accountability. Sixty-six prominent international organisations lent their support to a powerful document for government engagement during G7 calling for international cooperation to protect children’s right to education in emergencies and crises. It represented significant progress to drawing overarching priorities for EiE at a global level and across sectors.
Hopes are high for the upcoming Transforming Education Summit (TES) organised under the 77th UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September. The Pre-Summit in Paris in June set the tone for major involvement of youth and extensive consultations being at the heart of the upcoming Youth Declaration. Young people want to be heard and participate directly in the decision-making processes at TES. With “consultations” being the watchword of TES, this would counteract the general tendency of high-level global summits typically neglecting the inclusion of affected populations in decision-making tables.
With an aligned objective, World Vision International has conducted multi-stakeholder sector-wide consultations as part of EiE Campaign Champions’ advocacy efforts to increase political will for EiEPC at the local and global level. The advocacy aims to increase uptake of crisis-affected children and youth needs and demands, as well as advocate for increased resource mobilization for EiEPC. A wide range of stakeholders were consulted – from local and international NGOs to teachers and student and youth-led organisations who leaned open-heartedly into the process. Inputs from 103 young people, predominantly from the Global South were at the foundation of the latest EiEPC Call to Action co-developed by World Vision International, 100 Million Campaign, and Global Campaign for Education-US. This Call to Action outlines three major transformations for whole child support in emergencies and crises. Different perspectives from diverse actors brought together through an open consultative and transparent process resulted in a comprehensive list of the key challenges and barriers to continued education during crises.
Poor public financing of education, the shortcomings in the quality of planning and preparedness for emergencies, the digital divide, and the shifting of priorities to food and basic needs in emergency settings are part of this list. Discrimination, violence and harmful gender norms and stereotypes were highlighted as roadblocks to inclusive, equitable and quality education. Through the call actors suggested solutions to these challenges. Policies and practices need to be broader than education, and must also consider children and young people’s wellbeing, safety, health and care services at large.
The unifying force of consultations reveal that a deep structural shift is needed to break silos. We need to break silos and allow actors to work hand-in-hand to build education systems that are resilient to crises, through intersectoral planning at national and global levels, and with real financing solutions in particular for low- and middle-income countries (LICS and MICS).
Real transformation will require all actors to work in partnership; for children and youth to be able to participate in decision-making spaces; and for a whole-child support for lifelong learning to be established. This is especially important in emergencies and crises to avoid education being disrupted. Intersectoral coordination and seeking the integration and complementary of sectors such as health, livelihoods, child protection, WASH, and food security should become mainstream, and these should be seen as an interconnected system.
Building sustainable and resilient education systems requires efficient and long-term risk reduction and disaster management frameworks in place at national, subnational, and local levels. These frameworks must be included in education sector planning. Significant tax reforms are needed to increase national investment in education and remove school fees and other economic barriers for households to access education. Increased financial support for grant-based financing facilities such as Education Cannot Wait, the Global Partnership for Education, and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children are needed. Increased political commitments from the international community to LICS and MICS is essential. This could include debt forgiveness or more flexible debt payment schemes allowing and incentivizing reallocation of debt servicing. Such actions are necessary to improve the delivery of global public goods.
Important commitments from Member States are expected during this pivotal global summit. On September 19th, Heads of State will present Nation Statements of Commitment that outline concrete actions for the transformation of education. The statements should seek to address four specific areas for transformation - educational exclusion, the teaching profession, curricula, and pedagogies as well as the digital transformation and financial transformations required to achieve new levels of ambition in their respective countries and changes to boost international assistance of education.
Many questions still arise a few weeks ahead of the TES:
- Will the Transforming Education Summit have enough teeth?
- Will the Summit be the beginning of a global movement as announced? Will national strategies, evidence, and data be the foundation of new commitments, and will these be accompanied by accountability mechanisms?
- Will the Youth Declaration truly reflect youth voices without being watered-down by bureaucratic and diplomatic considerations, and above all - will it serve as a real instrument for transformation influencing decision and policy making?
The Transforming Education Summit has set the bar high in terms of expectations and – with great expectations, comes great responsibility for all.
 Plan International, G7 pledge falls short for global hunger crisis, June 2022; World Vision International, Vulnerable children will suffer from G7 leaders tunnel vision, June 2022; Oxfam, G7 failure to tackle hunger crisis will leave millions to starve, June 2022