House of Lords ‘Education in Emergencies’
On 19th February 2019 Street Child held a high-level panel discussion on Education in Emergencies at the House of Lords, as the climax of our 3-month ‘Count Me In’ appeal, supported by UK Aid Match. The event was hosted by General the Lord Dannatt, opened by Sarah, Duchess of York, and introduced by Street Child CEO and Founder, Tom Dannatt. The impressive, diverse panel of experts was chaired by former UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and former DfID Minister, Sir Stephen O’Brien.
This high level event shone a light on the vital importance of, and key debates around, Education in Emergencies (EiE).
The audience heard that the urgent context for the discussion was that 75 million out of school children are affected by emergencies; that children and families regard education in emergencies as a top priority; and that it has enormous benefits. However, education in emergencies receives under 4% of humanitarian aid, no more than 35% of the minimum sum needed, whilst many development funders are still reluctant investors in such contexts, leaving EiE in a tragic funding lacuna, despite recent progress such as the creation of the Education Cannot Wait global fund.
Panelists engaged in wide-ranging, passionate discussion. Of the many aspects considered, there was especially strong agreement on three points. Firstly, EiE is vital to children’s and whole regions’ futures and must be better funded, by both humanitarian and development sources. Secondly, respectful, effective local partnerships are vital to any quality EiE response, especially for ensuring strong continuity between humanitarian and development situations and approaches. Thirdly, greater efforts to generate and share evidence of the impact of EiE, and what works best, has the potential to increase the profile of the sector and help it secure greater funding.
Sir Stephen O’Brien introduced the issue of EiE, explaining the importance of the World Humanitarian Summit 2016. “Education is the best thing for a child’s protection and for their future… [but] One of the first victims of conflict is education.”
Anthony Nolan explained the value of the coordinating role of the Global Education Cluster and gave a global overview of the EiE challenge. “We have had to fight really hard for education to be seen as a priority. But when we ask groups of children what they want, they say education.”
Justin Sesay stressed the positive linkages between the work his team did working to build education in rural communities before Ebola, providing relief during the crisis itself, re-opening schools in the immediate aftermath and then the longer-term recovery and return to a development footing. “By building the capacity of the local communities there will be continuity.”
Professor Pauline Dixon passionately made the case for greater investment in evidence around EiE to inform policy and plans. “Education in emergencies provides physical, psychological and cognitive protection that can sustain and save lives.”
Audu Liman gave moving insights into the education dimensions of the Boko Haram crisis, “Boko Haram and the insurgency is driven by illiteracy; to address the insurgency children have to be helped to go to school.” He discussed, in very positive terms his organisation’s partnership with Street Child since 2017, and its ‘bottom up nature’ whereby programmes are equally shaped by AUN’s ideas and input, as opposed to purely ‘top down’ instructions from Street Child. “We appreciate the wonderful partnership with Street Child, and the opportunity to collaborate”
Megan Lees-McCowan said that Street Child’s core values meant that it realised after the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and Liberia that it could have an enormous impact in crisis situations as well as development. Firstly, Street Child works in an integrated, intersectoral way. Secondly, Street Child recognises there is a continuum between emergency and development – fragile contexts are vulnerable to moving between crisis situations. Thirdly, Street Child believes development should be nationally led as far as possible and that the best impact in terms of speed, quality and scale can be achieved through partnership with local organisations who truly understand the context.
Sir Stephen O’Brien said that it was incredibly heartening that key themes of the World Humanitarian Summit are reflected in Street Child’s work and opened the floor for questions.
Anthony Wallersteiner, Chair of Street Child’s trustees closed the evening.