Education cannot wait for the refugees of Lake Chad

The Global Partnership for education disbursed close to $7 million in emergency support to Chad in 30 days

February 10, 2016 by Alice Albright, GPE Secretariat
8 minutes read
Boys raise their hands in a classroom in Chad. Credit: Educate a Child

This week, the Global Partnership for Education disbursed a grant of $6.95 million for emergency support to education for refugees, returnees and displaced populations in the region of Lake Chad.

Bordering Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan, Chad sits at the juncture of several major humanitarian crises. It has been impacted by both the Sahel food crisis and a financial crisis precipitated by the decline in oil prices.

Beginning in late 2013, the increased level of terrorist activities in Nigeria, as well as governments’ efforts to combat the threat, have led to large numbers of refugees and returnees arriving in Chad, particularly in the Lake Chad Region on the country’s western border.

Forgotten conflicts

Overall, it is estimated that 4 million people in Chad will need humanitarian assistance in 2016. That’s about one third of the country’s population.

The Lake Chad region is already underserved by the national education system. 62% of children are out of school, the average class size for those in primary school is 75, and the rate of adult illiteracy is 95.8%. The population suffers high levels of malnutrition and food insecurity, and 57% of children are underweight.

At the end of last year, the government of Chad launched an appeal to the international community for $566.7 million to address the humanitarian crisis. Of this, $7.3 million was requested to enable the country to respond to the educational needs of refugees inside the borders of this remote region.

The $6.95 million GPE grant is a fraction of what was pledged for education for children affected by the Syrian conflict at last week’s Syria conference. While the Syrian conflict has captured the world’s attention, there are dozens of “forgotten” conflicts that rage on around the world, including those on Chad’s borders.

A vastly underfunded sector

The large majority (86%) of the world’s refugees live in developing countries, and education in emergencies is consistently underfunded. A key criteria for allocation of funding in emergency and humanitarian situations is the life-saving aspect of interventions. Education is often de-prioritized when trade-offs need to be made with other basic needs such as shelter, food, safe water and sanitation.

But education is life-saving. It gives children and their families hope for a future and something to live for. It is precisely during the onset of a crisis that it is most important for education to be maintained. Once a child drops out of school, she or he will likely never return. Schools can create safe spaces for children. And education can provide a much needed sense of normalcy for a child whose entire world has been turned upside down.

Thankfully, perceptions are starting to shift and there is increasingly a recognition of the critical importance of education, not after but at the onset of an emergency. At last week’s Syria conference, for example, education was one of three themes against which pledges were made.

Bridging humanitarian support and development

On January 8, 2016, the government of Chad submitted an application for $6.95 million in accelerated funding from the Global Partnership, with UNICEF as the implementing partner (grant agent). On Thursday, February 4, a committee of the Global Partnership’s Board approved Chad’s application and the funds transfer to UNICEF was processed on February 8.

The $6.95 million grant funds a Basic Education Emergency Project designed to benefit both refugee and returnee populations and host communities. It responds not only to the immediate humanitarian needs of these populations, but also addresses the development priorities for building a more sustainable education system.

The project focuses on basic service delivery including the construction of 86 permanent classrooms, 40 temporary learning structures, 25 wells and 80 latrines. More than 8,500 children will benefit from school lunches and improved learning environments.

The project will fund micronutrients and parasite treatment for all students and the distribution of 63,700 textbooks, 1,900 school kits and 175 teacher kits. It will provide in-service training for 877 teachers, pay subsidies for 327 teachers and provide functional training for 1000 youths.

While addressing the basic needs of school-age children – water, hygiene, school feeding – so that they are ready to learn, and ensuring that teachers are ready to meet their learning needs, the project also aims to increase school capacity through classroom construction, likely creating several hundred temporary jobs.

Accelerated funding helps to quickly respond to crises

Chad used the Global Partnership’s accelerated funding mechanism to request these funds. GPE developed and adopted this funding mechanism in 2012 to enable rapid disbursement in crisis situations to restore critical education activities quickly. Funds are disbursed within eight weeks and can be equivalent to up to 20% of the total indicative allocation set by GPE for the implementation of the next phase of the country’s education sector plan. This mechanism supports activities that can be implemented within one year.

Countries are eligible for accelerated funding under GPE’s Guidelines for Accelerated Support in Emergency and Early Recovery Situations if they are already eligible for GPE implementation grants, affected by a crisis for which a humanitarian appeal has been launched by UN OCHA that includes education, and are able to demonstrate that GPE’s funds are additional.

Education cannot wait

Schooling all too often falls through the net when a humanitarian crisis hits, but education is a basic need and a human right that cannot be neglected. In fragile and conflict-affected contexts like in Chad, the Global Partnership deploys a progressive approach that provides the flexibility to respond.

In Chad, the ministry of education will receive the $6.95 million that it sought to help maintain education despite the very challenging conditions that exist in the Lake Chad region.  

The Global Partnership will continue to help Chad and 27 other partner countries that are fragile or conflict-affected to ensure that children can continue to learn.

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