Prolonged drought in East Africa forces millions of children out of school

Students in second grade classroom. Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

Students in second grade classroom. Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya.

Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

Almost 5 million children in drought-affected areas in the East Africa region are at risk of dropping out of school, warns Save the Children. Recurring droughts in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan disrupt children’s learning as families face a daily struggle to survive, forcing them to travel in search of food, water, and fertile pasture for their livestock at ever-increasing distances.

Close to 21 million people across this region are facing a state of emergency: their livestock is dead, food supplies are gone, and their land is parched or inaccessible because of conflict. Facing the threat of chronic hunger and in the verge of famine, parents have no other choice than to sacrifice their children’s education.

East Africa faces an education crisis

Due to displacement, low enrollment, and absenteeism, schools are closing in drought-affected areas. For many children, this would be the second consecutive year they miss school. A large proportion of children who drop out of school is at risk of never returning. The consequences of 12,000 children a day leaving school before gaining their qualifications are alarming.

When children are out of school, they become more vulnerable to child marriage, trafficking and prostitution, and forced migration. Also, children as young as eight years old are at risk of being recruited by armed groups present in the region.

With more children being displaced from their homes and not enough humanitarian funding for schools, East Africa faces a major education crisis.

The risk of losing an entire generation of uneducated children is extraordinarily high.  

Alarming figures

  • In Somalia, drought is leading to closure of schools and migration of children to internally displaced people (IDP) camps that have insufficient capacity to provide continued education.
  • In Kenya, an average of 3 out of 10 children are enrolled in school in the drought prone areas of Wajir and Mandera. The situation is worse for girls: only 2 out of 10 are enrolled and even fewer complete their education.
  • In South Sudan, malnutrition has soared, especially among children. More than 1.1 million children under 5 are forecast to be malnourished in 2018. More children than ever are out of school.
  • In Ethiopia, 623 schools have shut since early 2017 because of the drought, pushing over 388,000 children out of school.

Education can save children’s lives during emergencies

For children who are displaced or affected by droughts, providing access to a safe learning environment is critical to ensure they can cope and recover from drought impacts. School can serve as a unique entry point to live-saving services such as access to safe drinking water, food and vaccines, safeguarding the futures of children and communities.

GPE is actively working with the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan and partners on the ground, to reallocate some of the GPE funds to respond quickly to the education needs of millions of children.

GPE’s accelerated funding mechanism provides rapid assistance to partner countries affected by a crisis. The mechanism is used to promote a link between shorter-term emergency response and longer-term development needs and ensure that children can have access to education when needed the most.

In practice accelerated funding allows disbursement within eight weeks of up to 20% of a GPE grant. The use of funds is based on the education cluster needs assessment and agreed by the local education group and the education cluster. Activities can include temporary shelters, school meals and school supplies, as well as classroom construction, teacher remuneration and school grants.  

Accelerated funding for Somaliland

In an effort to ensure children still have access to education, GPE provided Somaliland with US$1.9 million as accelerated funding for 2017-2018. The funds support continued access to education opportunities in drought-affected communities in Somaliland through the provision of teacher incentives, teaching and learning materials, temporary learning spaces, school feeding programs, and water trucking.

Since its start, the project has been reaching more than 12,000 children attending classes in the 50 supported formal schools and more than 600 children in 5 temporary learning spaces. This has led to the re-enrollment of more than 4,000 children who previously had dropped out, most of which have been provided with remedial classes to catch up.

GPE Secretariat staff will continue to work closely with all education partners in the affected countries to provide support as quickly as possible following government’s requests.

 

Author(s)

The Global Partnership for Education Secretariat is headquartered in Washington DC and has approximately 100 staff. The Secretariat provides administrative and operational support to all its partners including...

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