by Emma Wagner, Education in Emergencies Policy & Advocacy Adviser, Save the Children
Despite ever turbulent political times in the UK - including recent changes within the top team at the Department for International Development – parliamentary business continues as usual. The global education sector in the UK has been long awaiting the International Development Committee’s (IDC) report on DFID’s work on education: Leaving no one behind?
The IDC is an influential committee of cross-party MPs in the UK Parliament and over the past year, the Committee has conducted an extensive inquiry into the work of DFID in delivering quality education to the poorest and most marginalised children in the world. Their report puts forward an ambitious plan for how the UK could help close the global education financing gap, and continue to increase access to and quality of education, especially for those who are most marginalised, including refugees.
We were delighted to see that the report highlights the Promising Practices in Refugee Education initiative’s work to identify, document and promote innovative ways of effectively reaching refugee children, and picks up recommendations made in the Synthesis Report on socio-emotional learning and multi-year funding. It is encouraging that such a powerful Committee has welcomed the initiative and is further amplifying its recommendations towards the UK Government.
UK leadership on education in emergencies
The achievement of the SDG 4 is dependent on the international community reaching children in humanitarian and protracted crises with quality education. The lifesaving and life sustaining importance of education in these contexts is well documented, and yet education in emergencies has consistently been deprioritised and underfunded – with only 2% of annual humanitarian funding going to education, and an overall funding gap of $8.5bn.
In recent years there has been increasing recognition of the critical importance of education in humanitarian crises resulting in increased efforts to secure funding, support and collaboration to reach those affected. DFID has been at the forefront of these efforts, including as a co-host of the 2016 Supporting Syria and the Region conference and as co-chair of the technical process that oversaw the design and launch of the Education Cannot Wait: the Fund for Education in Emergencies (ECW) and as a leading early donor, contributing £30 million over two years in funding.
This report is an important intervention in providing an assessment to the UK Government about how it can use and build on its leadership on issues such as refugee education to reach even more children to ensure that all are able to have the opportunity to learn.
The Committee recognises that the short-term and unpredictable nature of humanitarian funding is not practical when crises are increasingly becoming protracted. The report states how proud the Committee is of UK funding for education in emergencies, but makes a strong statement that DFID should ‘establish effective foundations for getting the affected children back into structured learning environments a priority alongside clean water, food, sanitation and shelter’.
The also report calls for DFID’s education policy refresh – to be published in early 2018 – to include a long-term, integrated strategy for supporting education in emergencies, especially in protracted crisis, through bilateral and multilateral channels. The committee calls on DFID’s new Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, to continue to play a leading role in the Education Cannot Wait fund.
Having received evidence from the initiative explaining how children in crisis-affected communities can struggle to attend or do well in school because of a range of social, emotional and mental health barriers, the committee urges DFID to consider increasing its support for education programmes that also seek to improve children’s wellbeing.
The report particularly mentions the work of the International Rescue Committee and Global TIES for Children at New York University’s Learning in a Healing Classroom social-emotional learning-infused teacher training and curricular programme (one of the case studies) which works to improve children’s academic skills in crisis contexts. This Committee supporting socio-emotional learning adds pressure on the UK Government to deepen its understanding and provision within its education in emergencies programming.
Other strong recommendations in the report call on DFID to:
Spend more of its funding on education, reversing a recent decline in spending between 2011 and 2015,
Make a full financial contribution of $500 million requested by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) for its replenishment period 2018 – 2020,
Use its influence with partner countries to encourage greater domestic spending on education,
Support the new International Financing Facility for Education,
Increase access to education to girls, children with disabilities and those caught up in conflict, especially refugees, and
Improve the quality of education, particularly through an increased in investment and technical support to early learning.
The report has received strong endorsements from across the global education sector in the UK. The Send My Friend to School campaign which has been working with young campaigners across the UK welcomed the report’s clear recommendation for DFID to contribute the $500 million requested by GPE. Joseph Nhan O’Reilly for Save the Children notes the Committees’ bold call for DFID to prioritise closing the education funding gap and increase support for early learning. The report has been covered by the BBC, the Guardian and the Times and was launched at a north London school by the Chair of the Committee, Stephen Twigg MP.
 http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/resources/online-library/what-do-children-want-times-crisis%3F and https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/humanitarian-aid-education-why-it-matters-and-why-more-needed#sthash.Ps6Nn5SF.dpbs and https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/9450.pdf
 https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/humanitarian-aid-education-why-it-matters-and-why-more-needed#sthash.Ps6Nn5SF.dpbs and https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/9450.pdf