UN’s Brown Announces Education Fund for Child Refugees

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

Britain’s former prime minister Gordon Brown has announced the launch of a new global fund created in an effort to offer aid for 30 million refugee children to remain in school.

The “Education Cannot Wait” Fund hopes to raise a total of $3.85 billion over the next five years, with the goal of attaining 100 major donors, both public and private, including leading governments, companies, and philanthropists.

Brown said that the initiative was created in response to the war in Syria.  Around 20 million children have had to leave their homes, as well as their schools, as a result of the conflict there.

“When we ask ourselves what breaks the lives of once thriving young children, it’s not just the Mediterranean wave that submerges the life vest and it’s not just the food convoy that does not arrive in Syria,” said Brown.

“It’s also the absence of hope – the soul crushing certainty that there is nothing to plan or prepare for, not even a place in school.”

The UN expects to formally launch the program, which is the first of its kind, next week at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul by Brown and a group of development agencies, including Unicef, UNHCR – the UN refugee agency – and the Global Partnership for Education.

Brown, who is currently in his new role as UN special envoy for global education, said that in all, it would cost $800 million each year to send Syrian children who are currently living in camps to schools in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, since many of the people who are fleeing the war remain in the area.  He added that the goal of the fund is to offer hope to a “lost generation” of children in camps who do not have access to schools or an education.

It is also believed that parents would be less likely to flee to Europe if they believed their children could gain an education closer to Syria.

The funding would provide school-age children with five years of schooling, creating a change to previous efforts which offered short-term emergency humanitarian aid.  The UN hopes the new initiative will improve humanitarian aid for the future.

“This fund will be unique in many different ways,” explained Brown. “We will be the first to bridge the gap between humanitarian aid and development aid. At present education falls through the net. Most humanitarian aid goes – as you would expect – to food and shelter, and development aid is long terms and not geared to an emergency.”

According to information from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, education aid currently receives less than 2% of emergency funding.

While Brown is also pushing for help to be given to those seeking asylum in Europe, he said that, “The biggest problem and the biggest number of people who need help, particularly children,” were closer to their home country.  He added that it is these children who are in danger of becoming “victims of child labor, child trafficking and child marriage.”

An estimated 75 million children throughout the world have seen their education disrupted as a result of wars, national disasters, and other crises.