From the Round table: Girls’ Education in Humanitarian Crises
On the afternoon of Thursday, June 21, I had the pleasure to attend a roundtable discussion focusing on girls’ education in humanitarian crisis settings at the Council on Foreign Relations building. The three main speakers at the event were Yasmine Sherif – Director for Education Cannot Wait, Matthew Reynolds – UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Meighan Stone – Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. During the meeting, Sherif and Reynolds highlighted the importance of the excellent work that Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is set to do within its framework. ECW emphasizes a humanitarian relief response rate with the long-term strategy of a developmental program. ECW is about bridging the gap that leaves thousands of refugee children and internally displaced persons without education for their time they spend away from home or in a refugee camp. The current timeframe children and youth go without education can span anywhere from a few years to upwards of ten years. Yasmine Sherif asked all the participants at the discussion to imagine what happens to the mind of an individual who experiences such a significant gap in education; why should anyone have to live with that large of an interruption in their studies? While most of us are enjoying our summer vacations, or groaning about summer classes, students across the developing world cry out for textbooks and study materials.
Education is not only necessary for quality of life, but education is also a way to preserve the dignity and safety of a human being. Education is not just an investment in the world but also an investment in the human mind. The benefits of improving education for refugees and girls in crisis settings do not stop with the refugees. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Mathew Reynolds told the roundtable the more we invest in areas concentrated with refugees; we also invest in the educational systems in the country accepting the refugees. So not only are the conditions for better education made tangible for the refugees, but they are also made available for the children who already live there. If we can improve the lives of every child in a crisis why shouldn’t we?
A substantial barrier to understanding the needs of refugees and refugee children who have experienced a gap in their education is their lack of representation in roundtable discussions such as these. Yasmine Sherif spoke to the importance of letting these people have their voices heard because they are not weak, they are in fact powerful, they have survived and have persisted. What many do not know about refugees who need to catch up on their education is that many of them still need to work to support their families, and many of these refugees cannot afford to take part in education unless they can do so without school fees. In letting these groups be heard, we learn that they are not as weak as they might be perceived to be and they need access to free, quality education with time allotted for them to be able to provide economically for their families. Knowing this, the issue of providing quality education to those in crisis settings becomes ever more complicated; however, it is organizations such as Education Cannot Wait which are dedicated to ensuring people in crisis settings access the quality education they rightfully deserve to receive. If we wait, the number of school-aged children will multiply still within the refugee camps and the borders of those who are displaced internally. The growing number of children in need of our help is why we as global citizens must act now. We must advocate for higher funding for programs such as Education Cannot Wait and the Global Partnership for Education to ensure all of our neighbors around the world have access to a higher quality of education and a higher quality of life overall. It is time to step up and contribute to the global movement towards providing every child with their fundamental right to an education.
About Alexis D’Amato, Hess Fellow 2018:
My name is Alexis D’Amato, I am from Greenville, South Carolina and I am interning for the Global Campaign for Education-US chapter this summer. I attend college at Birmingham-Southern College located in Birmingham, Alabama where I am a rising senior. I am majoring in Global and Comparative Studies with a minor in Asian Studies in which I am cultivating my language skills in Mandarin, Chinese. After graduation in the Spring of 2019, I hope to attend graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. program in political science under the scope of foreign policy and international affairs.