On Monday, April 17th following its AGM, the APPG on Global Education hosted a parliamentary launch of the Send My Freind to School Coalition’s latest report on education in emergencies. Globally, 222 million school-aged children are estimated to be affected by emergencies and protracted crises. Maintaining education systems during emergencies is life-saving and life-protecting, yet underfunded in humanitarian budgets. Send My Friend’s “Let My Friends Learn: How the UK Government can protect children’s education during emergencies” report calls on the government to take measures to do the following:

  1. PREPARE – Strengthen preparedness and anticipatory action in education systems.
  2. PROTECT – Ensure children are safe, protected, and learning during an emergency.
  3. INVEST – Scale up financing for education in emergencies and systems strengthening.
  4. ACT – Provide global leadership to protect children’s right to education in emergencies.

Education in emergencies (EiE) is life-saving and life-protecting yet it is underfunded in humanitarian budgets, receiving only 3.1% of global humanitarian financing in 2021. Education is consistently the most important need voiced by children in crisis contexts. Emergencies deepen existing inequalities, and marginalised groups are more likely to be excluded from education – girls make up 54% of out-of-school children and face higher rates of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV); the needs of children with disabilities are often not prioritised in emergency response, leaving them unable to engage with educational programming. Most of the shocks driving humanitarian needs are fairly predictable. Investment in preparedness and anticipatory action mitigates risks and protects vulnerable children from missing out on their education.

The parliamentary launch featured a panel of speakers who responded to the content of the report. The panel included youth voices, perspectives from lived experience, a technical expert and representatives from the UK Government. Year 9 Send My Friend Campaign Champions Elise and Emily from Upton High School opened the event with an impassioned speech encouraging MPs and the FCDO to prioritise education during crises and ensure that their peers experiencing emergencies have the support they need to learn. Jane Mann from the Cambridge Partnership for Education followed, endorsing the report and emphasising the importance of building resilient systems that can withstand emergencies and of anticipating emergencies to come, as they inevitably do. UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Muzoon Almellehan then delivered powerful words drawing from her experiences as a Syrian refugee, speaking on the need to collectively work together to ensure that every child has access to the learning they need for their future. She also reflected on the critical role that schools play in providing hope for children that, offering a sense of a brighter future and the ability to thrive in life beyond conflict.

After hearing the speakers, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education Helen Grant MP spoke on the Government’s priorities in education and what the UK is doing to support education in emergencies through its contributions to the Education Cannot Wait fund and the Global Partnership for Education as well as its new Women and Girls’ Strategy. She was joined for questions from the audience by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s Head of Girls’ Education Judith Herbertson and FCDO Senior Education Officer Dr. Chris Berry, who echoed the interest in and understood the importance of protecting the education for children who are most marginalised during emergencies and protracted crisis.

Quotes from the event:

“If I didn’t find education I would consider myself as a person who suffered so much. But because I was able to go to school and learn new skills on a daily basis, I was able to keep going. By having knowledge I believe we can face any challenge in life. We could all become a refugee at any point in our lives. We can all have tough circumstances. But the greatest failure in life is losing hope. When we have people who listen to us and our problems, listen to the things we say we need, when we have collective actions, we can make a difference.” – Muzoon Almellehan

“Education in [emergency] settings is a true lifeline for children – a place where they can go see their friends and build confidence, self-esteem, and the skills they need to break poverty.” – Helen Grant MP

“We need to stop hiding behind the terms crisis…by calling these events a crisis we are suggesting that in some way they were unpredictable. We need to see these events as predictable and take anticipatory action. It is the responsible for us to prepare. I absolutely endorse this report, it highlights some of the most important areas in protecting education for children.” – Jane Mann

“We are here today to emphasise our belief in the transformative powers of education. We are incredibly lucky to receive an education that provides us with the skills and support we need and teachers who care. Schooling doesn’t purely teach children to read and write, it equips them with the tools needed to overcome challenges they may face. Education really is the key to unlocking potential pathways and opportunities in life.” – Campaign Champions Elise and Emily

The APPG on Global Education would like to extend its sincere thanks to Muzoon Almellehan, Jane Mann, Helen Grant, and Elise and Emily for speaking and to Judith Herbertson and Dr. Berry for joining the panel to answer questions. Thank you to Co-Chairs Vicky Ford MP and Bambos Charalambous for chairing the event, and to all of the audience members from Parliament, universities and CSOs around the UK who came to celebrate this report launch.