– We all know and agree that patience is a virtue. It is indeed. With one exception.
In the face of a child’s suffering, impatience is the highest virtue. Or as we say in the spirit of Education Cannot Wait: “We must be unapologetically impatient” in our collective goal to reach 224 million crisis-affected children and adolescents with quality education.
Over the past few months, we have met with refugee children, teachers, parents, community leaders, implementing partners, strategic donors and government officials in Colombia, South Sudan and Chad. Time and again we have seen first-hand how climate change, armed conflict and forced displacement severely disrupt lives, destroy hope and dramatically impede progress toward our global promise of inclusive quality education for all.
As stressed by United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Chad, Violet Kenyana Kakyomya, in this month’s ECW high-level interview: “Refugees have been exposed to trauma due to the violence they witnessed and experienced, which for children can have short- and long-term negative effects on their physical, mental, cognitive and emotional development.” In this context, access to education is a crucial protection measure.
Unless we act now as a global community, we will lose an entire generation of children and, with them, future generations. We will leave behind a legacy of broken promises, denial of opportunity and loss of hope. The most effective way to counter this is to empower today’s generation with the academic, social-emotional learning, mental health, self-confidence, empathy skills and tools to reverse and mitigate the avalanche of despair and destruction and to build back better.
Above all, we need to #EmpowerHer – namely the millions of crisis-affected girls who are among the furthest left behind and yet who have so much to contribute in changing the world for the better.
Education is the most powerful means to break cycles of violence – committed on both human beings and mother nature. Education is the best pathway to end conflicts and climate disasters. Because the world needs profoundly educated people who can both think and feel; and, who know how to put this vision into action. None of this can wait.
The task is daunting, urgent and requires immediate action. Our recent global estimates study provides a clearer picture than ever of the growing challenges. In all, the new estimates indicate as many as 224 million crisis-impacted children are in urgent need of a quality education.
As we reflect on our progress in advance of this year’s UN SDG Summit, UN General Assembly, Climate Talks (COP28), and Global Refugee Forum, we must unite with a sense of urgency, impatience and concrete action to ensure Education Cannot Wait and our global strategic partners receive the financing required to deliver an inclusive and continued quality education. Our shared goal is to make more than #222MillionDreams come true.
With more funding, we can deliver faster and further, together.
In June, we launched new investments in South Sudan, Central African Republic and Somalia. Our proven results-focused strategy exists. The political will is there. The systems and processes for coordination of joint programming are in place. The missing link is financing. We need fully funded joint programmes across sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.
It is possible to do: together, we continue our global advocacy efforts to urgently mobilize more than US$1.5 billion to realize ECW’s goal of reaching 20 million children and adolescents over the next four years of our strategic plan.
This is not only a very realistic and logical goal. It is an existential imperative requiring action now – not waiting for better financial prospects or until the world is a better place.
As the late UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, said: “It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity.”
We can’t play it safe. If there is any virtue we all need today, it is to be unapologetically impatient.
Yasmine Sherif is Director of Education Cannot Wait.