Investing in the Future: Why Education in Emergencies Cannot Wait

Investing in the Future: Why Education in Emergencies Cannot Wait

  • Posted: May 19, 2016 -
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Nora’s story is not unique. When she was three years old, she fled violence in Darfur, Sudan with her family and has been living in a refugee camp in Eastern Chad ever since. Going to school was not an obvious path for her. She sells biscuits in the market to help support her family and many girls like her are not in school.

In fact, 75 million children and adolescents aged 3-18 have had their education directly affected by emergencies and protracted crises. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), only 50 percent of refugees or internally displaced persons are enrolled in primary school, 25 percent in lower secondary school, and very few have access to pre-primary or tertiary education.

On May 23 & 24, global leaders will gather in Istanbul, Turkey for the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit where a new initiative to mobilize support for education in emergencies will be launched.  Education Cannot Wait, a fund for education in emergencies will look to transform the global education sector for children affected by crises by focusing specifically on meeting their educational needs.

Nora, now 14 years old, is enrolled in a school run by Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), a nonprofit organization rooted in the Jesuit tradition of educating young people. JRS currently operates education programs in more than 25 countries serving over 110,000 refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.

In a new report – Providing Hope, Investing in the Future – JRS identifies a series of barriers faced by displaced families and children, including lack of legal status, poor infrastructure and lack of materials, change in language or curriculum, discrimination, significant learning gaps and dealing with the effects of trauma.

To address these barriers, JRS implements several key strategies, including:

  • Parental Involvement to Ensure Access and Retention
  • A Holistic Approach that Meets All Student Needs
  • Complementary Programs for Parents and Families
  • Investment in Teacher Training and Tertiary Education
  • Emphasis on Language Skills and Remedial Education
  • Youth Programming Focused on Life Skills and Leadership Training

Past investments in educational progress are in jeopardy as we face a record number of long-standing conflicts and resulting global displacement. At this important time, JRS calls on donors, governments and the humanitarian and development communities to take action. Access to education must be prioritized in all stages of humanitarian response with a focus on effective transitions to long-term sustainable solutions, in particular for protracted crises.

We must leverage the Education Cannot Wait Fund and other opportunities to address the lack of access to education for the forcibly displaced. Children like Nora are waiting for the opportunity to go to school and create a future for themselves and their families.


Giulia McPherson is the Assistant Director for Policy at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. In this capacity, she leads the organization’s policy and advocacy efforts as they relate to global education and U.S. asylum policies and oversees a community engagement program to educate and mobilize advocates. Giulia can be reached at or @giuliamcpherson.