The “Education Cannot Wait” Fund, jointly initiated by UNICEF, UNHCR, UNESCO and other international agencies and non-governmental organizations, has announced that it will allocate 33.3 million US dollars to Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso in the central Sahel region of West Africa to provide education support for approximately 300,000 children and young people. The fund said that in the next three years it will raise 117 million US dollars to support long-term capacity building projects, including providing quality education to the most difficult groups of children and adolescents in the region, with the goal of benefiting nearly 1.56 million school-age children and adolescents.
The Sahel region is dominated by semi-desert landforms, where many terrorist organizations are entrenched, so local people are plagued by poverty, natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Gordon Brown, former British prime minister and chairman of the high-level steering group of the “Education Cannot Wait” Fund, said that millions of children in the central Sahel countries are living in armed conflict, hunger, displacement and poverty, climate change and new crown pneumonia. The epidemic has worsened their lives, especially their education. That’s why the international community needs to provide more support, including financial assistance, to change this situation through joint actions.
Data showed that Niger’s junior and senior high school enrollment rates were only 29% and 10% in 2019 and Mali’s drop-out rate was as high as 50%. In Burkina Faso, more than 2.6 million children and adolescents are out of school, with another 1.7 million facing the possibility of dropping out, and only 10% of students can enter junior high school. Burkina Faso’s Minister of Education Varo pointed out that the continuing security situation has led to the closure of more than 2,300 schools in the country and the displacement of more than 1 million people. The epidemic has also kept schools closed for several months. “Lack of education will make young people lose their dreams, move towards violence and hatred and even enter a terrorist organization by mistake.”
In 2019, the “Education Cannot Wait” Fund has allocated 30 million U.S. dollars to the three central Sahel countries in an emergency, benefiting more than 250,000 children. The US$33.3 million in funding this time will be divided equally among the three countries, mainly to provide assistance to children in turbulent areas and refugee host communities and to support the government’s emergency education plan. For example, in Burkina Faso, aid funds will be used to use radio to help students in remote areas receive education, enhance the teaching capacity of refugee community schools, repair damaged buildings and provide students with textbooks and school supplies. In view of the fact that it is more difficult to protect the right to education of local girls and children with disabilities, the fund stated that it will give priority to ensuring that 60% of beneficiaries are girls and 10% are children with disabilities.