A humanitarian fund to finance emergency education


The next U.K. government should create a humanitarian fund to finance schooling in emergencies, following increasing numbers of international education catastrophes, according to global education campaigner Sarah Brown.

Speaking to Devex ahead of the May 7 U.K. general election, Brown said she would like to see such an initiative included in future British foreign aid policy.

The co-founder of charity A World at School and wife of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pointed to several events that showed the global professionals community needed swifter access to emergency education funding.

These included the kidnapping of more than 200 female students from a school in Chibok, Nigeria, in 2014, and the abduction of least 89 young boys in South Sudan and six teachers in February this year. South Sudan militants have a history of using boys as child soldiers.

Brown also said although West Africa’s recent Ebola epidemic was predominantly treated as a health crisis, one of its most immediate impacts was to prevent children going to school.

“It’s been one of the gaps in the system where there sometimes is the will to mobilize funding into emergencies, but there isn’t always the easy funding pathway for it,” she explained. “The humanitarian fund would make it easier to be able to drawdown money specifically for education in emergencies. It is something I would want the new government to really come behind.”

Describing the U.K. Department for International Development as “a strong department” and “a major player in the world of development,” Brown went on to explain two further actions she would like DfID to implement.

“One is how we approach funding for education, looking at it in a more global context and making sure that everything joins up a bit more,” she said. “The other is to look at this issue around convergence and how we get the best for education, while we’re also getting the best for health, and vice versa.”

Brown explained recent research published by A World at School showed nine of the world’s largest bilateral donors to basic education had decreased spending on the area since 2010. This was despite Millennium Development Goal 2 for all children to attend primary school by 2015.

The charity’s donor scorecard showed that at the same time, spending on health had increased. Brown argued that donors should address the two priorities simultaneously.

“It doesn’t make any sense to global health to have education declining and health increasing,” she said. “It doesn’t in the end create a universally healthy population anywhere.”

“We need to join up education with health and with food, nutrition, water and sanitation — you can’t just vaccinate a child and then they don’t have access to a toilet, or a child has enough to eat but they never get to go to school. A big department like DfID that has the standing it does globally could really lead the way in some of the thinking around the convergence piece.”