Jesuit Refugee Service is gratified the international community made a commitment to education Monday at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. The Education Cannot Wait fund follows on the heels of the JRS Global Education Initiative launched last December.
“Education Cannot Wait is an important step forward in helping to ensure that the most vulnerable and disenfranchised have access to an education,” said Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Fr. Thomas H. Smolich, S.J. in Istanbul. “JRS feels education is always part of any emergency situation.”
Dean Brooks, Director of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, said, “We’ve been fighting to get to a moment like this for a very long time, so many people and organizations have come together to create this moment.”
In the report Providing Hope, Investing in the Future: Education in Emergencies & Protracted Crises, JRS confirms that education is a life-saving intervention for children and adolescents who are forcibly displaced from their homes. For decades, in emergencies where many agencies provide basic humanitarian assistance, JRS has been on the ground organizing educational and recreational activities to heal trauma, promote human dignity, and build skills.
Today, more than 75 million children and young people have their education disrupted or destroyed by emergencies and prolonged crises. Attacks on schools, wars, natural disasters and the largest refugee crisis since World War II have increased the need for education in emergencies.
“Displaced children are more likely to become the youngest laborers in the factory, the youngest brides at the altar, and the youngest soldiers in the trench. Every year, close to a half-million girls are trafficked and vanish,” said Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and now United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education.
“Education is not just about teaching, it is about offering child protection,” said Fr. Smolich.
JRS launched the Mercy in Motion 2016 campaign in December 2015. For 35 years, JRS has focused on education as a means to build peace and foster the development of more resilient and cohesive societies. Funds raised by the Mercy in Motion campaign will implement the JRS Global Education Initiative, which aims to robustly expand both formal and informal education programs — from primary school to university, and including vocational education and teacher training.
“Teacher training inculcates a sense of the value of education, in refugee and host communities,” noted Fr. Smolich.
Education provides refugees who are able to move on to resettlement the tools to contribute to and more fully integrate into their new communities, and enables those who are able to return home the ability to rebuild their own countries.
From our founding in 1980, JRS has placed an emphasis on ensuring that the most vulnerable have access to an education, regardless of their circumstances. Working both in newer emergencies, like Syria, and in protracted displacement settings including Chad, Ethiopia and Kenya, JRS is poised to offer substantive, thoughtful insight on providing effective, quality education programs for the forcibly displaced.
“As human beings, we are often at the mercy of war, of nature, of governments — of forces beyond our control. For this reason, nearly 60 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes, constantly moving. But for people living in motion, those who cannot take possessions can bring knowledge and change their world,” said Fr. Smolich.