Through partnerships, we can ensure that every child learns

Tariq Al Gurg describes innovative strategies to bring education to children affected by war

Tariq Al Gurg, the chief executive officer of Dubai Cares, helps out children in developing countries to acquire a decent education on a long term basis. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Today, nearly 60 million people around the world have been forced from their homes, 40 per cent of whom originate from the Middle East. There are more than five million Palestinian refugees and four million Syrians who have been displaced outside their country. Another seven and a half million are displaced internally. An additional three million people are displaced in Iraq, bringing the regional total to over 19 million.

When I travel to visit our programmes, the experience of parents and children affected by emergencies and protracted crises consistently highlights the importance of education.

These children will one day be responsible for shaping and leading their nations as doctors, teachers, engineers, lawyers and parents. Yet education accounts for a small fraction of humanitarian aid.

In 2014, only2 per cent of funds from humanitarian appeals were directed to education. Most funding is provided through short-term humanitarian appeals, but we cannot build an education system equipped to cope with a protracted crisis on the foundations of short-term and unpredictable funding cycles.

The Education Cannot Wait platform that was launched at the world humanitarian summit in Istanbul last month addresses this shortage of funding, and its unpredictability.

I strongly believe that a collective response to the current education crisis can ensure a more efficient delivery of quality education in these critical emergency contexts. The inclusion of the philanthropic community and the private sector in this group is critical to attract both the funding that is so desperately needed, and new skills and expertise to the sector.

Education Cannot Wait is timely. It is a collective response based on partnerships between donor organisations – be they public, private or philanthropic. Such partnerships deliver the necessary results required to meet the sustainable development goal of inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by the year 2030.

Dubai Cares has committed Dh 9 million ($2.5 million) over the next two years to the start-up phase of the Education Cannot Wait secretariat.

Another part of ensuring an improved response to education needs in emergency situations is to invest in the best methods.

At Dubai Cares, we use research to design and fund innovative and stimulating programs that test alternative models to increase the impact of the interventions we fund.

Monitoring, evaluation and learning helps us understand what works and allows us to adapt to changes, mobilise more resources, develop innovative approaches and better utilise funds.

One example of how we do this is through innovative partnerships. We recently partnered with the International Rescue Committee and New York University’s Global TIES for Children for an initiative that integrates low-cost learning strategies developed specifically for use in conflict-affected contexts to strengthen children’s cognitive, academic, and social skills.

We evaluate these strategies to build an evidence base about what works to improve children’s learning in these contexts.

Dubai Cares is now in the process of selecting a number of emergencies worldwide with an immediate need for an educational intervention.

At the summit, Dubai Cares has committed to further expanding the evidence base of what works in education in emergencies and protracted crises by spending 10 per cent of all its funding for education in emergencies on research and evaluations, and sharing the findings with our partners in the sector.

We also committed to increasing the share of our programmes that reach refugee and internally displaced children, as well as children of host communities, to 33 per cent of our financial portfolio over the next two years.

Education gives us hope. It makes us more resilient. It makes us stronger. We cannot allow more than 34 million out-of-school children and adolescents living in conflict-affected countries to grow up hopeless, vulnerable and fragile.

We cannot rob them of their potential by not allowing them to be educated. We have to act now. Education cannot wait.

Tariq Al Gurg is chief executive officer of Dubai Cares, the global philanthropic organisation that focuses on education in developing countries, which is a part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives