Angelina Jolie highlights plight of world’s most vulnerable pupils

The UK was pledging Dh24.5 million to help teachers in some of the poorest refugee-hosting countries.

Rohingya children participate in a DFID-funded education programme in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. UNHCR/Antoine Tardy
Rohingya children participate in a DFID-funded education programme in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. UNHCR/Antoine Tardy

Actress and UN humanitarian envoy Angelina Jolie is spearheading a campaign to ensure refugee children and their teachers are not forgotten in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

She was attending virtual conference on Monday to help fund the salaries of teachers in some of the poorest refugee-hosting countries.

The UK was pledging £5.3 million (Dh24.5m) of new aid, Baroness Sugg, Britain’s special envoy for girls’ education, confirmed.

Ms Jolie, a special envoy for the UNHCR, was due to say “classrooms offer protection”, according to excerpts of her speech that were released in advance.

“For millions of children and youth, schools are a lifeline of opportunity as well as a shield. Classrooms offer protection – or at least a reprieve – from violence, exploitation and other difficult circumstances,” she said.

“Without urgent practical assistance, some of the children left without schooling worldwide due to the coronavirus may never set foot in a classroom again. We must find ways to try to ensure access to continuity of education for young people across the world.”

Ensuring that children are not affected long-term by the interruption to their education during coronavirus is a priority for the UK, the Department for International Development (DfID) said.

It added that millions of children may be left without a school to attend in the aftermath of coronavirus, potentially undermining education systems in fragile and developing countries for a generation.

“Education must be prioritised in the global recovery from coronavirus. This epidemic is not just a health crisis, it is an education crisis, especially for refugee children,” Baroness Sugg said.

“Without school and an education they will be unable to rebuild their lives and achieve their full potential.

“Supporting every child’s right to 12 years of quality education is one of the best investments the UK can make to end the cycle of displacement, poverty and conflict, as we recover from coronavirus.”

The £5.3 million of UK aid announced on Monday will allow UNHCR to make payments to 5,669 teachers in 10 refugee-hosting countries for 7 months where urgent support is needed.

The countries are Chad, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Yemen.

The UK has previously announced £15m (Dh69.4m) of crisis funding from the aid budget to Unicef and £5 million (Dh23.1m) to Education Cannot Wait.

Before coronavirus, 260 million children were out of school worldwide. Now, 1.5 billion children in over 150 countries are out of school, DfID said.

Published: July 13, 2020 05:19 PM

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