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Education in emergencies: “Without education we are nothing”

Children Studying in Masisi DRC
Children studying in Masisi, DRC

We all know what children need in an emergency: food, shelter and basic healthcare. But with so many urgent requirements, education – that vital tool for any child’s future – can sometimes get forgotten.


Asking communities what they need

Hear it From the Children, a new report by Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council, took a very simple approach – we asked the opinion of affected communities.

The result was a resounding call for education to be prioritised as a core part of emergency response. In a survey of 250 children, parents, teachers and community representatives in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia and Masisi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 30% described education as their number one concern.

Getting the goat out of the hole

One community leader in Masisi summed things up in a particularly colourful manner: “If you have a goat and it falls into a hole, will you wait three days for it to die before you try to help it? No! You will go straight away! It is the same with education – if you wait three months, many of these children will go with the armed forces or face violence, and they too may die, just like the goat.”

A father from the same community puts it more succinctly: “Education is the most important thing. Without education we are nothing.”


Children want education too

When I visited Masisi last year, this was a sentiment I heard not just from parents and teachers, but also from every child I spoke to. They told me that in school they felt safe, and that by going to school they were receiving not just an education but hope for a more prosperous future where they could find a good job and earn money for their families.

In school they learnt the importance of avoiding violence. Innocent, 13, told me: “We had lessons where the teacher taught us about violence, and how not to be violent, and this is very important for us to learn. If all children are educated the fighting could stop because all the child soldiers will be at school and no-one will go to the bush for fighting.”

I lost count of the number of people who told me earnestly that providing greater access to education was the only way conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo could ever finally be brought to an end.


The international community must listen to the voices of the people they seek to help

Currently, a mere 1.9% of humanitarian appeals funding is dedicated to education, meaning that only 40% of funding requirements are being met. This comes nowhere near to addressing the needs of nearly 50 million children who are currently missing out on school in conflict-affected countries.

So today, we are calling on donors and the international community to listen to these communities  and do more to fund education in emergencies. It’s the only way of making sure that every child, no matter where they grow up, is provided with the tools to fulfil their potential.


The Children of Peace initiative was started by the European Union with the one million euros they received as winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. The initiative has allowed Save the Children to reach more than 5,000 children from war-torn Somalia in Dollo Ado refugee camp, Ethiopia, 95% of whom have never been to school. Children of Peace also fund’s the Norwegian’s Refugee Council’s work in North Kivu, DRC, where they have set up 13 schools and educated more than 9,000 children displaced by conflict.

Click here to read more about our education programmes in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia, and the Norwegian Refugee Council’s projects in Masisi, DRC, and to access the report in full.

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