How to rewrite the future for millions of children

By Katy Webley, head of education for Save the Children (UK)

2010 is the year for education. As we mark the Campaign for Education’s Global Action Week, we’re looking ahead to reform of the Fast Track Initiative, the 1GOAL campaign, the education summit in Johannesburg in June, and the Millennium Development Goals summit in September. At the end of the year, we should be able collectively to look back and know that we did all we could to get the world on track – and all children into school.

At Save the Children, we’re looking back over five years of our education campaign Rewrite the Future, which focused on education in conflict-affected states (the theme of the forthcoming 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report). We are proud of the resulting change for children. It was the best use of a charity’s resources: ambitious but focused, concerted and collaborative. We built on our strengths and we challenged others to do more.


Scaling up…. In 2006 Save the Children dramatically scaled up our education work in conflict-affected fragile states so that 3 million more children could go to school and the quality of education could improve for 8 million.  We exceeded our quality target, reaching more than 10 million, but overcoming the numerous linked barriers to these children’s education – including poverty, discrimination, violence and conflict – proved harder.  We achieved an increase of 1.4 million children in school, and have committed to reach 3 million by 2015.  We also learned, researched and documented – increasing our knowledge about barriers to education.

Stepping up…. Also in 2006, Save the Children was invited to co-lead an education cluster with UNICEF. This meant taking on the responsibility to better prepare for, respond to and co-ordinate education in emergencies, globally and in countries.  We are the only NGO to have such responsibility. While the cluster has absorbed core resources and energy (without bringing in significant new funds), we believe it has made a big difference to the hundreds of thousands of children every year who would otherwise fall out of school during an emergency – often never to return.

Challenging others…. Advocacy was a big part of Rewrite the Future from the start. Although more than half of out-of-school children were in conflict-affected fragile states according to Save the Children’s figures, very little education aid reached them. It is understandable that donors were giving a higher priority to countries that were easier to reach, but it wasn’t going to see the world reach the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education.

Each year, Save the Children assessed this global picture through our Last in Line publication series. We held focused meetings in donor capitals, with multilateral institutes, with the Fast Track Initiative and at international Education for All meetings – repeatedly pushing the same analysis and message.

In 2010, the picture for children in conflict-affected fragile states looks better, as many donors have shifted their priorities. In 2006, the UK’s Department for International Development allocated only an average 16% of its bilateral education aid to conflict-affected fragile states, the equivalent of £60 million at the time. DFID’s new education strategy, released last month, commits to spending around 50% of bilateral aid for education in fragile and conflict-affected states – a massive increase, to about £280m a year.

The task ahead…. In no way is the job done.  There is an urgent need to strengthen ministries of education in conflict-affected states, improve training programmes and employment conditions for teachers, increase the relevance and purposefulness of education, address the increasing threat of emergencies, and protect education from attack.  Conflict-affected fragile states must still be the focus, and it will be for Save the Children.


Leave a Reply