`We must ensure that children do not pay the price'

15th May 2015 at 01:00
After Nepal quakes, Sarah Brown leads campaign to reopen schools

Shree Kalika Higher Secondary School was reduced to rubble by the earthquake that hit Nepal almost three weeks ago.

According to English teacher Balkrishna Khadka, parents and staff are ready to put up tents and tarpaulins to allow students to return to class. But, like thousands of schools across the country, they are still waiting for international support to arrive to enable them to do so.

As millions of pounds of aid flows into Nepal from across the globe, efforts to attract funding to rebuild the country's schools have had little impact. An appeal to support the education of children affected by the disaster has so far raised just 2 per cent of its $20 million (pound;12.7 million) target.

The situation worsened when a second major quake occurred earlier this week, days before many schools were to reopen.

Now Sarah Brown, co-founder of international development charity A World at School and wife of former British prime minister Gordon Brown, is calling for a dedicated fund to be set up to ensure that children caught up in natural disasters and other crises continue to receive an education.

She told TES: "In the past four years we have witnessed an unprecedented number of humanitarian disasters. In every case, education has been neglected, with millions of children bearing the brunt for the rest of their lives.

"We know that education can provide hope and a better future, especially in an emergency, but only 1 per cent of humanitarian funding went to education last year. Schools are not just places to access education and information, but a safe sanctuary and a stable environment to help children rebuild their lives after the trauma and losses they have experienced as a result of a conflict or emergency."

Ms Brown added: "We must ensure that an entire generation of children in Nepal does not pay the price because their education is neglected."

A World at School is joining forces with Plan International and other charities to try to persuade world leaders to back a global humanitarian fund for education in emergencies, to ensure that pupils can return to school as quickly as possible.

A million pupils out of school

In the devastating earthquakes in Nepal, 24,000 classrooms were destroyed, leaving almost 1 million pupils out of school. For Mr Khadka and other teachers, help cannot come soon enough.

"We live in the hill region and the monsoon season will start soon. We need temporary learning spaces so classes can start again. We haven't seen all the students, but the ones we have seen are worried about their classes and asking when school will return," he said.

Education leaders from across the globe are to meet in South Korea next week for the World Education Forum. They will decide on global targets for the next 15 years and discuss how to reduce the number of primary-age children out of school across the world, which is currently about 58 million. It is estimated that 28 million of these children live in areas affected by conflict or natural disasters.

The campaign for an emergency education fund will also be discussed at an international summit in Norway in July. Mr Brown, the United Nations special envoy for global education, is expected to make the case to ministers.

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