Don’t Leave Them Behind: Educate Today’s Generation to Save Their Lives and Planet Earth

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ECW Executive Director Yasmine Sherif Statement on Earth Day

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NEW YORK, April 22, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Every day should be Earth Day. Planet Earth gives us sustenance, nurtures our children, feeds our families and embraces us with warmth and loving grace. However, we mistreat both Mother Earth and her Children. On a daily basis. Year in, year out.

It’s a challenging road ahead. As we are currently witnessing across the globe, prolonged droughts interspersed by massive floods, heat waves, destructive cyclones, rising sea-levels and other climate-related disasters are pushing people from their homes, triggering new conflicts over scarce resources, and derailing development gains. Schools are destroyed, learning is denied and displacement grows.

Our planet is in peril. Environmental destruction means that many of today’s children may never learn to read and write, may never recover from the shocks of a disrupted education, may never witness the resplendent beauty of a coral reef, they may never hear the call of birds who risk immediate extinction, they may never find inspiration from the roar of hooves as wildebeest cross the Serengeti.

We must respond now and reverse these losses, and we need to invest in education.

However, there is a clear problem as climate change and environmental destruction are pushing more and more children out of school, especially in areas impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement and other protracted crises. Recent analysis from Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, indicates that 62 million crisis-affected children and adolescents have been impacted by climate shocks since 2020.

There are myriad ways education can protect Planet Earth and help us to address the climate crisis. By providing 12 years of quality education to every girl and boy – especially the ones who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – we are fostering skillsets fit for the 21st century. It is our generation’s responsibility to equip children with the knowledge and skills they need to respond to and address the climate crisis, so they can survive and thrive.

As countries move toward climate-resilient economies and we make good on the commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement, this generation will be the powerhouse behind greener agriculture, climate-smart businesses and more efficient transportation. They will be the architects of the reimagined cities, economies and communities of the future.

In the classroom, children will not only learn numeric skills and literacy, but also learn about the value of environmental preservation and climate action. By providing all children – including those living in extreme poverty caused by crisis situations – with education, we can address inequality, which often forces people to make difficult environmental decisions as they have few resources. It also means that classrooms can serve as central community hubs to reduce risks from natural hazards, and as a society, we can create the necessary behavior change we need to protect our people and our planet for generations to come.

Work to integrate education into climate action is already underway. While on the one hand, it’s about responding to natural hazards and other climate-related hazards with fast and effective education in emergencies responses, it’s also about engineering sustainability and resilience into the very fabric of our societies, our education systems and our economies.

Education Cannot Wait has successfully implemented a number of programmes that are helping with the immediate response and support children in accessing education.

In Pakistan, where more than 30,000 schools were destroyed by massive floods, an ECW investment delivered by UNICEF, ACTED and other local partners provided over 100,000 girls and boys affected by the floods with access to inclusive, quality education. ACTED has embraced an interesting modality that combines education, sustainable livelihoods, disaster preparedness, response and recovery into a coordinated intervention designed to address broader stressors such as exclusion, poverty and environmental destruction: a whole-of-systems response to a whole-of-world problem.  

In Chad, ECW is investing in disaster-resilient classrooms. Traditionally, many classrooms built in remote areas and refugee and displacement camps were built from temporary materials, such as straw, tarps and wood. But they are highly vulnerable to the forces of nature. Floods in late-2022 destroyed many of these temporary classrooms. To build back better, ECW is funding the construction of durable classrooms that are built to withstand future shocks and ensure children can continue their learning.

In Haiti, ECW investments are supporting the Ministry of Education to establish emergency response cells, set up disaster alerts, and prepare contingency plans centered around public schools and existing systems already well-positioned to reach broad swaths of the community.

To build on this work, ECW urges world leaders, including public and private sector donors, to pledge US$150 million in new additional funds through our #RightHereRightNow campaign. This will allow ECW and its strategic partners to reach 2 million children impacted by the climate crisis. 

Mother Earth is the greatest teacher of all-time. By safeguarding the right to an education for children in climate-induced disasters, and by integrating climate action in their education, we can show the planet the love and respect it so urgently deserves. It’s not just a service to our planet, it’s a service to all children whose education cannot wait.

On X/Twitter, please follow: @EduCannotWait  @YasmineSherif1  @KentPage

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SOURCE Education Cannot Wait

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