UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore ECW/IFFEd Replenishment Event

25 September 2019


Before I turn to the importance of seeking new ways to finance quality education, I’d like to illustrate why education is so important — for children of all ages, no matter where they live.  

Last year I travelled to a small village in India — Mirzapur, in Uttar Pradesh. I visited an Aanganwadi. It’s one of several rural child care centres supported by UNICEF, where I met young children learning and shaping their minds through quality early childhood education instruction.

After, I met some older children in that same village — an amazing group of young women who are not only continuing with their education. They’ve joined forces to work with local families and authorities to tackle issues that keep other girls out of school, like child marriage and violence. They’re true champions of change — and champions of education. Changing minds and changing futures.

That visit reminded me of the key role that education can play, even in the smallest communities, for children throughout their childhoods. From the earliest days, through adolescence, and into adulthood. Benefitting families — and the entire community.

But for millions of children, education is a distant dream. What amounts to a global learning crisis.

While more children are enrolled in school than ever before, millions are not learning the basics.

By 2030, hundreds of millions in low and middle-income countries will leave school without the basic skills they need in reading, writing and math.

The people in this room can help us turn this around. Today is an opportunity to discuss solutions — particularly in how we finance this work.

This is a critical component. We must make a special effort to reach those who are not getting the education they need and deserve — children living through conflict…refugee and migrant children…children with disabilities…those living in remote, rural communities…those living in overcrowded but under served slums…and, critically, girls, who are too often left out of school altogether.

We’re not just looking for commitments from the donors gathered here today. We’re looking for innovative new ideas to join-up different sources of public and private funding to address this growing need.

The International Finance Facility for Education — the IFFED — is an excellent example. It has the potential to ensure that funding provided to education needs around the world — where and when it’s needed.

And when emergencies strike, the Education Cannot Wait Fund is working to address the urgent and complex needs of children facing some of the world’s worst realities. In conflicts and natural disasters, children’s education suffers first, when schools are closed or destroyed, and education is interrupted.

Children shouldn’t have to pay this price. We must find ways to continue their education — either in a temporary space or in conjunction with generous host countries. ECW and IFFED can help close this gap, and ensure that emergencies or where a child is born don’t automatically mean that a child’s education journey has ended.

Today is also an opportunity to talk about innovative solutions to improving both access to and the quality of learning children receive.

For example, UNICEF is a key partner in the Project Connect initiative, to connect every school in the world to the internet. This is not only a way to provide access to information — it can also help children on the move, and those living in crowded slums or distant rural communities access quality learning and good teachers over the internet.

Perhaps in your countries you’ve seen projects or initiatives that could work. We’d love to hear about them, and start a discussion on how we could scale-up these ideas to reach even more children and young people in need.

Once again — thank you for lending your voice and ideas to this vital effort. UNICEF’s 800 education staff members in 144 countries stand with you as we seek new ways to reach every child with the education she needs and deserves.




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Najwa Mekki
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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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