Safe Schools Initiative
Photo by Nick Cavanagh.
GBC-Education works to lead the response to attacks against safe schools by promoting safe schools and coordinating the business response. Safe Schools Initiatives is have been launched in Nigeria, the Ebola-affected countries, Pakistan, and Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
Broadly, GBC-Education define Safe Schools as places where children can safely learn and play and realize their full potential. In crisis or disaster, these spaces become even more important, offering the supervision, services, knowledge, and options that save lives in the short- and long-term.
The first Safe Schools Initiative was launched in Nigeria following the kidnapping of 276 Chibok schoolgirls. In response, GBC-Education business leaders – alongside the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, A World at School and the Nigerian government – leveraged $30 million from business, the Nigerian government, and international donors resulting in a government initiative and a United Nations multi-donor trust fund for Safe Schools.
Since the 2014 kidnapping of these school children, Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to mean “Western education is forbidden,” has directed their attacks at schools, destroying school buildings and teaching materials, and abducting hundreds of teachers and students. As independent school resources are insufficient to address the frequency and scale of attacks, the “Safe Schools Initiative” will focus on school and community interventions, with special measures for the most at-risk and vulnerable.
To date, nearly 50,000 children displaced from their homes in Nigeria by Boko Haram have been helped by the Safe Schools Initiative through a student transfer program, a school reconstruction program, and innovative education strategies within IDP camps.
Education became one of the first casualties of the Ebola crisis that swept West Africa, forcing more than 5 million children out of school across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. These out of school children were placed at much greater risk for child labor and exploitation with girls more likely to be subjected to situations such as early marriage and pregnancy. Without the reopening of safe schools, the most vulnerable and most marginalized children bore the brunt of the crisis as the cycle of poverty jeopardizes these children’s futures — likely for generations to come.
In the fall of 2014, GBC-Education collaborated with A World at School to propose ten recommendations to support the education of children in Ebola-affected countries in Ebola Emergency: Restoring Education, Creating Safe Schools and Preventing a Long-term Crisis. The proposal had significant influence in the responsible reopening of schools in all three countries.
Throughout the past four decades, Pakistan has experienced more attacks on education than any country in the world. Militants have destroyed thousands of school buildings, taken the lives of hundreds of teachers and students, and denied the right to education to thousands more. While Pakistani provincial governments have responded by heightening security measures in educational institutions across the country, increased support is needed to support safe schools through targeted interventions and comprehensive programming.
In the winter of 2015, the Pakistan Safe Schools Initiative was launched with the UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and A World at School following the horrific attack on innocent schoolchildren in Peshawar. In the initiative’s first year, GBC-Education’s initiative was endorsed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and, through collaboration with A World at School, outlined 15 best practices to build on global expertise and experience to make schools safer in the report, Protecting the Right to Learn in Pakistan.
Currently, #smartinvestment Network member PredictifyMe is piloting technology to help schools assess risk in partnership with the Pakistani government.
Syria refugee crisis
The humanitarian response to the conflict in Syria has failed to address the education crisis facing Syria’s children. Many of these children have already lost two years or more of schooling and have suffered great trauma, Without the implementation of a substantial plan of action, an entire generation of 2 million-plus children will be effectively lost.
In September 2015, GBC-Education collaborated with A World at School, Theirworld, and education experts to design a plan to educate more than 1 million Syrian refugee children in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon through an innovative double-shift school system. Through GBC-Education’s efforts in the Middle East, more than 50 companies and partners have contributed $75 million to support the education of Syrian refugee children through financing and in-kind support as of the Supporting Syria and the Region conference which took place in February.
Latin America and the Caribbean
In September, 2015, GBC-Education expanded the Safe Schools work into Latin America and the Caribbean. In partnership with UNICEF and A World at School, the new Strong Schools and Communities Initiative will explore opportunities for school communities, national authorities, and the private sector to strengthen programs that protect learning environments and promote an open dialogue among communities throughout the region. Learn more about the work in the report, Strong Schools and Communities Initiative: Working Together to Build Safe Schools and Protective Learning Environments.