Cash urged for schools in crisis zones including Nepal as refugee numbers surge

OSLO: Cash for educating children caught up in disasters, ranging from the war in Syria to the earthquake in Nepal, needs to rise sharply to cope with a surge in the number of young refugees, a UN envoy said on Monday.

"While the need is rising, aid is currently falling," former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for global education, told a July 6-7 conference on education in Oslo. "We must act to deal with this crisis."

He urged creation of a multi-million dollar humanitarian fund to help education in nations suffering emergencies, where schools were not among immediate priorities of food, water, shelter and medicines.

Aid to basic education fell to $3.5 billion in 2013 from $4.5 billion in 2010, even as overall aid flows increased to developing nations, he said.

Last month, the UN's refugee agency said the number of people forced to flee their homes had surged to 59.5 million at the end of 2014, with 30 million aged under 18, from 51.2 million a year earlier.

Brown said that cash was available, for instance by cutting subsidies on fossil fuels and diverting the cash to schools.

The Norwegian Refugee Council also urged a sharp rise in aid to help children suffering from emergencies.

"Aid to education in emergencies must be doubled," Jan Egeland, head of the Council, told the conference. And he said that children who got no education were more likely to get recruited to extremist and armed groups.

Worldwide, a total of 59 million children were not getting primary education in 2013, up by 2.4 million from 2010 but well down from 99 million in 2000, according to a report on Monday by the UN children's agency UNICEF.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende also said cash for education was badly lagging, compared to goals of education for all by 2015.

"No education, no development," he said. "We are facing a financing gap of $25 billion (a year) for ensuring basic education. We should see this not as an expense but as an investment."

Delegates said there were also new sources of financing, beyond traditional rich donors such as the United States, European nations or Japan.

"European nations have debts of their own, we need to do things differently," said Desmond Bermingham of Qatar's Education Above All initiative.