Children play in their room at a refugee camp near Belgrade Oliver Bunic/Getty Images

A Double Betrayal for Refugee Children

Last year, the Education Cannot Wait fund was created to close the education-financing gap for refugee children and ensure that the necessary resources are available when disaster strikes. It was a heartening development, but the harsh reality is that donor pledges have not kept pace with need.

LONDON – From Syria to Myanmar, children caught in the crossfire of conflict are victims of a double betrayal. Forced out of their homes in the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, they have now become the innocent victims of a broken promise that they would, even as refugees, be able to attend school. And, even as their circumstances worsen and their numbers increase, their plight is going all but unreported.

The loud cheering that has greeted past humanitarian aid pledges has given way to a shameful silence. As the news cycle churns on and coverage shifts to more sensational events, the 75 million children and young people worldwide whose education has been interrupted by forced displacement become less likely ever to return to the classroom.

Perhaps it is no accident that the promise of education for all school-age refugees is not being fulfilled. No amount of goodwill can overcome an international aid architecture that remains stacked against children. Education spending is still caught between humanitarian aid, which focuses on the most basic necessities for survival, such as food, shelter, and medicine, and development aid programs, which are planned over years and are slower to respond to crises. As a result, education is often treated as a lower priority, the last to be funded and the first to have its financing redirected.