Steps to Achieve SDG4 for #EveryLastChild

by Coco Lammers

a picture of Masa 03 March 16. Ahmad Baroudi/Save the Children

This is Masa. When Masa was one year old, her family was forced to flee their home country of Syria for Turkey. Today, Masa is five years old, an age when many children around the world go to school. She is among the 1 million Syrian refugee children living in neighboring countries who are not in school.

In most cases, it will take years for a refugee girl like Masa to get the chance to go to school. Even after an immediate crisis ends, if a family has the chance to return home, infrastructure is often weak and the government has a difficult time establishing funding, policies, and procedures to get the national education system on track. Teachers may not get paid for months, classrooms are crowded, materials are nonexistent, communities are afraid to send their children back to school due to safety, and governments only pay attention to whether kids attend classes, not whether they are actually learning. If the family stays in another country, it could take years for them to matriculate into the schools, if they ever do.

In 2014, a UNESCO report revealed that around 250 million children around the world are in school but not learning the basics. The result is a global learning crisis. In 2015, after the completion of the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals, all governments adopted an ambitious development agenda for the year 2030 that sets out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a response to the global learning crisis, Goal 4 of the SDGs (SDG4) is focused on ensuring access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Achieving ’education for all’ and ensuring ‘no one is left behind’, key pledges made by all governments in the SDGs, will be particularly difficult in conflict affected and fragile states. Last year, a Save the Children report revealed that the countries furthest behind in achieving the MDGs were not the least developed countries, but were countries affected by crisis, conflict, or fragility. According to the World Bank, people in conflict-affected and fragile states are more than three times as likely to be unable to send their children to school as those in other developing countries.

So, how do we ensure that all children, no matter who they are or where they live, are in school and learning?

Step 1: Data

  • Countries, at the national and subnational level, need to identify the most excluded children.  Then they need to make a public commitment to produce more and better data that shows where the gaps are and enable targeting of resources towards the most excluded groups.  Governments must work with researchers to collect disaggregated data and to ensure consistency, allowing data to be compared across countries, regions, and at the global level.
  • There should be commitment among donors to ensure that there is a minimal level of data collected in all countries. This “data floor” is especially critical for countries affected by crisis and conflict who have the worst track record on data collection. Education must be a part of the data floor.
  • Data must be disaggregated at a minimum by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status, disability and geographic location, common differentiators for development progress, so that patterns and trends in educational inequity can be identified and plans can be implemented to ensure that these groups see progress first, not last.
  • Governments must set national interim equity targets for specific groups to monitor progress toward SDG4 and to ensure the most marginalized and excluded children, including refugees and internally displaced children, are learning and on track to meet SDG4 targets.
  • The international community must encourage citizen-led data collection, expand access to and transparency of existing data resources, and build local capacity for data use and analysis in order to drive change from the ground up.

Step 2: Accountability

  • Governments and international bodies must establish effective, inclusive and participatory accountability mechanisms at all levels to help ensure that progress is being made on SDG4.
  • Donors and developing countries alike need to make a commitment to find more and better funding for education and SDG implementation.
  • Global resources should be focused on countries where progress on SDG4 will be most challenging, including in countries affected by crisis, conflict, and fragility.
  • Civil society and other stakeholders, including young people, need to continue to push for and engage in effective governance structures and accountability mechanisms to ensure progress on SDG4.
  • Donors, oversight bodies, and non-governmental organizations need to use the data collected on SDG4 to push for greater accountability, follow-up, and review of the SDGs at all levels.

As advocates, we need both courage and persistence to keep the momentum going on this equitable learning agenda. It will take hard work and sustained attention to ensure that even when contexts change, crisis strikes, or stability is threatened that young girls like Masa and all children, regardless of their background and circumstances, are able to go to school and learn.

In 2030, Masa will be 19 years old. Imagine what a quality education and lifelong learning could do for her generation. The possibilities for her and millions of other children just like her are endless.

Learn more about Education in Emergencies.

Coco Lammers is the Manager of Global Development, Policy, and Advocacy for Save the Children

Photo Credit: 03 March 16. Ahmad Baroudi/Save the Children

This post originally appeared on The Global Campaign for Education.

The Joys of a Letter Shared with Friends and Neighbors

Author Portrait_Nazma Akter, Sponsorship Program OfficerNazma Akter

Sponsorship Program Officer

Save the Children in Bangladesh

August 23, 2016

“It’s for the first time. A letter to such a little child is not only a new experience for us, but also a great joy for us.” said Sufia, age 27. Her two-year-old son Sabbir has just received a letter from abroad, sent to him by his sponsor.

Sufia is a home-maker and her husband, Delowar, age 32, works as a day laborer. Sabbir is their only child. Together they live in a slum settlement in the Rayerbazar community of Dhaka North city.

Later, Sufia and Sabbir show the letter to Sabbir’s father
Later, Sufia and Sabbir show the letter to Sabbir’s father

Enrolling children between the ages of 1 and 3 in Sponsorship has been recently introduced in Rayerbazar, in 2015 through our new Maternal and Child Health programming. Despite that this is a new initiative for Save the Children, the team in Bangladesh has already seen Maternal and Child Health has made sponsors excited. Sabbir received his first sponsor right after being enrolled in Sponsorship in August, and received his first sponsor letter immediately after that, in September.

Sabbir is still too young to understand what makes this letter so thrilling, but the happiness and excitement is greatly shared by his parents, despite that neither of them are literate. His mother explains, “We don’t know reading and writing. But we have loved reading the letter and replying to the sponsor with the help of [Sponsorship] staff. This letter has made us feel proud, as only Sabbir in our [entire] slum got a letter. We have shared the letter with our neighbors also. We are very thankful to the sponsor.”

In addition to making this connection with Sabbir’s sponsor, Sufia benefits from sponsorship support by attending early stimulation parenting sessions regularly. Our early stimulation parenting program is implemented through regular home visits or monthly group sessions with parents of newborns and toddlers. During these sessions, parents are taught how to aid in their young children’s development with playtime, language and communication, gentle discipline, healthy hygiene practices, feeding and nutritious foods. Parents and children alike learn with helpful learning materials, like illustrative cards and colorful picture books.

Sufia shares the letter with neighbors while little Sabbir is curious to join in the excitement
Sufia shares the letter with neighbors while little Sabbir is curious to join in the excitement

Sufia tells me, “Previously I didn’t know how to take care of a young child. But now, I have learned about the needs and care, including hygiene, food and nutrition required for Sabbir’s growth. Now, I can take proper care of him. We are happy to get Save the Children’s support.” Sabbir’s mother understands the importance of the Sponsorship program in helping her community, and how sponsors’ contributions directly benefit her child and family’s wellbeing.

Sufia wants Sabbir to have a good quality education. She wants his sponsor to keep writing to Sabbir, so that he too can learn from these letters and one day respond to them on his own. She is happy to know that her son has the opportunity to grow up with Sponsorship in his life.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Steps to Achieve SDG4 for Every Last Child

cocoCoco Lammers

Manager, Global Development Public Policy & Advocy

Save the Children US

August 22, 2016

This blog post originally appeared on Global Campaign for Education US. 

This is Masa. When Masa was one year old, her family was forced to flee their home country of Syria for Turkey. Today, Masa is five years old, an age when many children around the world go to school. She is among the 1 million Syrian refugee children living in neighboring countries who are not in school.

Photo Credit: Ahmad Baroudi
Photo Credit: Ahmad Baroudi

In most cases, it will take years for a refugee girl like Masa to get the chance to go to school. Even after an immediate crisis ends, if a family has the chance to return home, infrastructure is often weak and the government has a difficult time establishing funding, policies, and procedures to get the national education system on track. Teachers may not get paid for months, classrooms are crowded, materials are nonexistent, communities are afraid to send their children back to school due to safety, and governments only pay attention to whether kids attend classes, not whether they are actually learning. If the family stays in another country, it could take years for them to matriculate into the schools, if they ever do.

In 2014, a UNESCO report revealed that around 250 million children around the world are in school but not learning the basics. The result is a global learning crisis. In 2015, after the completion of the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals, all governments adopted an ambitious development agenda for the year 2030 that sets out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a response to the global learning crisis, Goal 4 of the SDGs (SDG4) is focused on ensuring access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Achieving ’education for all’ and ensuring ‘no one is left behind’, key pledges made by all governments in the SDGs, will be particularly difficult in conflict affected and fragile states. Last year, a Save the Children report revealed that the countries furthest behind in achieving the MDGs were not the least developed countries, but were countries affected by crisis, conflict, or fragility. According to the World Bank, people in conflict-affected and fragile states are more than three times as likely to be unable to send their children to school as those in other developing countries.

So, how do we ensure that all children, no matter who they are or where they live, are in school and learning?

Step 1: Data

  • Countries, at the national and subnational level, need to identify the most excluded children.  Then they need to make a public commitment to produce more and better data that shows where the gaps are and enable targeting of resources towards the most excluded groups.  Governments must work with researchers to collect disaggregated data and to ensure consistency, allowing data to be compared across countries, regions, and at the global level.
  • There should be commitment among donors to ensure that there is a minimal level of data collected in all countries. This “data floor” is especially critical for countries affected by crisis and conflict who have the worst track record on data collection. Education must be a part of the data floor.
  • Data must be disaggregated at a minimum by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status, disability and geographic location, common differentiators for development progress, so that patterns and trends in educational inequity can be identified and plans can be implemented to ensure that these groups see progress first, not last.
  • Governments must set national interim equity targets for specific groups to monitor progress toward SDG4 and to ensure the most marginalized and excluded children, including refugees and internally displaced children, are learning and on track to meet SDG4 targets.
  • The international community must encourage citizen-led data collection, expand access to and transparency of existing data resources, and build local capacity for data use and analysis in order to drive change from the ground up.

Step 2: Accountability

  • Governments and international bodies must establish effective, inclusive and participatory accountability mechanisms at all levels to help ensure that progress is being made on SDG4.
  • Donors and developing countries alike need to make a commitment to find more and better funding for education and SDG implementation.
  • Global resources should be focused on countries where progress on SDG4 will be most challenging, including in countries affected by crisis, conflict, and fragility.
  • Civil society and other stakeholders, including young people, need to continue to push for and engage in effective governance structures and accountability mechanisms to ensure progress on SDG4.
  • Donors, oversight bodies, and non-governmental organizations need to use the data collected on SDG4 to push for greater accountability, follow-up, and review of the SDGs at all levels.

As advocates, we need both courage and persistence to keep the momentum going on this equitable learning agenda. It will take hard work and sustained attention to ensure that even when contexts change, crisis strikes, or stability is threatened that young girls like Masa and all children, regardless of their background and circumstances, are able to go to school and learn.

In 2030, Masa will be 19 years old. Imagine what a quality education and lifelong learning could do for her generation. The possibilities for her and millions of other children just like her are endless.

Melania and the Little Doctors

author-portrait_erniatun-hartini-sponsorship-communication-officerErniatun Hartini

Sponsorship Communication Officer

Save the Children in Indonesia

August 18, 2016

Poor hygiene is one of the serious problems facing children in Indonesia, especially in remote areas, where there is a high incidence of disease. Save the Children in Indonesia addresses this problem by working to increase children’s understanding of personal hygiene and health, in areas like Melania’s community in Sumba where children lack essential knowledge on how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Under the guidance of Sponsorship’s School Health and Nutrition programming, we help schools form “Little Doctor” groups. Through the Little Doctor program, students are encouraged to become agents of change in their school to promote clean and healthy living amongst their peers.

Melania practicing her handwashing
Melania practicing her handwashing

“I am proud and thankful for Save the Children,” Melania, one of the Little Doctors, tells me. She then confidently explained the program, while showing a flipchart the students use, called the Hi-5 or 5 Behaviors to Keep Clean and Healthy, to promote good health and hygiene in their school. “This is a very good program. Becoming a Little Doctor gives me very important knowledge on clean and healthy behaviors. Before this program, me and many of my friends never gave much thought to the idea of hygiene and living healthy. I believe that everybody desired to live a healthy life. And healthy living should be started by doing simple things such as washing your hands. It is important to keep yourself clean and healthy, especially before you eat.”

Together with her friends, 13-year-old Melania actively promotes clean and healthy behaviors every day. The Little Doctors implement health education activities, such as monitoring the cleanliness of their classrooms, latrines and the school environment. She tells us she will never forget to remind her friends to wash their hands with soap and to put their trash in the trashbin. And she admits that promoting a healthy lifestyle is not easy! She tells us many of her friends still do not understand the importance of washing their hands with soap, since this concept is still so new to them. However, she never gives up in dedicating herself to her role as a Little Doctor, and feels the responsibilty to continue promoting clean and healthy behaviors amongst her friends and family.

The Little Doctors program is so successful because it implements peer-to-peer education activities, which allow children to learn from each other. To ensure the benefits of the program are both sustainable and widespread, group members are only active for about two years before they graduate from the program. This allows the school to continuously train more Little Doctors and likewise have an impact on even more children.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Why I Sponsor a Child in the Philippines

STC_Elisha_WhyISponsor

By Elisha-Rio Apilado, Child Sponsor

This post originally appeared on Medium.

Before, finding your happiness used to be “Find what you love to do and do it often.” Well that was early adulthood me. Now, diving head-first into another milestone age, it’s gradually become:

“Do what you love to do, do it often and use it to help another person find their own happiness.”

There’s always a personal reason behind why we do the things we do. What we believe in now is greatly affected by the experiences we’ve had — both the good and bad — and it is always changing. How we want to carry ourselves, what we want to invest in, the people we socialize with and the organizations we want to be a part of; they’re all affected by life events.

5 years ago, if you asked me about children, I’d probably give you this “Please stop talking to me” look and carry on with my career-art-driven life. But since then, things happened — both the good and bad — and something changed my perspective on what I want to bring about in the world, my purpose and my intentions. I had been involved with local homeless shelters since as long as I can remember and did pro-bono design projects for not-for-profits, but there was still something I wanted to do, I just hadn’t found it yet…well until recently.

STC_Elisha_Drawing
Drawing of a child beggar in the Philippines by Elisha-Rio Apilado

Within the past year, I’ve been dedicating myself to understanding my Filipino roots, the culture and values, learning Tagalog so I can break that language barrier with my pamilya (family) back home and being more mindful of the lifestyle there. My recent Philippines trip really helped guide where I’m at this very moment

My revelations and travels really came down to one thing: helping somebody overseas.

I had been contemplating the past year on sponsoring ang bata sa Pilipinas (a child in the Philippines) and did a lot of research. I’m really happy to have found the right fit with Save the Children and super excited to help out a child in need, especially back in the homeland.

I truly believe everything that happens in your life builds up to a particular moment when you realize a piece of your purpose — and I can say this is one of the outcomes from past challenges and realizations I’ve had. I’m not ready just yet to have a child or adopt one, but so glad there are foundations like these that I can still contribute to.

A drawing + letter from my sponsored child, Kyl
A drawing + letter from my sponsored child, Kyl

I’ve been in contact with the young girl out in the Philippines through emails, letters and drawings. She keeps me updated on her schooling, her friends and family. It’s also been really great practicing my Tagalog writing to her (excuse the beginner style you may see in these photos!) Save the Children also keeps me updated on how my contributions are helping not only her family, but the community she’s in.

Hand-lettered by http://punkpost.co/
Hand-lettered by http://punkpost.co/

I’m hoping to go back to the homeland next year and finally meet this sweet girl. *fingers crossed*

Until then, I’ll keep doodling and being her pen-pal 🙂

Refugee Baby Triumphs Against the Odds in Greece

sandySandy Maroun

Humanitarian Media and Communications Manager

Save the Children in Greece

August 11, 2016

As Khadji* welcomes me into her tent, she asks me to have a seat on the ground and she places her little sleeping baby Bikas* on a makeshift bed. The bed is constructed with a slab of iron, supported with iron stakes and covered with blankets.

I ask Khadji if this is the baby’s bed. She gives me a small nod and says he sleeps anywhere in the tent – they don’t have any other options.

As I look at Bikas, I reflect on the babies being born and raised in refugee camps in Greece – what impact will this have on their health and development? Will they still be in these camps when they turn one? Two? I can’t help but wish Bikas had a quiet room and a comfortable cradle to sleep in, just like millions of other babies around the world. RS122172_Bikas4

Once Bikas is settled, 25-yearold Khadji tells me her story. She speaks about the war and insecurity she and her husband and young children witnessed at home in Iraq, the shelling and the persecution by armed groups. She also tells me about the perilous journey from Turkey to Greece on a shaky, inflatable boat while she was pregnant with Bikas. Khadji reveals she was unsure that they would survive. She was terrified of losing her children in the sea, like so many mothers before her.

Khadji also tells me about her son’s birth. On a warm night in the middle of June in the refugee camp, Khadji started to feel contractions that got stronger and closer together. At first she thought they were passing contractions just like other ones she had before earlier in June. However, as they intensified, she knew she was going to deliver that night. As her husband was looking for a way to transport her to the hospital, Khadji said she felt lonely and fearful. She had no family around her: no mother to comfort her and assure her that everything will be fine, no sister to wipe her sweaty face or father to support her to get to the hospital.

When finally she arrived at the hospital, her husband at her side, they found out the delivery was complicated and Khadji had to undergo a painful and long caesarian section. Not only that, her new baby Bikas was suffering from tachycardia, an abnormally fast heart rate and was only 1.5 kilograms. He had to be hospitalized for ten days. Khadji told me how worried she was that Bikas wouldn’t survive.

Bikas did survive. But Khadji was not able to breastfeed him while he was in hospital and he wasn’t putting on weight quickly enough.

Breastfeeding is the best option to ensure babies receive the nutrients they need to survive, grow and develop. But, breastfeeding is challenging in a refugee camp as mothers live in a stressful environment and face social and economic hardship. They lack a private, quiet and relaxing space to breastfeed and spend quality time with their babies allowing them to create a bond with them.

Khadji tells me how determined she was to breastfeed Bikas following his recovery and discharge from hospital. She then explains how she visited Save the Children’s Mother and Baby Area in her camp in search of assistance. Save the Children’s team helped Khadji to start breastfeeding again.

“A container with milk was attached to a tube which was taped to my breast. So while Bikas was sucking my breast, he was getting milk from the tube. It helped me get my milk back,” Khadji explains.

RS122169_Bikas1She proudly tells me that it has been six weeks that she’s been breastfeeding Bikas several times a day and that she’s happy he now weighs 3.5 kilograms.

Save the Children’s nutrition programme in Greece supports mothers and their young children by providing a quiet, private and relaxing space to breastfeed babies, and advice and counselling on infant and young child feeding practices. Skilled counsellors also work with mothers having difficulties breastfeeding and help them continue to breastfeed.

I find Khadji’s awareness and determination remarkable. Despite the harshness of life in a refugee camp far from her home and family, Khadji is trying her hardest to breastfeed her baby and give him the best start in life.

I wonder about Khadji in a different setting. In a beautiful home raising her three young and healthy sons who go to school every day; living with her husband who has a stable job and who surrounds her and their children with care. Hopefully, one day soon, this will be Khadji’s reality.

To help us reach more mothers and babies like Khadji and Bikas, please donate to our Child Refugee Crisis Relief Fund. 

Save the Children’s nutrition program in Greece is funded by the United Nations Refugee Agency, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, Probitas and UBS.

*Name changed for protection

Turaan Big Loves Counting the Blocks

Author Portrait_Nooria Azizzada ECCD Officer, Faryab ProvinceNooria Azizzada

Early Childhood Care and Development Officer

Save the Children in Afghanistan

August 4, 2016

Turaan Big lives in the city of Maimana in Faryab province. He is a playful and active three year old – one of the 400 children enrolled in Save the Children in Afghanistan’s school-based Early Childhood Care and Development, or ECCD, programs. Thanks to sponsorship funding, children ages 3 – 6 can attend classes at the ECCD center in their community that help them develop their physical, cognitive, socio-emotional and language skills.

Turaan Big (front) playing a local game at the ECCD center playground
Turaan Big (front) playing a local game at the ECCD center playground

Turaan Big’s father is a nurse in the Faryab city hospital and his mother, in addition to taking care of him, works as a teacher at the ECCD center he attends. Together they live in a big joint family compound, with his grandparents, two uncles, two great-aunts, his uncle’s wife and three cousins.

Turaan Big attends his ECCD classes 6 days a week and loves to play with the wooden blocks at the center, carefully pilling the various shapes and colors up on top of each other. He also likes practicing his writing and playing games with the other children in his group, both in the classroom and outside on the ECCD center playground. He is a very respectful and conscientious young student, always counting out the number of toys or wooden blocks, one by one.

His mother enjoys speaking about her boy and the growth she has seen in him since joining ECCD. She tells us, “Turaan Big is a very active child in the ECCD group. He is trying to learn how to write his name.” She smiles proudly and adds, “I love the Save the Children ECCD program. It is an excellent program and well designed for the children between 3 and 6 years old. Due to the poverty in Faryab, most of the children do not receive [proper] early childhood care. During these ages such programs are very essential.”

When asked what types of things she teaches her young students, Turaan Big’s mother told us, “I teach my students about shapes, numbers, the alphabet, poems and sports. Children really love the playful activities like building with blocks, listening to stories, working with puzzles, counting, reading, singing and dancing.”

3 year old Turaan Big loves to learn with blocks
3 year old Turaan Big loves to learn with blocks

She thanks sponsors for their continued support, so that her son and the other children in their community can develop a love for learning and be prepared for primary school. “Save the Children has given great opportunity for our community and everyone is hopeful that their children will have bright and prosperous futures.”

Turaan Big is clearly enjoying his educational experiences so far, and wants to be a teacher one day, like his mom.

For some, stacking and counting blocks may not seem like anything special for a 3 year old boy to enjoy. However, these seemingly basic toys hold extraordinary wonder for an imaginative young brain, in particular for children who have little, if any, toys to call their own. More than that, this active learning through play helps children this age develop important cognitive skills. What do you remember loving to do as a toddler? Share with us what activities capture your own young children’s imagination!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Quiz: The Refugee Olympic Team

REFUGEES_SM_POST_BBB_PHOTO

Refugees are Going for Gold in Rio

Refugees contribute many things to society including representing their new countries during the Olympics. For the first time, refugees are also competing as a team during the Olympic Games in Brazil. Test your refugee Olympic knowledge with this short quiz.