The story of the impact of the Nepal earthquake continues to unfold and deepen. There is death, fear and devastation. But there are also heroes, rescues, generosity and intense moments of hope as a few of those feared lost are miraculously found amid the rubble.
The world has mobilised, sending supplies and support to the people of Nepal, solving complex problems of logistics, service delivery and rescue. Several United Nations agencies, the Red Cross and other NGOs have saved countless lives in part due to the support of a generous global public.
Cataclysmic events invariably reveal epic despair, pain and loss as well as shine a light on the most generous and irrepressible parts of our common humanity. As the post-rescue and rebuilding effort in Nepal scales up to provide for families and communities whose lives have been forever altered, there is a significant opportunity to make history. We can set a new precedent to not only meet the immediate needs of those without shelter, food, clean water, safe sanitation and medical supplies but also build in the long-term support that allows lives to be rebuilt with hope and opportunity.
Successfully rebuilding the lives and communities of thousands of people does mean that the rapid response must immediately factor in the devastation to education and learning of so many children and young people. The response to the tragedy in Nepal must include a strong, coordinated, well-funded effort to rebuild schools and educational opportunities for children and families.
At least 5,000 schools have been completely destroyed and perhaps another 10,000 have been damaged or needed for immediate use to house displaced people.
Nepal was already one of the poorest countries in the world. At least 40% of the population lives in poverty and millions more were just one flood or earthquake away from being economically devastated. With an uncertain future for their children and with concurrent physical and economic devastation, families have already begun to make unthinkable choices that will include pressing their young children into marriage, particularly very young girls, or sending their children into the labour force in potentially dangerous, unregulated industries.
The pressures on families are inconceivable to those of us with enough to eat and many ways to keep our own children safe. So we must call now on the tested best practices for providing children affected by disaster and emergencies with access to safe places to play, receive peer and psychosocial support and life-saving messages.
Experts know how to use education first to provide hope, information and a return to normality and later to rebuild the futures of families. We certainly do not lack for a wide body of evidence that education will save lives in the short and long-term. What is missing still is the political will and financing to ensure that education is prioritised alongside other life-saving and rebuilding interventions.
Last year, education received just 1% of humanitarian funding. Education is increasingly not prioritised in settings where it could be the difference between life and death.
This is why we are putting our support behind a Global Humanitarian Fund for Education in Emergencies. A major shift is needed in funding education in these settings globally. Every step of the process from calling for what is needed (which rarely happens) to providing what is called for needs immediate attention.
We have an opportunity in Nepal to apply the best of what we have learned globally to be a partner saving lives and enabling the Nepali people to rebuild their country. The coordination of some of the greatest humanitarian and development leadership of our time will not only save lives, it can lead to increased resilience for the Nepali people. This will require that we leave 'business as usual' by prioritising and funding education in this response.
And we should leave it behind permanently by creating a Global Humanitarian Fund for Education in Emergencies and increasing our ability to rapidly respond, coordinate and deliver education in ways that save lives now and for many years to come.
Sarah Brown is the president of Theirworld and executive chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education
Kolleen Bouchane is director, policy and advocacy at A World at School and director, policy and research at Global Business Coalition for EducationSuggest a correction