Rescue This Lost Generation
Every single child has the right to an education but at the beginning of 2023 it is beyond belief that 260 million children around the world are not in school. They are not learning, they are not developing and they are not protected by the safe confines of a classroom. Instead, they are vulnerable and permanently at risk from ruthless gangs that deal in child labour and trafficking. In many countries, child marriage and child labour are still considered normal.
These girls and boys with no schooling have little or no prospects and as each month and year passes, they are in danger of becoming a lost generation. Major barriers to education for every child are poverty, conflict and climate catastrophe and the ensuing displacement. With no education, young people miss out on skills vital to their future. Their physical and mental health also suffers.
Child rights organisation, Children on the Edge (COTE), is actively working to support the world's most marginalised children by creating conditions which allow them to flourish and thrive.
The charity, which has received £800,000 raised by players of People's Postcode Lottery, is providing safe spaces and education to children whose lives have been disrupted as a result of conflict.
Najibu Sifa, aged six, is a girl who has seen the positive impact of support from Children on the Edge. She is a Congolese refugee living in Uganda as a result of the humanitarian crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has forced millions to flee their homes.
Najibu is in a learning group in the Mukondo zone, in the Kyaka II Refugee Settlement, a camp in Kyegegwa District in western Uganda.
Children on the Edge has been working alongside 30 refugee communities in Kyaka II since 2019 to deliver quality education in safe spaces to thousands of the youngest refugee children. They support 30 bright and colourful preschool buildings, for 6,500 children.
With support from players of People's Postcode Lottery, their education programme has grown to include 104 outdoor 'cluster groups' - a brand new way of learning developed in lockdown when schools were forced to close.
In 2020, the charity had to adapt the way they were delivering early years education, creating fun, quality home-learning opportunities for Congolese children through community-based learning. The Cluster Learning Approach provided a sustainable, cost-effective early years education model that allowed access to quality learning for thousands of children, who were otherwise cut off from support at the most vital stage of their development.
In January 2022 the charity's 30 pre-schools reopened but the demand for education was so much higher than the space available in their existing buildings. To meet the additional need, the charity expanded the cluster learning approach. They trained hundreds of refugee teachers and worked with communities to identify suitable 'cluster points' outside in shady areas or community buildings.
Lessons are now offered to small groups of children several times a week, and parents join in so that they can help children continue learning at home for the rest of the week.
The programme is flourishing, and COTE now provide quality education to 6,500 refugee children in preschool buildings and an additional 3,000 children through cluster learning lessons in Kyaka II.
Najibu, who lives in the camp with her parents and two siblings, had received no education until March 2022 when she was able to join the cluster learning programme.
Sharing her experience Najibu said, "Before, I used to stay home and take care of my brother and sister while mama went to Bukere Market to sell Matunda fruits. I was so happy to start the cluster lessons because I made new friends and I love my teacher.
"I enjoy going to the study area because I feel good about myself especially when I give an answer and my classmates clap for me. I know how to draw pictures and can trace numbers, letters, and shapes and I now teach mama and papa to count in English."
Education gives refugee children a sense of structure, direction and security. Amin Bintu Twaha is one of the teachers at a preschool in the Kyaka II refugee settlement who described the importance of education and what it is like teaching the children. "I wanted to become a teacher because the children here need emotional, spiritual, and intellectual support because of the experiences they have faced in their home country (the Democratic Republic of Congo).
"We strive to support the children and meet their needs so that they can grow and develop and are able to thrive.
"Before now, we had no provision of education for the youngest children in our community. Thanks to the new preschool children are now able to learn. Parents can go to work and earn money to support their families while the children are safely looked after at school."
Children on the Edge place children at the heart of everything they do by working hand-in-hand with local communities to restore hope, dignity, justice and transformation.
Rachel Bentley OBE, CEO & co-founder of Children on the Edge, said, "We are incredibly grateful to players of People's Postcode Lottery and the Postcode Education Trust for their support over the past two years in Uganda. It has been absolutely transformational.
"The collaborative and flexible approach has meant we have been able to adapt our Early Childhood Development programme and respond to the real needs of the most marginalised Congolese refugee children, as they arise.
"Throughout the pandemic, thanks to player-raised funds, we were able to develop a new way of learning in Uganda. We created cluster groups outside, so that young children didn't miss out on their education whilst schools were closed. We are now providing education to over 9,000 refugees in classrooms and outdoor spaces in Kyaka II refugee settlement. This offers these children the chance to learn, play, grow and flourish at a vital time in their development."
Children whose lives are affected by conflict or emergencies can suffer grave long-term consequences. Thanks to incredible organisations such as Children on the Edge, these children are given a second chance to succeed and become an example of hope for those whose lives continue to be threatened by discrimination, civil emergencies and conflict.
Children on the Edge video