Nyagoa Dak was born to a world in chaos. Her story is one of loss, of redemption, of struggle and of triumph.
At a very early age, Nyagoa lost her parents to the conflict in South Sudan. As the conflict escalated, she escaped with her grandmother to Ethiopia in 2014. There they settled in the Pugnido refugee camp in Ethiopia’s Gambella region.
When they arrived there were no educational programmes for refugees – let alone a girl with a disability like Nyagoa. Unable to walk, the bright-eyed six-year-old was left out of many of the activities in the camp. She didn’t play with other children. She didn’t go to school. Nyagoa was a forgotten child living in a forgotten crisis.
With funding from Education Cannot Wait, Save the Children mobilized parents, teachers, children and the community to get refugee and host community children and youth back in school in Pugnido.
Through the Parent Teachers and Student Association, volunteers like Sara started cleaning the school and reaching out to children living in the area. Through this work, they met Nyagoa and her grandma. No child should be left behind. Especially a child as sweet and courageous as Nyagoa. So they decided to carry the little refugee girl on their shoulders to her preschool classes. Nyagoa had made a friend.
More friends were soon to follow. RaDO, a local organization that supports children with disabilities, provided Nyagoa with a wheelchair.
“I don’t have any word to express my happiness. Thanks to Save the Children, Sara and her friend, I am attending school and playing with friends. My situation is changed,” says Nyagoa.
Nyagoa’s teacher couldn’t be more proud of this joyful and brilliant girl, who’s found her place amongst the other preschool children. “You can read from her face the sense of ‘Yes, I can learn.’ There is nothing more inspirational than being in school for a child like Nyagoa and we need to mobilize the community to bring more and more children with disabilities to schools.”
One of the beneficiaries of the ECW-supported programme, Nya Banytik Hoth, 14, grade 4, learns at Makod Primary and Secondary School in Tierkidi Refugee Camp, Gambella Region. UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha
Responding to COVID-19
Nyagoa’s journey is far from over. After seven months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools in Gambella are only now reopening.
Through Education Cannot Wait’s COVID-19 education in emergencies response, Save the Children and other partners are providing schools with disinfectants, water and sanitation facilities, and training on prevention and protection methods to slow the spread of the virus. Children are benefiting from expanded psychosocial support, gender-responsive education, and early literacy programmes. And teachers are receiving advanced training on math and early childhood development to ensure they have the tools they need to provide quality learning outcomes for special-needs children like Nyagoa.
The Big Picture
Ethiopia hosts the second largest refugee population in Africa. While drought, conflict, poverty, displacement and unequal access to education still exist, the nation as a whole is making impressive strides in providing access to education for refugees, internally displaced people, and other at-risk children, and reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.
The gains in enrollment are impressive. With support from a US$15 million Education Cannot Wait initial investment implemented by UNICEF and other supports, the primary gross enrollment ratio for refugee children in Ethiopia rose to 67 per cent in 2019, up five per cent from the year before.
ECW’s catalytic grant is designed to activate resource mobilization efforts from donors, civil society organizations, the private sector and philanthropic foundations to fully-fund the programme, which will cost an estimated US$161 million over three years. The programme is designed to reach close to 750,000 girls and boys displaced by the crises in Ethiopia.
“This is an opportunity for aid partners to work together in breaking the cycles of inequality, illiteracy, poverty and hunger that too often come with forced displacement and jeopardize a child’s development. It’s a new vision for how nations can address the pressing educational needs of internally displaced children, refugees and returnees. We must step up to address this challenge and I call on all partners to join our efforts and contribute to this multi-year resilience programme to ensure no child is left behind in Ethiopia.” - Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.
In Ethiopia, which hosts the second-largest refugee population in Africa, ECW funding boosted access to education for refugee children and youth (mainly from South Sudan) in the regions of Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambela.
Learn more about the impact of ECW funded programming in Ethiopia in our 2019 Annual Report.
### About Education Cannot Wait: ECW is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. The Fund is administered under UNICEF’s financial, human resources and administrative rules and regulations, while operations are run by the Fund’s own independent governance structure.