|A man teacher helps boys with their lesson at a local primary school in the district of Bait Al Faqueeh in Hodeidah Governorate, Yemen|
Wars. Earthquakes. Tsunamis.
Emergencies of all sorts wreak havoc on society and deeply affect children. UNICEF believes that education can get countries back on track after a crisis. In addition to being a basic human right, education is a tool for recovery. It not only restores schooling and all its related benefits to affected populations, but also helps countries rebuild the institutions and systems destroyed by natural disasters or conflict.
The international community, increasingly aware of the importance of education in countries recovering from crisis, has been supportive of UNICEF’s efforts in this area. In late 2006, UNICEF was joined by key donors and partners to create Back on Track, the transition fund to support strategic interventions to help rebuild education systems, prevent crises from recurring and reduce the fragility of countries making the transition from crisis to normal development. The benefits of education in post-crisis societies are far-reaching.
In addition to serving as distribution centres for relief supplies, schools are safe places where children are cared for and accounted for, protected from being abducted, recruited into a militia or sexually or economically exploited. Children are especially vulnerable to trafficking and other forms of abuse when communities and families are disrupted.
Schools also create an environment for psychological and emotional healing. Emergency situations are especially traumatic for children. By re-establishing a daily rhythm and helping to restore a sense of normalcy, schools become therapeutic spaces, creating stability and consistency in the midst of destruction. Whether through psychosocial programmes or through learning and play, schools play an essential role in the healing process.
Once education is restored, it provides knowledge and skills necessary for surviving crises. By disseminating information about landmine safety, AIDS prevention, basic hygiene and health care, conflict resolution and peace-building, education empowers children and, by extension, their families and communities. For societies reeling from a crisis, education establishes a foundation for development.
And by caring for children and providing relief services, schools help families get back on their feet and allow parents breathing space to begin picking up the pieces.
In addition to being part of basic recovery efforts, education also offers seeds of opportunity for the future, the chance to “build back better.” In countries affected by long-term conflict, education can act as a catalyst for peace, forcing once-opposing parties to work together for the sake of their children. In the fragile wake of conflict, societies can create a more inclusive educational system with a curriculum that promotes peace and reconciliation.
While economic growth, political stability and true reconciliation can take a long time to achieve, getting children back to school is a quick win yielding tangible benefits, jump-starting development and offering prospects of a stable future.
EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES
Ensuring human rights key to educating children in conflict zones:
A conversation with Mary Robinson, President of Mary Robinson Foundation–Climate Justice.
UN and UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello talks to former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson on ensuring children's rights in conflict zones.