Education in emergencies
Cyclones, earthquakes, floods, conflicts and other emergencies wreak havoc on society and deeply affect children. Fulfilling the right to education is most at risk during such times and during the transition period following a crisis.
Education is not only a basic human right, but a tool for recovery. Past experiences have shown that it not only restores schooling and its related benefits to affected people, it also helps countries transform and rebuild or ‘build back better’ the institutions and systems destroyed during the emergency.
The benefits of education in crisis-stricken and post-crisis societies are far-reaching. During emergencies, children in school can be cared for, accounted for and protected from abduction, recruitment into militias, and sexual and economic exploitation. By reestablishing a daily routine and helping to restore a sense of normalcy, schools become therapeutic spaces in the midst of destruction. They help families get back on their feet by allowing parents breathing space to organize their lives.
If managed effectively, education can also act as a catalyst for building peace, encouraging parties that once opposed each other to work together for the sake of their children. In the fragile wake of conflict, societies can create a more inclusive education system with a curriculum that promotes peace and reconciliation, and overcomes stereo types and prejudice. As such, UNICEF considers education an integral part of any humanitarian response to an emergency, equally important as food, shelter, water, sanitation, and health care.
UNICEF in action
In Eastern and Southern Africa, it is a key priority for UNICEF to strengthen the capacity of governments and other institutions in all 21 countries to prepare for and respond to humanitarian crises. Hundreds of employees from education ministries have been trained on education in emergencies, including the building of temporary learning spaces and development of emergency curricula. Based on this, countries have developed localized contingency plans and disaster risk reduction strategies, and incorporated emergency education in their national sector plans and budgets.
Displacement remains a major issue in ESA with 18 out of the 21 countries currently hosting refugees. To meet the diverse needs of this large and vulnerable group, UNICEF has greatly strengthened its partnership with UNHCR to improve education for refugee children, both in terms of access and quality.
Results for children