Education in emergencies
All children have the right to education, including children who are affected by an emergency or who live in a post-crisis situation. Humanitarian situations often even provide an opportunity for “building back better”, thus turning destruction and trauma into catalysts for a brighter future. Guided by that philosophy, UNICEF considers education an integral part of any frontline humanitarian response to an emergency, equally important as food, shelter and healthcare.
Schools provide protection and help restore a sense of normalcy for children, enabling them to overcome the emotional trauma they have suffered whether in natural or man-made disasters. In an emergency and its aftermath, UNICEF is committed to getting all children back to school or into school for the first time.
Experience shows that it can take as long as two decades for a conflict-affected country to move from the initial humanitarian relief phase to reconstruction and development. If education is not a priority from the beginning, the chances for an early and sustainable recovery will be much more reduced.
UNICEF in Action
UNICEF has a long track record of quick and effective response to emergencies, including that of re-establishing spaces for learning. Following the genocide in Rwanda, for instance, UNICEF developed the ‘school-in-a-box’ kit, containing basic education material for students and teachers and can be used in refugee camps and other informal learning settings.
A major focus for UNICEF is to strengthen the capacity of governments and other institutions in all 20 countries to prepare for and respond to humanitarian crises. As a result, UNICEF and NGO partners have been training hundreds of staff members from education ministries on education in emergencies, which includes the building of temporary learning spaces and the development of emergency curricula. Based on this, countries developed localised contingency plans and disaster risk reduction strategies and incorporated emergency education in their national sector plans and budgets.
UNICEF, together with Save the Children, is co-leader of the Education Cluster, as assigned by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). In that function, UNICEF is in charge of ensuring effective co-ordination of activities and actors.
UNICEF currently supports education clusters in eight countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Results for children
In Somalia, a country that has been affected by a long on-going conflict, UNICEF helped enroll over 11,000 children in community schools in Mogadishu and over 33,000 in Afgoye.
Gender inequalities are also being addressed in Somalia with 49 percent of these newly enrolled students being girls, compared to a national average of only 30 percent.
In Angola, where the education system had been devastated by 27 years of civil war, UNICEF has been working with Save the Children to support the Government’s education response. Angola is now emerging as one of the most active countries in the region in implementing the child-friendly schooling approach.
In Burundi, another war-torn country in the region, UNICEF in 2008 alone, supported 15,000 children of primary school age with school-in-a-box kits of basic education and recreation materials.
In addition, UNICEF with support from the Dutch Government, has been providing training of governments and other stakeholders in emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction throughout the region and supported the design of eco-friendly schools, for example in Madagascar.