Education and Gender Equality


Child-friendly education (for all)

Girls' education and gender equality

Early childhood development (ECD)

Education in emergencies



Education in emergencies

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1182/de Dieu Raoelison
Students attend a class in a tent after the roof of their old school was torn off by cyclone in Madagascar.

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/NYHQ2007-0057/Kamber
Children gather for an informal lesson at a camp for people displaced by conflict in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia.

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

  • In the wake of the Horn of Africa crisis, Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya received a large influx of refugees from neighbouring Somalia. UNICEF and UNHCR developed a joint education strategy together with other partners to address the education needs of children within the camps and in the host communities. More than 119,000 children in Dadaab refugee camps and drought affected areas received education, as a result.

  • Enrolment increases as Somalia’s education system recovers from more than two decades of violence and conflict. In 2011-2012, more than 750,000 children were able to go to school, a 60 per cent increase from 2006-2007. Current estimates from the most fragile part of Somalia - Central South Zone - suggest that nearly 400,000 children, 45 per cent of them girls, are enrolled in UNICEF-supported schools. 

  • In South Sudan, continued conflict and natural disasters have disrupted the lives and education of many children. In 2012, UNICEF provided temporary learning spaces as well as teaching and learning materials. Key tools for education in emergencies were developed and distributed, including the contextualized INEE Minimum Standards and the Teacher’s Code of Conduct. In addition, UNICEF provided training material to help teachers offer psychosocial support to children, designed an education cluster information management database, and advocated against the occupation of schools by armed forces and displaced populations.

  • With major funding provided by the Government of Netherlands, more attention is now given to the role of education in peacebuilding. The intention is to ensure coherent responses embrace emergency preparedness and response, conflict and Disaster Risk Reduction, and education for peacebuilding, in UNICEF’s support to education in ESA.



 Email this article

unite for children