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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2000 ESARO: UNICEF's Education Response to Emergencies in Four African Countries

Author: Edelenbosch, E.

Executive summary


As a follow up to the Martigny consultation, the Education Section of UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO), took the initiative of undertaking an assessment of UNICEF's education response to such situations in four African countries viz. Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.


The long-term goal of the assessment was to achieve greater understanding and effectiveness for ESARO in its role of assisting education in emergency programmes in the region. A consultant was assigned to undertake an analysis of current UNICEF programmes at country level and to develop a set of concrete recommendations regarding emergency education programmes for the future. UNICEF seeks more information and understanding of the type of programmes it is supporting, the processes involved and the outcomes of these programmes. The specific purpose of the consultancy was to provide an analysis of current UNICEF programmes and a set of concrete and country-specific recommendations for action.


The methodology developed for the assignment was based on:

  • field visits to schools in the target areas
  • study of relevant literature
  • meetings and discussions with many stakeholders with an interest in primary education in emergency situations in the selected countries/areas within the given time. The focus was on UNICEF staff, education authorities concerned, education cadres, international and local NGOs.

Findings and Conclusions:

The study found that each UNICEF country office paid specific attention to education in emergency areas and had its specific implementation strategy. Important factors determining the different strategies are the educational situation prior to the start of emergency, the characteristics of the emergency, and the current functioning of the education system. The key argument in all four countries for advocating specific attention to the basic education for children in emergency areas is that it contributes, although with different potential, to addressing the crisis situation and subsequent rehabilitation and/or development.

UNICEF's assistance to basic education during an emergency situation is often only given in the 'second phase of the emergency' along the same patterns as the immediate emergency response. The education emergency response of UNICEF Rwanda and Uganda is mainly focusing on short term 'traditional' activities such as the provision of materials for shelter and education supplies. In Southern Sudan, and initially also in Somalia, the focus of the education emergency programme is on shelter, supplies and teacher training.

Except for Somalia, the programmes are not guided by a well-defined programme strategy based on a participatory assessment of the situation of education in the different emergency areas in the specific country. Generally, monitoring of delivery of supplies is weak. The provision of emergency supplies is only effective if there is a functioning management and monitoring system in place to deliver the appropriate supplies timely. The UNICEF Somalia programme was reviewed in 1997. This resulted in a new country programme with a more structural approach focussing on issues of system development.

The problems and solutions of children resulting from civil strife and war vary greatly between countries. In areas where communities and families stayed together during the emergencies, children had better opportunities to deal with the effects of the civil strife. A large group of children have minor physical and/or mental disabilities and need special attention. If not detected in time, these children have a higher risk of dropping out. There are no substantive government nor agency/NGO policies and/or funds to support specialised and individualised counselling, treatment, or other type of assistance to children with (minor) special needs. UNICEF and other organisations do, however, support a variety of special support activities, varying from school gardens to psychosocial care activities. While the assistance provided is appreciated by the receiving target group, it has a relatively small impact on the total number of children in need of special care in school. Solutions should be developed which can be integrated in the mainstream of education. UNICEF should support governments and other agencies/NGOs to enhance a more 'caring school environment' where teachers are equipped to work and play with children, to observe and listen better to them and where children have more possibilities for playing and expression.

Parents and community involvement in education in the four countries varies. In Rwanda and Uganda, a system for parents and community involvement is in place but is weakened as a result of destruction and displacement. In Southern Sudan and Somalia, there has never been a system nor conducive environment for local community and parental involvement in primary education. In emergency situations where the position of local authorities has been weakened or is no longer existing, community involvement and responsibility has become essential for the running and further development of the school. Their involvement in the management and further development of the school is, often, still limited to the contribution of school fees and participation in the annual parents' meeting. The potential of further involvement of parents, e.g. in monitoring of enrolment and resource mobilisation, is hardly exploited, with the exception of Somalia. Through systematic training of members of Community Education Committees, teachers and administrators, UNICEF Somalia has made community participation a main programme strategy.

There are various reasons for the weaknesses in monitoring, such as long distances, lack of accessibility of areas, lack of communication infrastructure, insecurities, other tasks and priorities that prevent UNICEF staff from leaving the office etc. However, monitoring in the field remains crucial for an ongoing, effective response to often quickly-changing, emergency situations.

A key problem for all UNICEF's response to an emergency situation is the availability of funds. Mostly, the funding has to come from supplementary resources, which have to be raised.

The timely raising of funds is always in contradiction with the emergency character of the situation. If emergency education is seen as very important for children to return as quickly as possible to a "normal life' situation, funding through general resources and/or as part of appeals for funding for emergencies has to be provided on an urgent basis as well.


  • A clear understanding of the development of the education system, its potential before the emergency and how the current emergency situation is affecting the system, should continuously guide UNICEF's immediate and longer-term response to education in emergency situations.
  • The UNICEF education staff in emergency countries should be involved in the assessment of the emergency situation and in strategizing for an effective education response from the earliest stage.
  • UNICEF's response should feed into the development of special policy and instruments for education in emergency and well-coordinated support, with a view to contribute to stable and progressive recovery from an emergency situation.
  • UNICEF should advocate the introduction of a more caring and supportive learning environment. This will create a child-friendly environment in the school that will be particularly beneficial for war-traumatised children.
  • UNICEF ESARO should assess the need for capacity building of UNICEF staff on the assessment of the education situation and in enhancing community and parent's involvement and responsibility in emergency education.
  • UNICEF should contribute to the capacity building of communities and parents for increased involvement and responsibility as an important strategy for strong community support for education (in emergencies).
  • UNICEF should develop a more integrated, systematic and efficient approach for the selection, procurement, distribution and monitoring of supplies.
  • UNICEF should avoid haphazard supply-related decisions and select, order and distribute supplies in accordance to a set strategy.
  • UNICEF should strengthen its supply and financial procedures to facilitate flexible and fast delivery of emergency supplies for education.
  • UNICEF to consider setting minimum standards for monitoring education activities in emergency situations, linked to strategies and policies.
  • UNICEF human resources sections, particularly at HQ level, to ensure timely nomination and replacement of education staff in emergency countries and ensure adequate education and experience with emergencies of staff members.
  • UNICEF Country Offices to ensure adequate expert input, particularly for situation assessment and strategy and system development, where necessary, through short-term consultancy input.
  • UNICEF Country offices dealing with emergency education to appoint a specific Education Programme Assistant or consultant to assist with monitoring of programme implementation on the ground, for the period of the emergency.
  • UNICEF Education Cluster, assisted by the Division of Communication and PFO, should strongly advocate to donors the importance of support for education in emergency situations as an integral part of the response to emergencies.

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Emergency - Education



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