‘In this crisis sometimes education really is the frontline ’
Education in Emergencies gives teachers the chance to develop new skills that may be life-saving as this crisis here in the northeast continues
28 March 2017 - Here in northeast Nigeria, we have a programme called Education in Emergencies that we’re working on with the European Union. UNICEF supports 16 schools in Yobe state and 17 in Borno state but the project is also helping children across the Lake Chad region. On one level we’re empowering teachers with training to help them deliver quality education to children who’ve been displaced by the conflict, as well as providing books and other teaching materials and supplies.
One of the additional aspects of this programme is that we also train the teachers in these schools in psychosocial support and risk reduction. That’s really important because in a conflict setting like northeast Nigeria, teachers learn how to conduct different exercises in the classroom – such as how to do a risk analysis of their school.
These are all brave teachers and quality educators and Education in Emergencies gives them the chance to develop new skills that may be life-saving as this crisis here in the northeast continues. Our teachers learn how to manage an emergency responsibly and how evacuate calmly and efficiently to protect children. They are also sensitized in mine risk prevention with support from the Danish De-Mining Group.
We work with the teachers to look at the strengths and the weaknesses of their school security. We help them understand where those weaknesses are and to think through what might happen in an attack. Once we have that analysis, it helps them decide how to best reduce those risks.
There is no doubt that education is central to this crisis. It’s a part of society that has been one of the hardest hit. Armed groups have tried to prohibit education and teachers and schools have been targeted. Since the start of the conflict more than 500 schools have been destroyed and more than 600 teachers killed. In this crisis sometimes education really is the frontline.
Since the start of the conflict more than 500 schools have been destroyed and more than 600 teachers killed. In this crisis sometimes education really is the frontline.
One of the exciting parts of Education in Emergencies is to see the involvement of the school management committees. We’re not just working with teachers, we’re working with community based child protection mechanisms to help teachers find the best solutions for children and link the school with child protection services available. In the case of evacuation there is a risk so they are aware of family tracing and reunification services in the community. Teachers are taught to keep everyone calm if there is an emergency.
We’ve already started to see the benefits of this project. During the training there was an attack on one of the towns where our teachers were based. It was upsetting to see how many people panicked and in some cases even abandoned their children, but our educators were able to assist and managed to use some of their training to coordinate people and keep the children calm. It’s clear how this training is so useful.
We can already see the results of Education in Emergencies in schools and communities. Teachers, parents and principals are all talking about what steps they can take to reduce the risks and they are working together to put those protections into place. Every time I visit a school, I’m overwhelmed by how happy the children are just to be there. Setting up the schools is only half the challenge, we need to give the teachers and leaders the knowledge and skills they need to reduce the risks.