"After a massacre in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, they stopped teaching at school and conducted 15 days of intensive life skills workshops. Parents and siblings of school children were also invited. At the beginning not many wanted to participate, but the number slowly increased and at the end the workshops helped them to cope with the situation. Students attending the school are children of guerrilleros and paramilitaries."
page 13, ML Vazquez Navarrete and Consorci Hospitalari de Catalunya. Regional Study of School Health and Nutrition in Latin America and The Caribbean. World Bank/Pan American Health Organisation. Life Skills Training in Colombia: A case Study. July 1999.
Why address Education in Emergencies?
Education is an inalienable right - one that all children, including those caught in natural and human-made emergencies, must be able to access. How best to provide education to children experiencing the difficult circumstances? Education is an enabling right. It assists children to access their other rights. Children in unstable situations must be able to participate in quality education that includes the same "core" of skills, knowledge, competencies, values and attitudes that constitute basic education, and to which the world committed in 1990 at the Jomtien conference on Education for All (EFA). (Pigozzi, Mary Joy, 1999, Education in Emergencies and for Reconstruction, UNICEF working paper).
Education serves many purposes in emergency situation. It helps to normalize the situation for the child and minimize the psychosocial stresses experienced when emergencies result in the sudden and violent destabilization of the child's immediate family and social environment. It assists children to deal with their future more confidently and effectively, and can be instrumental in making it possible for them to develop a more peaceful society in the long term.
In emergency situations educational activities must be established or restored as soon as possible. Where education systems have been rendered non-functional, the rebuilding of the system provides an excellent opportunity for transforming education so that it meets the learning needs of diverse groups within a given population.
Planning Education in Unstable Situations
What are the kinds of education that we should seek and plan for? These will vary according to each situation but there are some core elements that should be present:
Displaced and emergency-affected communities should make every effort to restore childrens access to schooling. Most refugee camps and settlements have schools, though in some locations they lack textbooks and teachers need additional training and supervision. Internally displaced populations are less able to access educational resources for their children. In such locations, a generation of children may miss out on basic schooling. In post-conflict situations, the reconstruction of education systems is often delayed. There is wide variability regarding access to secondary and tertiary education, crucial sectors for developing the skilled workforce needed for post-crisis renewal and the transition to national development.
Education programmes for populations affected by natural disasters or war must be adapted to the special needs of these populations. They must put an emphasis on the psychosocial needs of students, on education for mine awareness, and to develop skills for peace. The devastation caused by AIDS has added a new dimension to the education agenda. Those dying from AIDS are mainly people in the prime of their lives who are often parents. A less well-known and calamitous effect of AIDS is the vast numbers of children orphaned as a result of the disease. These children endure overwhelming and largely unmitigated losses, living as they do in societies already weakened by under-development, poverty and the AIDS epidemic itself. According to projections, by the end of the year 2000, a cumulative total of 13 million children will have lost their mother or both parents to AIDS, and 10.4 million of them will still be under the age of 15 (UNICEF, Children Orphaned by AIDS).
The distress and social isolation experienced by children, both before and after the death of their parent or parents, are strongly exacerbated by the shame, fear and rejection that often surrounds people affected by HIV/AIDS. Because of this stigma and the often-irrational fear surrounding AIDS, children may be denied access to schooling and health care. Orphans run greater risks of being malnourished and stunted than children who have parents to look after them. They may be the first to be denied education when extended families cannot afford to educate all the children in the household. Often emotionally vulnerable and financially desperate, orphaned children are more likely to be sexually abused and forced into exploitative situations, such as prostitution, as a means of survival.
Most of the human, organizational and economic resources which protect stability, growth and development are located within the family and with schools. Optimal use can be made of these resources, particularly in emergencies, if they are supported by structures, like child-friendly spaces, which create an enabling environment. These structures can also contribute to early child care and development in a form which is family-focused and school-based.
Establishing Child Friendly Spaces
Child-friendly school not only provides more effective learning but it is also the bedrock for a democratic society based on tolerance and mutual respect among people. Child-friendly spaces provide an identifiable, reassuring place where children and adults can be treated as proper stakeholders in the emergency programme. They can, as a result, contribute to and participate in the design and implementation of the programmes intended for them. By creating child-friendly spaces, we can protect and cultivate the strength inherent in children.
The learning place
School buildings have not changed much in design in over a century; since a time when a convention on child rights was not on the global agenda! Looked at in light of the Convention, learning facilities need to be reconsidered. There is nothing in the CRC that obligates communities or nations to provide expensive conventional buildings. Children do need space where they can learn and this can be distinguished by several features.
What should be taught to the children in unstable situation?
Analysis and consensus of curriculum to be utilised
Using the information gathered from the situation analysis concerning curriculum materials, it should be possible first to determine if a curriculum is available or not.
If a curriculum is available:
(These are just a few examples of the type of questions that could be asked)
If a Curriculum is NOT available or unacceptable in the current situation:
For further information, please refer to Education in Emergencies and for Reconstruction.
What Are Life Skills?
Definition: Life skills have been defined in various ways. Some of these are:
Examples of life skills:
The aims of life skills education: In equipping the youth with the life skills mentioned above, life skills education aims at promoting the following abilities in children.
How to help children cope in times of crisis
During a crisis, the needs of children are often overlooked or dismissed. When a crisis occurs, remember that children are creatures of habit. Setting them into daily routines will help them adjust to most situations, whether it is an evacuation, a separation or a catastrophic disaster that has affected the whole community.
You should give information about the crisis appropriate to children's age level. Children are often more aware of what is going on than their parents realize. If it is not discussed, what they do know, or think they know, can become unpleasantly distorted in their minds. Listen to your children. Talk to them. Ensure that the communication goes both ways. Let them acknowledge their feelings. If they do witness unpleasant events ensure that you provide them with the support and understanding when discussing what they have seen. This should be addressed as soon as possible after the incidents occur and should be an ongoing process.
a. Encourage children to be physically active. Little ones can play games, and teenagers can help with community needs related to the crisis, such as organizing activities for younger children. Vigorous exercise and sports are good for everyone during periods of high stress. Play is a natural form of communication for children; it will discharge bottled up feelings. If children are allowed to work through their fears, most will emerge strengthened from a crisis.
b. Create opportunities for children to be with their peers. The older the child, the more important this is, but most need to interact with children of their own age. Insist that they attend schools, if schools are operating and the security environment allows, as this is the center of life with peers.
c. Teachers are models for children. If they handle a crisis calmly, children will be less anxious. Children "borrow" strength from adults around them. Help them put labels on their reactions; encourage them to verbalize feelings. Children need to see you express your feelings of fear and grief, too.
d. A crisis is best handled collectively. Parents, teachers, family and friends can play a part in helping any child handle a crisis. Adults should support each other in guiding children through the crisis. There is no need to feel you are in this alone. Play groups and support groups may be formed.
(From: Thomas Hammarberg & Peter Newell, Security for Children, Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children ) from: Karin Landgren
Resources for Teachers
Related Online Resources
Explore Ideas ·
Discuss Issues ·
Last revised December, 2001
Copyright © UNICEF