Child Protection



An Example...

"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:

  1. Education should be child-centred
  2. Learning should be fun.
  3. Teachers should be respected and supported so that they can provide a quality learning environment that facilitates child learning.
  4. The entire education system, not just the curriculum, must be gender sensitive and attentive to equity and diversity issues.

Displaced and emergency-affected communities should make every effort to restore children’s 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.


  • A child-friendly space is one place where the children can be reached in a protective, holistic way.
  • School itself can be a child-friendly space.
  • In schools, children can escape from unwanted violence at least for a while.
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.

  • Children's education facilities must be accessible to all, including the disabled.
  • Educational facilities must be safe.
  • Children must feel and be safe and secure--free from harassment and other forms of physical violence, prevented from being preyed upon by individuals selling drugs or encouraging other forms of self-destructive behaviour, and protected from the elements.
  • Buildings must be properly constructed so as not to be hazardous.
  • Within or near the facilities that are used for education there must be appropriate water and sanitation facilities so that health and privacy rights are protected for girls and boys.
  • There must be appropriate space for recreational activities.
  • The place where learning occurs must be environmentally sound.
  • Buildings and furniture must be child-friendly. Too many children have to climb onto furniture that was built for adult bodies. Too many children work in rooms where windows and entryways were designed by adults for adults.
Related Online Resources

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)

  • Is HIV/AIDS awareness part of the curriculum used?

  • How are child rights issues reflected in the curriculum?

  • What provision is available for adolescent/secondary education?

  • Are topics included that assist children in building self-awareness, co-operation, tolerance and respect for others? If not what would be the best way to approach the introduction of such topics?

  • How is the current curriculum certified?

  • Does altering the curriculum have implications for certification?

If a Curriculum is NOT available or unacceptable in the current situation:

  • If no curriculum and no textbooks are available, are there experts within the community who would be able to write outlines of some of the core subjects from memory?

  • If the current/previous curriculum is politically/ethnically/religiously contentious and unacceptable in its present form can it be adapted to exclude the biased content?

  • How can the issues mentioned above, of gender, equity etc. be addressed when writing either an adapted or reconstituted curriculum?

  • How can adolescent education be included?

  • Can recognition be obtained for this curriculum, if so from whom?

  • What materials from other sources are available and might be adapted to this situation?

    • Peace education; conflict resolution; human right awareness;

    • Life skills education

    • Environmental awareness;

    • Health issues; and

    • An introduction to the host country culture.

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:

"ability for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable us to deal effectively with the demands of the everyday life (WHO/MOH/PSF/93.7A)"

"the strategies or abilities one uses to get along with one’s own personality, one’s friends, family, the society and the environment as a whole. These strategies empower the young person to interact with the society in which they live as effectively as possible (UNICEF, Life skills for young Ugandans; Manual for trainers and facilitators of out-of-school children)"

Examples of life skills:

• Assertiveness

• Coping with emotions

• Coping with stress

• Effective communication

• Empathy

• Formation of friendship

• Interpersonal relationships

• Negotiation

• Non-violent conflict resolution

• Peer resistance

• Self awareness and Self esteem

• Critical thinking

• Creative thinking

• Decision making

• Problem solving

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.

  • Personal development
  • Social development
  • Feeling of fulfillment
  • Empowerment
  • Taking positive health choices
  • Making informed decisions
  • Practising healthy behaviours

See Skills-based Health Education

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.

broken heart

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

Ten Tips for Teachers Helping Children Cope with the stresses of War

  1. Allow short breaks. Deal patiently with anxious behaviour.
  2. Proceed by small steps to help children master fears and insecurities.
  3. Reward even small improvement.
  4. Help child talk through problems, and provide comfort.
  5. Try to minimize stressful changes.
  6. Try to identify depressed children and encourage them to participate in class.
  7. Once a child experienced the death of close people, he or she will feel deeply sad and unhappy for some time. Always be receptive to talking about the dead person. The child needs to feel that it is all right to talk about the dead and share with you his or her sadness. Try to help your child adjust to the death by also allowing him or her to form new relationships, which provide the child a feeling of comfort, and by providing him or her with the opportunity to engage in new activities as a form of distraction.
  8. Provide opportunities for physical exercise. It helps reduce aggressive behaviour.
  9. Remedial education may be necessary if there are serious learning problems.
  10. If many students have similar difficulties concentrating, divide class into small groups.
(from: Mona Macksoud, 1993, Helping Children Cope with the Stresses of War, UNICEF)

Resources for Teachers

The Edukit
A package of school supplies (slates, chalk, pens etc. ) and teaching support materials (such as charts, maps, flashcards etc.) that can be quickly disseminated to teachers during emergencies, the edukit serves a class of 50 children. The cost of a kit is about US$200, including the basic set of supplies and some of the costs of development and teacher training in its use.

Early versions of the current edukit, known as "school in a box," were a response to the emergencies in Somalia and in Rwanda in 1994, and were jointly developed by UNICEF and UNESCO. The goal in these countries was to get schooling immediately under way amid a breakdown of infrastructure.

Active assessment for active learning
Focus on Learning Outcomes

Linking learning to standards

Indicators and Qualities of Successful Education Programs
Descriptors or Key Issues / Dilemmas and Recommendations

Related Online Resources

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Last revised December, 2001
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