Early Childhood Education/Early Years

Debra Laxton and Marilyn Leask with inputs from the MESH Early Years Editorial Board | View as single page | Feedback/Impact
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Role of education in crises

Role of education in crises: Save the Children

(Key document: Delivering Education for Children in Emergencies: A Key Building Block for the Future (2008) International Save the Children Alliance. http://www.savethechildren.org/atf/cf/%7B9def2ebe-10ae-432c-9bd0-df91d2eba74a%7D/delivering_education_emergencies.pdf.) The document makes the case for prioritising education during emergencies and demonstrates what has been achieved and how this can be built upon.

Below is a summary of information from a number of sources combined with expert opinion.


Key Findings & Ideas Implications Examples and Resources
1) In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, education can help protect children from death or bodily harm. It can impart critical life saving information on simple hygiene and health issues that have emerged as a result of the emergency or the dangers of unexploded ordnance.  

Example 1:

Interagency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) developed minimum standards for education in emergencies, chronic crises and early reconstruction. These standards promote consistency in education programming.

2) Children who are in school may be less vulnerable to being recruited into armed groups or being trafficked.    
3) Education can also reduce the effects of trauma and offer children a sense of normality, structure and hope for the future.    
4)  Over the longer term, quality education can be a critical ingredient in the reconstruction of post-conflict societies.    
5) Quality education can promote conflict resolution, tolerance and a respect for human rights.

At System level:

i) Every child has a right to an education. This right is embodied in a host of global agreements beginning with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in legally binding treaties including the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which states that every child has a right to education regardless of the context in which he or she lives.

ii) However, Donors may be reluctant to fund education because they see competing priorities. Education is still hugely underfunded relative to the need and to other sectors

Example 2:

Global Education Cluster, lead by UNICEF and Save the Children, which is designed to enhance coordination, improve accountability and bring quality, effective emergency response education programming to disaster and conflict-affected populations worldwide.

The Education Cluster Toolkit


This includes advocacy documents and a needs analysis.


Needs Assessment Pack

6) Continuing quality education from the outset of an emergency ensures that children’s cognitive development and learning is uninterrupted and, in the longer term, offers them increased access to social and economic opportunities.    

7)  To ensure quality, education interventions must be relevant to children’s needs, appropriate to their developmental level, participatory to engage both child and parents in the learning process, flexible to cope with changing conditions, inclusive to ensure access for all and protective so that children are not exposed to abuse, violence or conflict This approach is supported by the Global Education Cluster which is a joint initiative by the UN, UNICEF, Save the Children and others to support education.


Example 3:

In northern Sudan, Save the Children used schools to raise awareness of the dangers of landmines. Children’s groups and their teachers receive theater training, and the children then develop skits on the dangers of landmines, which they perform for the community and other children.


For Communities:

i) The education system needs to be transparent and accountable to the children, parents and communities.

ii) When school systems have completely collapsed because of protracted conflict, communities often attempt to re-start the education process themselves. Responders can support community initiatives by providing educational supplies, training to teachers and support for curriculum develop.

Iii) The creation of school management committees (SMCs), community education committees (CECs) and parent-teacher associations (PTAs) is an effective way of building community ownership of education and enabling parents to influence the education process for their children.



Example 4:

Education and System-Strengthening for Displaced Iraqis

Interventions in Jordan focussed on strengthening teacher skills and resources for Jordanian schools as well as educational resources for displaced Iraqis as an ‘everyone benefits’ approach.

Example 5: UNICEF’s School In a Box

This resource provides a range of basic educational resources including paint to create a blackboard out of the box.

Example 6: Child Clubs

Child clubs have proven to be a remarkable catalyst for development and change within communities. They help to empower children to initiate child-development activities for their own benefit. The clubs build children’s self-esteem and confidence, increase their access to information, develop their solidarity and leadership qualities, and provide opportunities for recreation and joyful learning.


For Administrators:

I) Initial investments in rehabilitating buildings and delivering supplies need to be supported by thoughtful integration with existing education and child protective services, and mindfulness of the local situation with regard to staff and government abilities to respond.

ii) The education response will include a needs assessment, establishing safe spaces and then some form of shelter or location to provide temporary schooling and psychosocial support to promote readiness to learn prior to the resumption of formal schooling and construction or rehabilitation of schools.

iii) Consumables from the UNICEF ‘School in a Box’ may need to be replenished to aid attendance.

iv) Alternative Schooling may be required for those who are distant from central resource areas and older children who need to catch up and accelerate their learning apart from younger children.

For Teachers:

I)  Qualified Teachers may be available amongst the refugee population and will need training for the context that they are now going to work in.

ii) Simple messages on the dangers of landmines and health and hygiene promotion can reduce their risk of death, physical harm and disease.

Iii) Teacher training in child-centered methodologies and providing quality psychosocial support for children are a crucial part of the response.

For Parents: Children and their families are demanding their right to an education during times of emergency  

For Children:

Child-Friendly Spaces. When school systems and structures are damaged or destroyed, first responders establish secure areas for children to continue their education and play activities even in the midst of the conflict or disaster. These are supervised areas that provide quite areas, opportunities for play and talk. Parents can safely leave their children to attend distribution points and perhaps find relatives.