Both natural hazards and conflict have devastating effects on education systems. When education is interrupted, classrooms destroyed, educational resources stretched, and when the safety and well-being of teachers and students are endangered, children’s futures are threatened.
This is the case for one in three of the 124 million out-of-school children who live in a fragile or conflict-affected country. The new global education agenda, Education 2030, acknowledges the reality of children in conflict and disaster-affected countries and urges these countries to implement policies and strategies to ensure that the right to a quality education is delivered, no matter the circumstances.
Educational planning is key to safeguarding education
It is crucial that education systems prepare for such events by developing plans, policies, and capacities that ensure education personnel and learners react effectively during times of crisis.
We now understand education’s role in providing security and a sense of normalcy for children, and in helping to build the foundation for peaceful and stable societies.
Resilient education systems that foster tolerance, promote equity and inclusion, and strengthen social cohesion can also help pull countries out of cycles of turbulence, and secure brighter futures for generations to come.
When responding is not enough
An increasing number of countries acknowledge that merely responding to crisis is no longer sufficient. Instead, ministries of education are looking for ways to strengthen their capacities to anticipate and address the causes of crisis.
Good planning for crisis in education—whether due to disaster or conflict—can save the lives of students and teachers. It can also significantly reduce the cost of rebuilding or repairing expensive infrastructure. This frees resources for investing in prevention measures.
Ministries of education in Burkina Faso, Mali, South Sudan, Uganda, and many other countries across the globe have worked with the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-UNESCO) to prevent and prepare for crisis through education planning.
This work is being done together with partners such as Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
How can countries plan for crises?
In practical terms, planning for crises is not so different from regular educational planning. However, it makes sure that a crisis-sensitive approach is adopted at every step of the planning process, as shown below.
IIEP supports many countries in implementing a crisis-sensitive planning process. This is accomplished through the development of an education sector plan aimed to ensure children’s safety and foster their resilience, as in South Sudan, and the development of risk-assessment and monitoring tools and training on crisis-sensitive planning for education officers, such as in Uganda.
New resources to help countries build resilience
Planning for resilience has been mainstreamed into IIEP’s training materials and is increasingly becoming part of its technical cooperation activities.
A newly developed set of resource booklets for education planners and curriculum developers on safety, resilience and social cohesion can be accessed via an online resource database, education4resilience.
Here, users can find training materials, policy briefs, case studies, and monitoring tools, developed in collaboration with PEIC and the UNESCO International Bureau of Education (IBE).
Lessons learned from supporting ministries of education
During the course of this work, IIEP learned important lessons about supporting ministries of education to prevent, anticipate and be better prepared for crisis.
- Encourage ownership. Government leadership is vital and can help facilitate the implementation of a country’s crisis-sensitive education plan, policy, or program.
- Participation at all levels is key. Crisis-sensitive strategies are more relevant and effective when national and sub-national authorities, teachers and partners participate in their planning and implementation. This is particularly true in crisis contexts where those most affected by the crisis are usually not involved in decision-making processes.
- Implement coordination mechanisms. This can ensure appropriate follow-up and alignment with government priorities on crisis-sensitive education and sustain long-term commitment. It helps ensure that resources are used in an efficient and equitable way, by avoiding duplication of activities, favoring synergies in activities, and avoiding a focus on specific areas and neglect others.
- Link humanitarian and development partners. Crisis situations increase the need for coordination, as many humanitarian and development partners engage in various programs and projects. Their coordination can ensure alignment with government priorities and appropriate follow-up.
- Develop capacities. A crisis may have depleted capacities or weak capacities may have contributed to the crisis in the first place. Capacity development measures, always hands-on, need to build on indigenous knowledge and local capacity needs.
Stay tuned: In two upcoming two blog posts, my colleagues at IIEP will report on Uganda and South Sudan’s progress, achievements and lessons learned in developing crisis-sensitive education sector plans and strategies.