When a crisis such as conflict or natural disaster strikes, it is vital to put education back in place so that children do not miss out on months or years of learning. However, efforts to improve education for marginalised children can be disrupted in emergencies. Children facing the biggest barriers to education can be invisible to emergency teams facing tight time pressures, particularly when parents of disabled children or girls consider it too unsafe to go to school.
In 2008, members of the Inter-Agency Network on Education in Emergencies (INEE) raised concern that excluded groups were not being reached, despite strong inclusion standards. Sometimes teachers or managers felt they could not tackle traditional attitudes. However, others found that the fresh attention and resources brought into an emergency galvanised people into improving education for everyone. Practical barriers were relatively easy to overcome, once leaders had encouraged thinking about inclusion.
INEE set up a task team of emergency practitioners to advise on inclusion in education in emergencies. The task team asked researchers at the University of Manchester, in the UK, to review leading humanitarian nongovernmental organisation (NGO) reports for evidence of inclusive practice and thinking.
Key points arising from the review include:
- NGOs were more likely to report on inclusion if they focused on one excluded group, such as girls.
- Most NGOs tried to improve the quality and inclusiveness of teaching; however, they tended to give insufficient thought to helping children get to class.
- Flexible funding would have helped include marginalised people, whose needs often emerged after budgets had been fixed.
Experience was collected to produce a guidance booklet. It revealed that communication is vital. For example, one emergency manager in the Democratic Republic of Congo found that a school for blind students had lost its Braille materials in the fighting. An agency in Kinshasa had materials but did not know the school was open. The emergency manager’s team got in contact and transported the materials.
In Kenya, after election violence in 2008, an education adviser helping schools to re-open asked head teachers why disabled children were not in school. When the adviser explained that disabled children had the same rights to education as other children, there was a genuine shift – several heads worked to welcome disabled children into their schools.
Other learning includes:
- Donors should require emergency evaluations to describe whether marginalised people were reached.
- Managers should regularly ask who is not included and what can be done to make progress.
- Teachers exhausted by a crisis may need very clear, practical instructions on supporting children with disabilities.
- Teachers’ confidence can be boosted by encouraging them to think about what they already do to help children take part in school.
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The INEE Task Team on Inclusive Education and Disability is developing a Strategic Research Agenda. Practitioners and researchers are invited to help identify further areas for research, and build evidence into new work.
- Education in emergencies: including everyone: INEE pocket guide to inclusive education
- Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies, 2009
- This document is a quick reference guide to help practitioners ensure that education in emergencies is accessible and inclusive for everyone, particularly those who have been traditionally excluded from education. The booklet is for a...