By: Education Cluster and UNICEF
Relevance and importance of Education in Emergencies in the context of Afghanistan
Education in emergencies (EiE) is a core element of global humanitarian response and encompasses a series of activities designed to provide uninterrupted, quality learning opportunities to children affected by humanitarian crises. Complex operational contexts with sudden onset crises, conflict specific emergencies, back-to-back humanitarian events and chronic development challenges, such as in Afghanistan, mean that communities experience protracted crises across multiple dimensions (social, economic, political). In some humanitarian settings, EiE offers a reparative solution to an acute emergency by providing a protective bridge between previous and continued gains in development in existing education systems. However, in protracted humanitarian crises, EiE continues to provide targeted support to enable vulnerable and marginalized children and youth to access uninterrupted, structured education opportunities where current formal education systems are perpetually unable to accommodate them, due to the nature of the crisis.
While the Ministry of Education has made significant strides to improve the status of education in Afghanistan since 2001, disaster, poverty, and cultural norms continue to prevent access to quality education for vulnerable girls and boys. Gaps in access deprive children of their right to education and present lifethreatening protection issues as well as chronic underinvestment in specific communities, all of which have both immediate and long-lasting impacts. During a protracted crisis, duty-bearers, like the Government of Afghanistan, are not always able to provide quality education for all children due to financial and operational constraints, and non-governmental and UN agencies may provide education for children’s unmet needs during a crisis. Typically, EiE support can exist as short-term activities through humanitarian funding while development programming recalibrates to the changing context. Noting the above challenges in Afghanistan, the barriers which constrain access to education are not easily overcome in the short-term. Multi-year funding for EiE with the aim to transition EiE students into formal public schools, while supporting public schools to deliver quality education, has increasingly been the focus of humanitarian-development nexus programming. EiE is a crucial emergency response where systematic education has been affected due to climate, disease, conflict, or other crises.
In Afghanistan, for children who are displaced and are affected by either conflict or natural disasters or returned forcibly from other countries, EiE is an urgent priority because it:
• Saves lives and provides a safe space for children, where they are protected from physical harm, forced marriage, sexual abuse and exploitation, child labour and recruitment as child soldiers,
• Provides a venue where children can learn about preventable diseases, nutrition, hygiene and other lifesaving topics
• Creates a safe space where new skills and values, such as peace, tolerance, conflict resolution, democracy, human rights can be acquired
• Brings routine, stability, normalcy and hope to children’s lives, and improves psychosocial wellbeing
• Continues children’s learning, to ensure bright futures for them, their families, communities and country.
EiE is distinct from mainstream education in that it ensures equitable access to the right to education for children impacted by conflict or disaster and provides physical, psychosocial and cognitive protection that can sustain and save lives. The main differences between EiE and mainstream education are:
- Target group: EiE targets children who are affected by emergency (displacement/natural disaster/conflict) and need immediate assistance to access life-sustaining learning environments. These children are IDPs, returnees, former child labourers, and other vulnerable host community children who—without EiE intervention—would likely never enrol in school. Typically, children aged between 6-17 years are targeted in Afghanistan but in some exceptional cases children between the ages of 4-6 years can be assisted with early childhood education.
- Funding: EiE needs and funding requirements are articulated through the Humanitarian Needs Overview and the Humanitarian Response Plan. This means that most funding for EiE is short to medium term as it follows the Humanitarian Programme Cycle, which runs for 12 months. Funding for EiE therefore needs to be sourced quickly and spent quickly to cover the immediate needs of children affected by emergency. There is however ongoing advocacy for medium to longer term funding for children in protracted crisis.
- Timing: EiE activities do not follow the academic year but run throughout the calendar year to provide children with continuous access to safe, protective learning spaces and to catch-up due to interruptions in learning. Hot or cold climate conditions should not affect the implementation of EiE activities. Once children have caught up on learning and the public ‘hub’ school has the capacity to absorb new students, they can be enrolled in public school and then begin to follow the academic year based on their climatic region. Additionally, for shorter, EiE activities targeting newly displaced or newly out of school children, more flexible policies around intaking new children during the academic year need to be established to ensure that children have additional opportunities for supported enrolment into formal schools.
- Curriculum: EiE follows the MoE curriculum but in some instances can be delivered in an accelerated manner to enable children to re-enter mainstream education. Additional topics are also addressed in greater detail such as psychosocial support and social and emotional learning.
Docente - Investigadora Educativa.
Doctora en Cs. de la Educación, Magíster en Desarrollo Curricular y Licenciada en Relaciones Industriales.