How have crises and conflict affected schooling in the region? (What are the most damaging consequences of crises and conflict on education in the Middle East in your opinion?)
Crises and conflict halt or delay the education of 80 million children worldwide (1). Thirteen million children are out of school in the Middle East and North Africa alone (2). The reasons why children drop out of school are multifold, as illustrated by the example of Yemen.
Following the 2011 revolution, the conflict escalated in 2015, negatively affecting all aspects of people’s lives (3). Lack of safety and security have resulted in thousands of casualties and displacement, and the economic situation in the country has deteriorated quickly. Combined, these circumstances have severely affected the provision of basic services such as health and education. In total, 3,584 schools, which amounts to 21% of all basic and secondary schools, are closed (4). In addition, roughly 1,600 schools are unfit for use due to war and conflict-related damage, hosting of internally displaced persons (IDPs) or occupation by armed groups (5). Where children and youth remain in school, the quality of education suffers: books and other learning materials have been destroyed, teachers have been displaced, and teacher salaries have gone unpaid, leading teachers to reduce or even stop teaching in order to pursue other income-generating activities.
The longer conflicts last, the more likely children will remain out of school, and the less likely they will ever return to school. The result is often described as a ‘lost generation’. In Yemen, almost 2 million children are currently out of school (6).
To ensure that education continues despite conflict, and in order to ensure children’s and youth’s emotional and physical protection, education must be prioritized by governments and partners in countries affected by conflict.
What does educational planning look like in these emergency areas? (How can planning be managed in the long run in countries like Syria or Yemen where every efforts can be destroyed overnight? What are the biggest challenges for education planners today in these countries?)
For decades, the world’s response to emergencies was to provide humanitarian assistance in the form of providing food supplies, temporary shelter, access to health services, ensuring basic protection and, increasingly, providing access to education. Due to the urgency of providing social services in crisis situations, humanitarian planning often either replaced or occurred in parallel to longer-term educational planning with governments and partners setting priorities, directing interventions, and extending funding support to achieve economic and social objectives. In recent years, there has been a growing understanding that such parallel educational planning processes are no longer fitting, as conflicts and displacements are becoming more protracted in nature. This means that both quick responses, as well as longer-term planning, are necessary to address inequalities and ensure sustainable access to quality education.
UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) has put in place a planning approach that brings both the humanitarian and development worlds together in order to support ministries of education to prevent and mitigate conflict and disaster risks. IIEP’s planning approach is sensitive to the causes and triggers of crisis. This allows governments and their partners to reduce and mitigate the negative effects of the crisis on the education system, such as, for example, safeguarding learners and teachers while strengthening the education system’s resilience. In addition, this approach – crisis-sensitive education planning – can be cost-efficient, protecting investments in infrastructure, equipment, and supplies. In contexts such as Yemen, crisis-sensitive planning requires collaborative and participatory-based approaches of government authorities, communities, and development and humanitarian partners. In complex and volatile political settings, this is not always a straightforward process, but requires a high degree of flexibility, patience and commitment from all sides to agree on and coordinate education efforts. In Yemen, emergency response measures are complemented by the country’s three-year Transitional Education Plan, which is currently being developed (7). In Jordan, with support from UNESCO Amman and IIEP, the country’s response to the Syrian crisis has been fully integrated into its recently developed Education Strategic Plan (8).
How can planning help education in crisis-afflicted areas meet SDG 4 pledge to an inclusive and equitable education? (How to make sure refugee children, who are much more likely to be marginalized and excluded, are included and provided with equitable learning opportunities?)
Crisis-sensitive education planning facilitates collaborative approaches between different government ministries and stakeholders such as international organizations, NGOs and various UN agencies. The first phase of education planning involves conducting a situational analysis in order to identify the most pressing needs in each context. For instance, access to transportation, sanitary stations, infrastructure conditions and language of instruction are all elements that are considered in crisis-sensitive education planning. As was the case in Yemen, countries often develop immediate response plans, as well as a long-term plan, to ensure continuous access to education, prevent and prepare for future crisis or conflict, and build resilience.
Additional measures are often required to integrate refugee children into national school systems, as many refugees have missed years of schooling and are over-aged for the grade level, or have difficulties understanding the new language of instruction or curriculum in their host communities. Depending on the results of the situational analysis, ministries of education may implement informal language classes, alternative-based education classes or catch-up courses to help refugees integrate into a school system. Nonetheless, particularly in emergency contexts, there is often a considerable lack of financial and human resources to implement the plans in an effective manner. With this in mind, it is important to ensure that the crisis-sensitive education planning process is inclusive and well-coordinated for best implementation. Through addressing risks of conflict and disaster, and ensuring that displaced populations have access to education, crisis-sensitive planning will help countries attain Goal 4 of the SDGs to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.
What has been the international response to these challenges? (In particular, what has IIEP been doing for education planning in emergency situations in the Middle East and how does it connect to the work of other UN agencies such as UNHCR or UNRWA?)
IIEP provides diverse measures of support on crisis-sensitive education planning to a wide range of ministries of education, donors and organizations, including in Yemen and Jordan, but also in sub-Saharan African countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, South Sudan, and Uganda. For instance, IIEP is working in partnership with the European Union’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments to provide global training and regional workshops on crisis-sensitive planning and the inclusion of refugees and IDPs in national education systems from 2017-2020. Through this collaboration, IIEP will be able to provide support to develop capacities in this area to countries in the Middle East, but also in Africa. UNHCR, UNICEF, and the Global Education Cluster are technical partners in this initiative, and staff from both entities will be an integral part of the country teams that will be engaged throughout the collaboration. IIEP also provides training in this area through both online courses and face-to-face training, covering each step of the planning process, from analysis to monitoring and evaluation.
IIEP’s country-specific methodology facilitates opportunities for stakeholders to:
• develop and integrate conflict and disaster analyses in an education sector diagnosis;
• develop strategies for disaster and conflict risk-reduction that are an integral part of education plans;
• understand international frameworks for the implementation of conflict and disaster risk-reduction programmes;
• develop data collection tools to measure the impact of conflict and disasters on the education system, and understand education’s role in either mitigating or exacerbating their impact;
• advocate for safety, resilience and social cohesion through education;
• interact with international humanitarian communities.
Educational plans in emergency situations and for crisis prevention are complex in nature and require the coordination of various stakeholders for effective implementation. In supporting ministries of education and their partners to plan for crises and influxes of displaced populations, IIEP’s ambition is to ensure that education systems are responsive and, most importantly, resilient to crises, thus ensuring the continuity of education and the protection of education communities before, during and after emergencies.
(1) Papadopoulos, N; Mattern, M. “What does ‘Back to School’ Mean for Children in Crisis and Conflict?” August 23, 2017. USAID. Available at: https://blog.usaid.gov/2017/08/what-does-back-to-school-mean-for-children-in-crisis-and-conflict/
(2) UNICEF. “Conflict drives 13 million children out of school in the Middle East and North Africa.” September 3, 2015. Available at : https://www.unicef.org/media/media_83072.html
(3) OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). Humanitarian Response Plan January–December, 2017. February 8, 2017. Available at: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/2017_HRP_YEMEN.pdf
(4) Yemen Education Cluster. Education Cluster Strategy 2016–2017. March 2016. Available at: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/yemen_education_cluster_strategy2016-2017_eng.pdf
(5) UNICEF. “In Yemen, children’s education devastated after three years of escalating conflict and nearly 2 million children not in school.” March 27, 2018. Available at: https://www.unicef.org.au/about-us/media/march-2018/in-yemen-children%E2%80%99s-education-devastated-after-th
(7) For more information, see: “Supporting Education in Yemen – Enhancing the Humanitarian and Development Nexus.” March 19, 2018. Available at : http://www.unesco.org/new/en/beirut/single-view/news/supporting_education_in_yemen_enhancing_the_humanitarian/
(8) For more information, see “New education strategic plan launched for 2018-2022 (The Jordan Times)”. March 14, 2018. Available at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/amman/about-this-office/single-view/news/new_education_strategic_plan_launched_for_2018_2022_the_jor/