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Education: the forgotten need in emergencies

Half-way through the month of September, many children will already be back in school, ready to begin a new year of schooling.

However, there are at least six countries – Ivory Coast, Libya, Yemen, as well  parts of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya – where children will not go back to school unless something urgent is done about it.

What do they have in common? They are all ongoing or recent emergencies. They are also emergencies where schools have been damaged or intentionally attacked by armed forces and armed groups; many have shut down because teachers and students have had to flee. 

Little funding

They are also emergencies where little humanitarian funding has been secured for education, despite the central role education plays in children’s lives.

The highest percentage of education funding in recent emergencies is 26%; the lowest scoring emergency is Libya with a 0 for education.

Children missing out

Somalia, an ongoing crisis, has only received 18% of funding for education, a fifth of what is needed; Kenya follows it with a minimal 16%.

As with any other sector, if there is no money, there are no large-scale programmes that can reach children, or there are fewer small-scale ones run by organizations and UN agencies; local education ministries struggle to cope.

This means that fewer children will be reached.

Deprived of right

If fewer children are reached then chances of going to school, whether back to formal schooling or emergency education programmes, will be very slim.

In the case of Somalia, this might mean an entire new generation will likely be deprived of their right to education.

A delayed response will probably mean children will have to wait far too long until they can actually get on with what matters to them, their parents and communities.

What’s happening?

  • Ivory Coast: Thousands of students will be unable to take their exams because of displacement, inability to re-enrol, or pay examination fees. In one of the most conflict affected regions in the west of the country, all schools continue to be closed due to rumours about possible return of hostilities. This has resulted in families fleeing the area once more.
  • Libya: Plans remain for the reopening of schools on 17th September. However, with many schools still unfit for reopening (damaged, storing ammunition or occupied by internally displaced people) then some schools will temporarily have to run double shifts of lessons each day. Children have to cope with distress, occupied or damaged schools, unexploded ordnance/explosive remnants of war and possibly mines.
  • Somalia: 1.8 million children are out of school; children are currently on the move or live in areas where there are no or few schools. An estimated 200,000 school-age children have left school and migrated to urban areas or across the border into Kenya and Ethiopia in search of food and protection. Up to 50% of teachers may not return to the classroom due to displacement and food shortages in certain areas. The school term officially began last week.
  • Yemen: More than 7 million children should have been back in school at the beginning of September. It is expected that about 800 thousand children will enrolled in year one when schools are able to open. Training more than 4000 untrained or poorly trained teachers to be able to impart quality education as well as psychosocial support. .

The current crisis in East Africa particularly highlights the importance of working through education programmes to deliver combined education, food and health services for children.

Yet, funding and more commitments to education need to be in place to ensure children affected by the food crisis get what will help them most while they are coping with the emergencies and once the crisis is over.

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