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Ethiopia: Scaling up education in emergencies

“Hello, how are you?” shout a chorus of children inside Save the Children’s newest Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centre, which just opened in Bur Amino camp in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Since 2009, thousands of Somali refugees have crossed the border into Ethiopia, forced to leave their homes due to the on-going conflict and food insecurity within Somalia.

A vital resource

Children make up 69% of all refugees, yet education opportunities are limited in the camps.

Education programs like Save the Children’s ECCD centres here are vital. For a few hours a day, children can participate in games, singing, story-telling, basic numeracy and English lessons, as well as creative activities to help develop their communication, learning and coping mechanisms. Teachers from the refugee community facilitate these activities, and the small incentive they receive contributes to their household income.

The centres are also places where children can receive a hot meal, with porridge being provided by the World Food Programme in all Save the Children’s ECCD centres across the five camps. This can be the only hot meal children receive all day.

Huge need, few opportunities

There are 116,817 children aged between 0-18 years living in Dolo Ado’s sprawling refugee camps, making up 69% of the refugee population. Of these children, 95% have never attended any type of formal education, so programmes in the camps play an important role in introducing children and communities to a formal education model. They provide children with the skills and knowledge that will keep them safe, as well as equipping them with tools for the present and a foundation to build on in future.

The needs are huge. Data shows that just 29% of 3-6 year old children here are currently in school. For young people, access to education is even bleaker: 77% of primary and middle school aged children (aged 7-14) are not in school and there are no secondary schools or training opportunities for 15-18-year-olds. In emergency contexts, adolescents face multiple risks but tend to receive less assistance, resources and protection than younger children.

Making education a priority

Save the Children is scaling up its education response in Dolo Ado, in resposne nto only to growign need, but also to the prioritisation of education by refugees in the camp. The over-crowded classrooms in ECCD centres, and the community-run Koranic schools which are developing across the camps are evidence of the emphaisis being placed on education by the population here.

By the end of 2012, Save the Children will be rolling out alternative-based education (ABE) for children aged 11-14, as well as technical and vocational education and training (TVET) for young people aged 15-18 years old.

A second chance

The EFA 2012 report highlights that there are around 200 million 15- to 24-year-olds in low and middle income countries who have missed out on completing primary school. Programmes like Save the Children’s ECCD, ABE and TVET courses in the refugee camps are therefore hugely important. Not only do they give young people a second chance at education, but the skills that they acquire give them more control over their livelihoods and employment opportunities vital for a more secure future.

Unfortunately this just the tip of the iceberg, and more funding is desperately needed to meet the educational needs of all the children in the camps. Education is after all, a basic human right and essential to human security and development.

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