Emergency education interventions often involve building temporary classrooms, until schools reopen or are rebuilt. But a return to normality can take years – especially in on-going conflict. What children need to learn in an internally displaced people / refugee camp setting can be as much about dealing with trauma, and understanding basic hygiene and landmine risk, as it is about reading and writing.
What should be taught inside those temporary classrooms? What should formal schools be teaching in addition to the formal curriculum to help children affected by crisis?
When Street Child arrived in North East Nigeria in late 2016, this was one of the key questions facing the local ‘education in emergencies working group’ (EiEWG) – consisting of international and local charities, as well as government agencies.
Non-formal education in the North East crisis response is not standardized. 73% of schools in the North East are teaching nothing outside the formal curriculum. Only 1% of children demonstrated any awareness of landmine risk, despite the deaths of two children so far this year (NE Nigeria Joint Education Needs Assessment, 2017).
Nigerian EiEWG devised a groundbreaking solution. It has proposed to standardize education in emergencies in Nigeria, not just for the North East context, but for any current and potential emergency situation across the country, where children’s education may be affected.
In early 2017, Street Child agreed to make it one of its early priorities to help the EiEWG source funding to start putting this huge idea into practice. Just before the end of the year, we were delighted to deliver on that commitment and confirm to the working group that a generous funding partner, equally motivated by the prospect of a ‘systems-level’ change, had pledged $100,000 to Street Child for this purpose. The project can begin!
The development and roll-out of a standardized EIE curriculum is an incredibly ambitious project. The barriers to education in the North East include a chronic lack of trained teachers, ongoing security risks, and a very low level of basic education even before the conflict. The scale is huge - Nigeria is a federal republic, with the second largest population in Africa.
But if it succeeds, millions of children affected by emergencies in Nigeria will receive an education appropriate to their individual context. Standardized basic education will improve their chances of returning to the formal system, while standardized emergency-related education will increase the resilience of all children to the worst effects of their situation, and help them deal with the increased risks to their physical and mental health and safety.
Street Child is extremely proud to be supporting this initiative. When the project was proposed to the Education in Emergencies working group, the project was a pipe-dream without funding. Now we are helping to make it happen!
The project is rightly led by the appropriate Nigerian government agencies: the Ministry for Education, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and the National Educational Research and Development Committee (NERDC) – but Street Child is helping to plan and drive the project. Our first job was to gather and inform the stakeholders who would be essential to the project, from teachers’ unions to international funding partners, working towards the development of a curriculum.
Though ambitious, the potential to learn from this project, not just in the Nigerian context but in other global emergency contexts, is enormous.
Education in emergencies is a uniquely forward-looking intervention, one which deals not only with the present crisis, but maintains hope for the future.