Protecting education from attack and promoting the right to education in emergency contexts
The launch of the Global Campaign for Education’s Education in Emergencies Southern Advocacy Group in August 2023 shows national coalitions and youth organizations are joining forces to protect education from attacks. The group also promotes the effective protection of education rights and calls upon governments and the international community to provide immediate solutions for education provision in complex humanitarian contexts.
The protection of education from attacks and advocating for the right to education more broadly in contexts of emergency have been part of the Global Campaign for Education’s (GCE) agenda for over 20 years.
In line with this commitment, GCE launched the Education in Emergencies Southern Advocacy Group in late August 2023 at its Education in Emergencies (EIE) workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that brought together civil society and youth organizations.
The launch was an opportunity to bring together civil society and youth organizations advocating for the right to education in countries dealing with a wide range of emergencies. This includes attacks on school facilities as is happening in Palestine where dozens of schools have been destroyed, thousands of civilians forced to move and consequently, thousands of children and youth have seen their fundamental right to education dramatically disrupted (Aljazeera, 2023; BBC, 2023).
Emergencies can also be climate change and disaster-related.
Making schools safe
Collaboration with governments and policy makers when they design policies is key to effectively protecting education from attacks and other emergencies. All members of society should take positive action to democratically contest those who destroy schools, use schools for military purposes and put the lives of students, teachers and educational personnel at risk.
For GCE members, this entails the responsibility to advocate for governments to endorse and enact the Safe Schools Declaration—an inter-governmental commitment to protecting education institutions and communities from the effects of armed conflict.
Throughout the EiE workshop, GCE members shared their experiences and identified ways to collaborate to better understand challenges tied to protecting education from attacks and promoting the right to education during conflict and crisis.
In Bangladesh, the right to education for Rohingya refugees has long been compromised by a lack of adequate learning spaces, teaching staff and psychosocial support, as well as language and cultural barriers. The Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) has been promoting Shikkha Songlap (Education Dialogue) with policy makers and affected community members to promote the right to education in emergencies. The coalition has formed community watch groups to amplify a grassroots voice, especially from excluded groups whose views have historically not been considered in policy spaces.
The Iraqi National Education Coalition continuously works with the country’s Ministry of Education to confront the spread of extremist ideology and to integrate all students within the education system without discrimination. Efforts include producing pedagogical materials on preventing violence and extremism and guidelines on providing psychological support to children and women affected by violence and displacement (Alhamooze et al., 2023).
In Nigeria, the Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative called attention to how the ongoing insurgency of Boko Haram and other security issues compromise education provision (Alausa-Issa, 2023). Their recent study with Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All identified how banditry, terrorism and kidnapping in the South have dramatically limited access to education.
The Yemeni Coalition for Education for All further emphasized how conflict not only compromises school infrastructure and children’s well-being, but also aggravates the teacher shortage and affects teacher well-being as well as their ability to teach.
During the GCE EiE workshop, the impact of climate change-related emergencies on education was also shared by the national coalitions of Haiti and Honduras. William Thélusmond, from l'organisation Regroupement Éducation Pour Tous (REPT) in Haiti described the disruption caused by Hurricane Matthew that destroyed schools, training centers and other educational facilities, leading to “environments not conducive to learning, […] limiting educational opportunities for learners and reducing the resolve of teachers.” Damaged buildings also compromised the safety of both students and school staff.
Foro Dakar Honduras further stressed the devastating impacts of consecutive hurricanes on education infrastructure. Rains in September and October 2022 destroyed at least 207 educational centers and created a massive disruption in children and youth’s learning.
Water and sewage systems damaged by the hurricanes Honduras in 2022.
Credit: San Jose Institute
Key recommendations from GCE members
The EiE workshop was a valuable opportunity for GCE members to reaffirm their commitment to protect education from attack and to advocate for governments and the international community to prioritize technical and financial efforts to protect the right to education for all, in all types of emergencies.
The workshop also finalized the Education in Emergencies advocacy framework to guide GCE members who shared the following set of recommendations to better protect education in emergency settings:
- Increase collaboration and partnership between key stakeholders, local civil society organizations, governments and humanitarian organizations in coordinating EiE efforts.
- Implement capacity building programs so as to transfer knowledge to locally affected actors so that EiE initiatives are sustainable both during and post-emergency.
- Integrate emergency preparation measures within education sector plans and strategically implement reforms towards building resilient education systems.
- Increase funding for EiE through specific budget allocations and fund mobilization by national governments; the International Monetary Fund should also consider cancelling debt for countries experiencing crises and emergencies.
- Design local solutions to address EiE challenges.
- Increase government initiatives on digital infrastructure to ensure education continuity and that no one is left behind from accessing education.
- Emphasize inclusivity when designing EiE provision, mindful of students’ gender and/or disabilities.
- Institutionalize youth participation in policy development, planning, implementation and monitoring at all governance levels.
The launch of the Education in Emergencies Southern Advocacy Group was an opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of those millions of children and youth whose right to education has been dramatically affected by conflict, war, displacement, climate change and disaster.
In the end, it is a call to make every day a day to protect education from attack and advocate for the right to education across all emergency contexts.
- Alhamooze, T., Sabbah, R., Muayad Salih, A., and Mohammed Idress, T. (2023). Education in emergencies in Iraq. Iraqi Institute for Development. MIMEO.
- Alausa-Issa, S. (2023). Education in Emergencies in Nigeria. Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative. MIMEO.
- Atunde A. O. (2022) Crisis and Ideas Policy Theories: the Nigerian Abortion Law and the Dilemma of Women and Girls Living in the Conflict Zone. Legal Prism Journal. Nigerian Law School, Abuja.
- Olasupo, A., Damian-Mary, A., Ahmed Olarewaju., Issa Sanni, A., and Oluwatosin, O. (2023). Nigeria Education Finance Observatory. Global Campaign for Education. Mimeo.