In the closing years of the twentieth century, children and adolescents in many countries have had the promise of Jomtien snatched from them through war and catastrophe. They have been displaced from their homes, or their national education systems have collapsed. Yet it is these children who have even greater need of education than others. Education has the potential to restore a sense of normalcy to their lives, and to help build a stable future for them as individuals, members of their communities and citizens.

In this section, we review what has been achieved in the field of emergency education, in terms of the various population groups whose needs have been addressed. We look first at schooling, which is usually the priority concern of communities affected by displacement and conflict. Here we introduce the distinction between communities displaced across international borders, becoming refugees; communities displaced within their own countries or remaining in their home locations but affected by the disruption of the education system due to natural or man-made disasters; and communities attempting to rebuild their futures, notably in post-conflict situations.

We subsequently examine other components of Jomtien’s ‘expanded vision’: emergency response to the needs of younger children, in terms of promoting early childhood care and development, and response to the needs of youth and adults, in terms of education for literacy, life skills and livelihood (vocational training). Finally we examine the situations of population groups of special concern in emergency situations, such as children and adults with disability (including injuries from war and landmines), children separated from their families, and child soldiers and older ex-combatants.


e would prefer to give an overview of the quantitative dimension of needs and response, to indicate how many displaced and war-affected children and adolescents are in school or out of school, for example. It is difficult, however, to collect accurate statistics in conflict and emergency situations, not least because affected populations may be sheltering in their cellars, taking refuge in hillsides, or moving from place to place. The most detailed information we received is for refugees, and for these some quantitative analysis is presented. In general, however, we conclude that more analysis is needed of quantitative and qualitative aspects of educational response in emergency and post-emergency situations.

Restoring access to schooling

Concerning this point, we review some of the achievements in provision of education for refugees, for emergency-affected populations within their own countries, and in post-crisis situations.

Schooling for refugee children and adolescents

The focus here is on refugee schooling in countries which are in the category of developing nations or nations in transition. These are countries where the education of national populations is restricted by financial constraints, and where meeting the education needs of refugee populations represents a burden for which external assistance is required.

As noted earlier, governments of asylum countries are obliged under international law to promote the access of refugee children to education in the country of asylum. There have been occasions when a host government has decided not to permit refugee education. The most serious instance of such a political constraint in the 1990s was the statement of the government of (then) Zaire in 1994, repeated in 1996, that Rwandese refugees should not have access to schooling. In several other cases also, host governments have imposed limitations on refugee schooling, or on education of children in the process of seeking asylum, which contravene the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Normally, however, countries of asylum permit refugee education, and welcome humanitarian assistance in this respect, if they are unable to meet the costs themselves. An internal UNHCR evaluation emphasised that ‘basic education must be provided no matter what the political context’.

Refugees face a special situation in respect of access to education. They are resident in a country other than their own, and are therefore to a greater or lesser extent disconnected from their own country’s Education Ministry and institutions such as examination boards. There have been instances of political, legal or administrative obstacles to refugee education as well as practical problems of access.

The total number of refugee students attending host country schools, on their own initiative or with external funding, is not known. UN agencies and NGOs assist financially with the education of refugee students in national schools in over 40 developing countries, at primary, secondary and tertiary level. In some locations the assistance is provided through individual scholarships. In others, assistance is given to the education authorities. The largest such programme is a subsidy to the education authorities in Iran, to help meet the costs of over 100,000 refugee students, attending government schools throughout the country.

Where large numbers of refugees arrive in a neighbouring country, the displaced populations usually begin to improvise schooling within a few weeks of displacement. This typically leads to a situation whereby NGOs or the government of the asylum country quickly provide educational and shelter materials, and later take a leadership role in supporting the community-based schools or in operating an education system for refugees. Except where small numbers of refugees live in isolated areas, there is normally fairly adequate physical access to schooling for refugee populations. Where rural refugees are gathered in refugee camps, their children may actually be living much nearer to schools than they did in their home country. Many factors can limit effective access, however, including difficult home circumstances, cultural factors limiting enrolment of girls, and the sometimes poor quality of schooling. In some cases, secondary schools are established in refugee camps and settlements, while in some cases refugees attend local secondary schools. Access at this level is less comprehensive.(10)

The number of refugee students in developing countries has probably been in the region of half a million to a million throughout the decade. At the time of Jomtien, UNHCR programmes supported some 330,000 students, including 125,000 in Pakistan, 75,000 in Malawi, 54,000 in Ethiopia, 12,000 in Zimbabwe and 10,000 in Sudan. In 1990, there were also large numbers of Afghan refugee students attending government schools in Iran and large numbers of Afghan refugee students in Pakistan who were attending schools run by Afghan political parties from their own funding sources. Adding in these students and refugee students in other countries funded by other agencies or enrolled independently, it is clear that the total number of refugee students was over half a million.(11)

There have been changes in the refugee profile during the 1990’s. A major repatriation of Afghan refugees took place in the summer of 1992, but slowed to a trickle when renewed fighting took place in Afghanistan. Repatriation of Mozambican refugees from Malawi and Zimbabwe was completed by the mid-1990’s. By the school year 1995/96, refugee education programmes with over 50,000 beneficiaries included Iran, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.

The latest estimates of refugee students assisted by UNHCR, covering the school year 1997/98, gave a total of about 650,000, including students in Iran (165,000), Tanzania (79,000), Pakistan (78,000), Guinea (61,000), Uganda (53,000), Cote d’Ivoire (49,000), Kenya (38,000), and Nepal (35,000). These totals include about 30,000 students in secondary education, notably in Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda and Iran.

Enrolments of refugee girls are lower than those of boys, especially in the upper primary and secondary years. Often this reflects schooling patterns in their places of origin, although the specifics of the refugee situation also influence patterns of school attendance and drop out. Currently some 40% of refugee students in developing countries are girls.


Estimated enrolments of refugee children and adolescents in refugee and national schools, 1997/8, under UNHCR assistance programmes



 Total %



























* Excludes North Africa.
**South West Asia, North Africa, Middle East.

It should be emphasised again that the figures given above do not represent the full numbers of refugee students in schooling. There is no co-ordinated system for collection of data on refugee students receiving assistance from different sources. There is also no record of the numbers of refugee students attending host country schools on their own initiative, - indeed it may often be better that refugee students are not differentiated from their classmates. For present purposes, we may presume that the number of refugee students attending school in developing countries and countries in transition is just under a million.

Participation levels

It is obviously desirable to interpret refugee education statistics in terms of the total numbers of refugee children and adolescents in need of schooling. Where the refugees are from a developing country, the question is often whether the level of school enrolment is comparable with that in the country of origin.

A first point is that many refugee populations in developing countries originate from rural areas of their home country. The levels of participation in these particular areas may have been lower than those recorded for the country as a whole, and not available for comparison. A second point is that population figures for refugees are often of limited accuracy, and that refugee education statistics are often underestimates (see above). Yet another problem is that there is often a backlog of unmet need, due to weaknesses in education provision in the years before arrival as refugees, leading to anomalies in the calculation of Gross Enrolment Ratios. (12).

A calculation made for a post-Jomtien inter-agency meeting in 1990 gave an overall participation rate or Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 13% for UNHCR-assisted refugee education at primary school level. However, it seems likely that this was a substantial underestimate. It is quite likely that in 1990, as now, most refugee communities had primary schools in walking distance of refugee children. Despite overcrowding, the assisted primary school programme for Mozambican refugees in Malawi had a participation rate estimated at 42% in 1991/2, for example.(13)

Education levels have been rising in most countries during the 1990s, so one would expect a higher participation rate now among refugees also. Comparison with 1990 would also be affected by changes in the identity of refugee groups, however. Recent calculations give an order of magnitude of 54% (65% for boys and 44% for girls) for refugee primary school enrolments compared to an estimate of the corresponding age group, and of 34% (41% for boys and 27% for girls) for primary and secondary school enrolments compared to the age group 6 to 17. When these calculations are performed separately for Africa (excluding North Africa), the primary school GER is higher, at 73% (85% for boys, 60% for girls), and the rate for primary and secondary school combined is 47% (55% for boys, 38% for boys).



It should be re-emphasised that there are serious problems in interpreting the GER in the refugee context. This may be illustrated by the education statistics for the Bhutanese refugee population in Nepal (which had an assisted refugee population of 94,200 in 1997). The enrolment in the refugee primary schools was about 34,000. Age group data for this population indicate that in 1997 there were about 16,890 girls and 16,760 boys aged 5 to 17 in this population, -a total of 33,650. Thus it could be concluded that all the refugee children and adolescents over 5 and under 18 are in school, due to previously unmet need. More realistically, however, there must be some children from poor families not in school, and probably some young people 18 years old and above who are enrolled in the course (an 8 year course preceded by a year called ‘pre-primary’). In fact a ‘bulge’ of pent-up demand can be seen moving through the Bhutanese refugee schools. The highest enrolment in 1995 was in Class One, while the peak of enrolment subsequently moved to Class 2 (1996), Class 3 (1997) and Class 4 (1998). (14)

It is important that at each stage of the educational ladder there is an opportunity for at least some students to proceed to the next stage. Access to secondary education is an incentive to study seriously and complete primary education, and access to higher education provides an incentive and hope for students at secondary level. A study of refugee access to secondary and higher education is urgently needed.

The topic of higher education for refugees and other emergency-affected populations is too vast to tackle here. Obviously it bears on the question of capacity-building for reconstruction, for which a pool of highly educated persons is essential. Despite the evident need, it may be that international funding for refugee higher education has declined during the decade.

On the positive side, however, the ‘Einstein’ or DAFI (Deutsche Akademische Fluchtling Initiative) scholarship scheme funded by the Federal Republic of Germany, has provided university scholarships for some 1100 refugee students, studying in a developing country, normally their country of first asylum. This donation of 4 million Deutchmarks per year may represent the major source of funding for refugee education at universities in developing countries. The DAFI initiative is invaluable, both for its direct beneficiaries and because it provides an incentive for refugee students to complete their secondary education. DAFI scholarships alone cannot meet the education needs of talented refugee students world-wide, however, nor the manpower needs for durable solutions in their communities. Other donors are needed, and current initiatives in the use of distance education approaches should be encouraged and extended.

The above statistics do not cover the education of Palestinian refugees since this has been organised through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), with the technical support of UNESCO, since as early as 1950. This programme has provided Palestinian refugee children and youth with general education, vocational and technical education and teacher education. Donor commitment has permitted tens of thousands of students to become self-reliant by earning their living and supporting their families, thus helping in the social and economic development of the region. Less obviously, but perhaps equally important, this education has significantly contributed to the preservation of the cultural identity of a displaced and dispersed people.

Education of Palestinian refugees

In 1997/8, UNRWA elementary, preparatory and secondary schools numbered 649, accommodating 447,268 pupils. Enrolments in the elementary cycle comprised 11,464 in Gaza, 88,211 in Jordan, 25,932 in Lebanon, 43,206 in the Syrian Arab Republic, 36,159 in the West Bank: a total of 308,372 including 153,973 girls (49.9%).

UNRWA operates eight training centres (three in the West Bank, two in Jordan and one each in Gaza, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic), with a total of 4650 training places in the training year 1997/8. In 1955, UNRWA began providing scholarships to excelling Palestinian students to pursue to their higher education, from the UNRWA General Fund and extra-budgetary resources. In 1997/8, UNRWA awarded 1055 scholarships, of which 488 were for women. (UNRWA Department of Education: Annual Report, 1997/8)

1.2 Schooling for children and adolescents displaced or otherwise crisis-affected within their own countries

‘Children who are displaced but remain within their own countries face perilous circumstances. They are often worse off than refugees, since they may lack protection and assistance. There are an increasing number of situations where families and communities are chronically displaced due to localised, continued armed conflict. …Another acute problem for internally displaced children is access to health and education services. In contravention of humanitarian law, the access of internally displaced persons to humanitarian assistance is often impeded. …Even if schools exist, the children may not be able to enrol because they lack proper documentation, are not considered residents of the area or are unable to pay school fees. Feelings of exclusion, as well as the struggle for survival and protection, may lead children to join parties to the conflict or to become street children. …All possible measures must be taken to maintain education systems during conflicts (Machel Report, paras. 81/2, 203).

The information on education for populations within crisis-affected countries is much less comprehensive than for refugees. For refugees, international agencies have mandates to provide assistance, including education. International funding is used, and reporting is therefore needed. In contrast, in countries or regions undergoing conflict, or in post-conflict situations, the responsibility for education rests with national and local education authorities that may be functioning under conditions of great difficulty or not at all.

The situation of countries or regions in a state of chronic conflict is particularly troubling. Difficulties in collecting reliable data should not hide the fact that access to education in parts of Somalia, Southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and elsewhere is minimal. An estimate of the Gross Enrolment Ratio for Somalia, for example, suggests that only 9 per cent of children (and only 6 per cent of girls) are in school. (15)

In this situation, it is not practicable at present to give a quantitative overview, - although we recommend that in future there should be ongoing studies of education for populations affected by emergencies within their own countries. It is possible, however, to illustrate some of the efforts made by governments and the international community to provide access to schooling even under very difficult conditions.

It may be noted further that the number of ‘beneficiaries’ is a less meaningful concept when assistance is given to an under-resourced education system in a country affected by conflict, than when applied to the donation of resources to cover the entire costs of a system of refugee schools, for example. Often, the donation of stationery, textbooks etc. is critical to continuation of educational programmes in a country, town or district affected by natural disaster or other crisis; yet the major costs, in terms of teaching time, infrastructure etc. are borne by the nation or community concerned.

Support to education in Burundi

UNICEF, UNESCO and other organisations have supported provided support to the education system in Burundi, through issue of student kits and teachers’ guides, as well as support for non-formal education including training of literacy teachers and production of literacy materials, and support to women’s peace committees.

One of the regions most affected by internal crisis is Southern Sudan. Educational activities are supported by various agencies, under the leadership of UNICEF, under the programme Operation Lifeline Sudan. In this case, there is intermittent conflict and internal displacement. Efforts have been made, however, to supply basic educational materials and to provide elements of teacher training; and teacher guides have been prepared. Programmes of emergency outreach to displaced and conflict-affected populations are likewise found in most emergency situations world-wide, an example being the support to education provided by UNESCO, UNICEF and other agencies in Somalia since 1993, and recent programmes for children displaced due to the Kosovo crisis.

Support to education in crisis-affected areas of Angola

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), in co-operation with the Angolan Education Ministry and UNICEF, has adapted the Teacher Emergency Package developed by UNESCO, and has introduced additional teacher training to compensate for low levels of teacher education in rural areas. The NRC project provides a year-long basic education programme in areas lacking a primary school. Afternoon classes have extended the programme to higher grades. Themes such as health, nutrition, environmental care, music and human rights have been included in the programme. The aim has been to provide access to education on an initially low-resource basis, given the poverty and instability in the regions concerned, providing the basis for improved education when the situation has improved.

In many countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Union), there have been major population movements and localised conflicts. There are large numbers of internally displaced, as well as refugees and populations affected by or at risk of conflicts. Many agencies provide assistance, but often funding is insufficient to ensure even basic education supplies, or assistance to displaced families which lack the means to provide warm clothing and shoes to enable their children to attend school.

Supplementary education programmes for IDPs and local populations in the Caucasus

International Rescue Committee (IRC), in consultation with the national education authorities, has developed innovative non-formal education programmes for IDPs and local populations in Western Georgia and Azerbaijan, including remedial education, health education, creation of libraries, recreational activities and capacity-building for Parent Teacher Committees and local NGOs.

Humanitarian and development agencies must look to strengthening educational support services as well as ensuring that educational supplies reach conflict-affected populations. In Azerbaijan, for example, an inter-agency education working group has recently been established to help the government cope with its large caseload of IDPs and refugees. The shortage of resources such as textbooks, together with a district-based system of distribution, has led to under-resourcing of IDP schools (since IDP students and teachers are new to the district and away from their own districts) and early school drop out.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has played an important role in maintaining education systems in situations of emergency. In Mozambique, for example, WFP’s school feeding programme, mainly for boarding school students, ensured that at least a minimum of education could be maintained during the period of emergency and conflict. In Sudan, WFP has provided emergency food aid to communities, especially women, to rehabilitate primary schools damaged by floods. In Afghanistan, WFP has provided take-home rations in support of teacher training and school reconstruction, as well as assisting in meeting the food needs of boarding schools and orphanages.

1.3 Schooling as a vital component of post-conflict reconstruction

‘For refugee or internally displaced families and children returning to their home communities, reintegration may be very difficult. In countries disrupted by many years of conflict, there are often tensions between returnees and residents. For children in particular, one of the most important measures is to ensure education and the opportunity to re-establish family life and productive livelihoods. …Support for the re-establishment and continuity of education must be a priority strategy for donors and NGOs in conflict and post-conflict situations.’ (Machel Report, paras.88, 203).

There is increasing recognition of the time lag that can occur between the apparent resolution of a crisis situation, such as a peace treaty and a repatriation process, and the restoration of effective access to education programmes. In some cases, continuing insecurity makes the reconstruction process problematic. Often, there is a need to rebuild and re-equip national and local educational administration systems before community initiatives can be reinforced with educational materials, teacher training and supervision and eventually the reintroduction of national examinations.

The damage done to educational systems by years of war can mean that there is a lack of persons with sufficient education to be teachers, as well as a lack of infrastructure. Donors may be unwilling to fund reconstruction until there is clear evidence that conflict will not be resumed.

Education Development Centres in Somalia

In Somalia, UNESCO through its Programme for Emergency Education and Reconstruction (PEER) has developed a network of Education Development Centres, as a technical basis for restoring structures of education at regional level. These resource centres provide for training of teachers, and local development and reproduction of education materials. UNESCO and UNICEF work hand in hand providing centralised services such as curriculum development, textbook provision, teacher training and promotion of sustainability and community ownership of the school system through support to Community Education Committees, District and Regional Education Committees. The Somali Open Learning Unit (SOMOLU) provides in-service training whereby teachers can set their own pace and become qualified after 12-18 months. This training can be centre-based or, as in Nugal, mobile tutors provide training to groups of teachers in small towns and villages. Vacation courses enable lower primary teachers to complete the 8th grade of schooling. A Peace Education Package has been developed, based on Somali culture, for use in Somali schools. In the absence of an internationally recognised government, the Somalia Aid Co-ordination Body promotes co-ordination of the education sector through its Education Sectoral Committee, with UNESCO serving as its chair and secretariat. These initiatives and activities present a model that has lessons for educational reconstruction elsewhere.

At the stage of post-conflict reconstruction, there is often a confused situation with various international agencies offering assistance in an uncoordinated manner, a national Education Ministry ill-equipped to coordinate them, and problems so complex that solutions are hard to devise. A notable dilemma is that in post-conflict situations, some national governments are unable to fund even the operational costs of schooling. Even if international donors agreed to provide this assistance on a temporary basis, how would it be sustained after their funding is discontinued?

There is an especial need for effective co-ordination mechanisms when donors wish to support the return of refugees to their homes and the re-establishment of basic services and livelihoods in returnee-receiving areas. Agencies with a mandate focussed on refugees seek to dovetail their assistance with organisations able to provide support over the longer term. Such transitions in donor support are easy to advocate but very difficult to arrange in practice. This is an area where greater inter-agency co-ordination is of the utmost importance, - as is a training of education managers in affected countries. (16)

Inter-agency co-ordination in Liberia

In a good example of inter-agency collaboration, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNESCO, International Rescue Committee (IRC), ADRA (Adventists Development and Relief Association) and other organisations co-operated with the Education Ministry of Liberia in 1998, in planning speedy educational response in Liberian counties receiving large numbers of returnees from Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire. Plans included distribution of textbooks and accelerated in-service training of new teachers. IRC and ADRA were the NGOs implementing refugee education in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire respectively, and seeking to assist rehabilitation of education in returnee areas of Liberia.

Lack of resources for educational reconstruction may even delay repatriation, in certain circumstances. As noted in the discussion below on curriculum, refugee schools normally use a curriculum based on that of their country or area of origin, not least with the objective that their students should be able to re-enter the education system in their home area without difficulty. At the time of writing, however, there is a major debate on the issue of whether education for Liberian refugees, residing in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, should be discontinued as an incentive to repatriation. There have been difficulties in proceeding speedily with the reconstruction of schools in returnee areas, partly due to the general deterioration of infrastructure such as roads during the years of civil strife and to under-funding of the reconstruction programme generally. It is unclear in this case to what extent slow repatriation reflects the practicalities of return and reconstruction and how far it is affected by teachers’ concerns regarding conditions of employment in returnee areas as contrasted to refugee schools.

As another example of the practical implications of resource constraints, we may cite the 250 refugee students in Djibouti who are willing to repatriate to North West Somalia when secondary schooling is available there.

This problem of meeting recurrent costs on a sustainable basis is not limited to education, of course, and is widely encountered in repatriation and post-conflict situations. In some cases, teachers may receive external assistance in cash or as food-for-work, but strategies for sustainability are needed.

World Food Programme (WFP) support for education in emergency and reconstruction

The World Food Programme plays a vital role both in emergency situations and post-crisis reconstruction. Its policies for education, under the rubric of Protracted Relief and Recovery Operations (PRRO) include support for basic education generally, including primary education, literacy, skills training, life skills such as mine awareness, etc. ‘Often this support will be in the form of school feeding or provision of food rations to enable people to participate and not be distracted due to hunger.’ Secondary schools serving the poor, boarding facilities and centres for specially disadvantaged children are sometimes assisted on a case-by-case basis. WFP supports, through food-for-work, the construction and repair of key educational infrastructure which has been destroyed or damaged during the emergency. Regarding the situation where teachers cannot be paid a salary, WFP may provide food basket assistance on a short-term basis. ‘Where such support is being proposed, the recovery strategy will need to demonstrate that all alternative sources of funding have been explored and that the rationale for the project is strong enough to justify providing support to teachers’. (WFP Guidelines for Protracted Relief and Recovery Operations.)

The international community has realised the importance of investing in the prevention of future natural disasters, - in the case of the cyclones and floods that recur in Bangladesh, for example. There should be a willingness likewise to invest in the less tangible concept of education for post-conflict renewal of hope for the coming generations.

BANGLADESH Preventive strategies against natural disasters

UNESCO’s assistance in emergency situations is not merely limited to the reconstruction of schools after the fact. Rather, it has given considerable attention to the provision of information and guidelines to avert any potential damage in the event of natural disasters, and particularly to school buildings. In cases where the damage has already occurred, the response to assistance has been supplemented by sub-regional training courses by leading experts. Countries with similar climatic cycles have been encouraged to share and broaden their experience, concerns, solutions and emergency strategies and cooperate with one another.

Although regions affected by fierce windstorms have been identified and recommendations for building designs/structures/preventive measures suited to the respective areas highlighted, it is not always possible for countries to upgrade their technology or design for a variety of reasons. It is nevertheless a proven case in UNESCO’s experience that the pooled resources of international and national agencies which went towards improved satellite warning systems and the provision of better buildings in Bangladesh helped mitigate the effect of the devastating cyclone which hit the country in 1991. As the table below shows, the projected number of deaths in 1990 would have been double that of 1970 in proportion to the growth in population. And even though the loss of life in reality was enormous in the cyclone of 1991, it was much less in comparison to what it would have been had precautionary measures of warning systems and improved building structures not been taken. Other countries/regions included for safe-school structures are: Australia, Bangladesh, Caribbean, China, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tonga and Vietnam.



Actual 1970


Estimate 1990

Actual 1991










Percentage of population killed




SAVED 660,000


EVACUATED 15,000,000

Source: UNESCO, The ABC of Cyclone Rehabilitation, K.J.Macks, 1996

In some cases, as after the repatriation of refugees to Kosovo in 1999, there is an international willingness to fund educational reconstruction in a post-conflict situation. In the majority of cases, in contrast, there is a scarcity of resources, and UN Consolidated Appeals for reconstruction often fall far short of their targets. The new awareness of the rights of children and of prompt restoration of education as a tool for peacebuilding may help generate greater responsiveness to the funding needs of the education sector in the post-conflict and transition situations. We recommend greater involvement of scholars in this area, as a reinforcement of the calls of field-oriented agencies for greater and more timely donor support to educational reconstruction.

Early childhood development and adult education

Jomtien set a broad agenda for basic education, including early childhood development, the education of children, young people and adults; including quality as well as coverage; including skills for living and livelihood beyond simple literacy and numeracy. Organisations working in emergency education have seen the necessity for this broad agenda, and there have been good initiatives under difficult conditions.

Early childhood care and development

‘Integrated programmes in early childhood care and development provide a sound foundation for lifelong learning. …they are ‘pace-setters’ in education, often building on partnerships between government, NGOs, communities and parents. Integrated Early Childhood Development programmes, including parent education, interact with other areas of children’s growth such as health, hygiene and nutrition, and offer a child-centred pedagogy that encourages the ability to learn’. (Education for All: Achieving the Goal; Final Report of the Mid-Decade Meeting of the International Consultative Forum on Education for All, Amman, 1996; p. 24)

The principle that learning begins at birth was highlighted as part of the Jomtien vision. The 1990’s have seen world-wide attempts to act on this insight through the development of programmes of parent education and of child-centred activity programmes for the young child. Young children displaced by natural and man-made disasters need especial support, to help them cope with traumas which may have affected them directly, -whether injury or the loss of loved ones, or having to flee from attack. They need support also because the adults in some families may be unable to give them the care and attention that would normally have been their birthright.

Communities in crisis situations have responded to early childhood initiatives made by NGOs, -as for example, when Save the Children Federation supported the establishment of community-based pre-school programmes during the conflict in Bosnia. Organisations such as Radda Barnen, Jesuit Refugee Services, Enfants Réfugiés du Monde, Norwegian People’s Aid and many others have worked to provide early childhood care and pre-primary classes for refugees, and for children affected by emergencies within their own countries, as well as parent education.

Crucial here is the concept of capacity-building and sustainability. In circumstances where governments or donor agencies have difficulty in meeting the costs of schooling, the model for early childhood interventions needs to be community-based. In some cases, an initiating organisation was able to fund salaries or incentives for carers and teachers at first, and then found it difficult to sustain the necessary levels of funding. Interventions should aim at providing training and start up materials, that can enable parents and communities to organise early childhood programmes and to sustain them when external assistance is withdrawn or reduced.

Early childhood programmes have pay-offs beyond their direct effects. They permit outreach to young children for nutrition and health programmes, and the education of parents and carers on the needs of the child (health, nutrition, sanitation, clean water, protection and stimulation to promote psychosocial and cognitive development). Moreover, they play a critical role in freeing older girls in the family from child care duties that prevent them from attending school. Hence, they are a key element in the Education for All agenda. This is the more important where extended family structures have been disrupted by war and displacement.

Early childhood programmes, whether called day care, kindergarten, pre-school or pre-primary, represent not only an opportunity to promote future mental and emotional development but also the life skills for tolerance, gender sensitivity and co-operation. It is especially touching to see the children from different refugee communities singing and playing together, and learning that the conflicts that drove them from home are not the only approach to human life on this planet. ‘We are one, we are one’ –sing the children from 10 different tribes and nationalities in the pre-schools of Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

How pre-school programmes support girls’ education

In Gambella refugee camp in Western Ethiopia, the establishment by Radda Barnen of a largely female committee to begin a pre-school, the intensive training of pre-school teachers, and successful operation of the programme changed attitudes: ‘Not only has the community accepted now that women can obtain the necessary qualifications to become teachers but they have also observed that girls can perform well in schools.’ The creation of Parent Teacher Associations has assisted in this. Two pre-schools are moving towards self-management by the community and the PTA. An estimated 90% of all children aged 3 to 6 participate in the pre-school programme. This frees older girls from child care duties, so that they can attend school.

Non-formal education for youth and adults

Displaced communities and agencies supporting them with humanitarian assistance normally give first priority to restoration of schooling for their children. Subsequently, however, there are often multiple initiatives to provide education and training for youth and adults. Many organisations have supported literacy programmes, programmes providing knowledge and skills regarding health and child care, and skills training to enhance family livelihoods or promote access to paid employment or self-employment. Often, these various objectives are combined, as when literacy courses include health messages, or vocational training incorporates literacy and numeracy courses. The potential of such education and training for the empowerment of women, and to help poor women (often heads of household) to cope economically and socially, has led to many literacy and skills training programmes specifically for older girls and women.

Quantitative data is not available for the range of programmes covered by this theme paper; nor is it in principle easy to collect, since many literacy programmes are organised by community organisations or local NGOs on a voluntary basis. The examples which follow are indicative of the many programmes that cannot be mentioned here:

  • In Cambodia, a group led by UNESCO and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport have conducted non-formal education programmes since 1994, benefiting returnee, internally displaced and other populations through literacy courses and skills training (over 20,000 beneficiaries, 80% female). Reading houses/ libraries have been constructed by participants in the grounds of Buddhist temples, ancient centres of learning. The literacy manuals include health, hygiene and child care, agriculture, human rights and environmental protection.
  • Save the Children Federation (SCF) introduced an innovative ‘Health and Literacy’ programme for Afghan refugee women in remote locations in Baluchistan Province, Pakistan. Using participative methods, the women were encouraged to reflect on issues affecting their daily lives as well as learning important health messages. In the North West Frontier Province, GTZ developed new literacy materials and conducted literacy courses for men and women, as well as child care courses, in many of the 250 refugee camps in the province.
  • In Meheba refugee camp, Jesuit Refugee Service has developed Portuguese, French and English language courses for adults, as well as children, including messages regarding health, hygiene, problem solving skills, peace education, gender awareness and sharing of traditional oral cultures and life testimonies.
  • In Karagwe, Tanzania, Jesuit Refugee Services established camp resource centres where Rwandan youth could study languages, librarianship etc. and edit a newsletter.
  • In Gambella, Ethiopia, Radda Barnen has established a Youth Centre providing activities such as basketball, volleyball, football, table tennis, dominoes, etc., visited by some 500 young people. A course was given there on assembly of footballs and volleyballs. Clubs involving some 400 young people meet there. These clubs aim at grouping those interested in the issues but also convey messages to the community. For example, the Health Club passes messages through drama, theatre etc. The disability awareness club has held workshops to lessen prejudice against the disabled and promote prevention and rehabilitation.
  • Burundi: Adult literacy and Education for peace
    After the 1993 ethnic conflict in Burundi, the NGO Action Aid adopted the Reflect approach as one of the peace development initiatives in the country. Reflect is a structured participatory learning process, which facilitates peoples’ critical analysis of their environment, placing empowerment at the heart of sustainable and equitable development. Through the creation of democratic spaces and the construction and interpretation of locally-generated texts, people build their own multidimensional analysis of local and global reality, challenging dominant development paradigms and re-defining power relationships in both public and private spheres.

    Evaluation of the programme revealed that the participants and supervisors interviewed had to some extent understood the Reflect learning concept to mean " … a new approach that enables people to understand their village better by first analyzing the problems that affect them and then looking for possible solutions to those problems." This was a good sign. And even though men performed better than women in literacy and numeracy skills, (largely due to the fact that men had more time at their disposal to learn and practice as opposed to women who are overburdened by household chores), women seemed to have developed greater self-confidence in terms of self-expression and had also attained better negotiation skills. Having acknowledged that women had a heavier workload than men, the participants did not necessarily attempt to change the status quo. Women for their part were prepared to participate in tasks formerly exclusively done by men.

    The greatest caveat in using this approach is to ensure that trainers and facilitators have themselves understood the concept in-depth in order to train others with the same conviction of belief and understanding of one’s environment and integrating need for integrating preservation and development.

Vocational training

Even during an acute emergency there may be opportunities for skills training. Later, technical and vocational education, and employment creation, are important elements in recovery from natural or man-made disasters and in building a durable peace after conflict. These programmes have substantial resource requirements and care must be taken that they are well-designed in relation to local needs and the absorptive capacity of the market. The programmes must likewise be designed to ensure flexibility to respond to the often rapidly changing circumstances of an emergency or post-conflict situation.

Almost all major international agencies and donors have supported vocational training programmes for emergency affected populations, -some focussing on youth, some on adults of both sexes, some on women; some on refugees and some on persons within their own countries.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has long experience in supporting vocational training, enterprise development, micro-credit and cooperative schemes, training and employment of the disabled. ILO has created programmes for victims of conflict in countries such as Cambodia, Bosnia, Croatia, Mozambique, Haiti, Rwanda and Somalia. Priority is given to the training of women, of youth especially demobilised soldiers, of the disabled, and victims of drug abuse.

In each case ILO has drawn upon and helped develop local expertise for skills training and programme management. Support is given to post-conflict capacity-building, at national and local levels, for planning, design, execution, monitoring and evaluation of training and income generation programmes for populations affected by war. ILO has created a database on post-conflict training and employment programmes, and has published an overview of experiences in this field. (17)

Regarding refugees, UNHCR has reviewed and documented the experience of skills training programmes it has funded for refugees (in its ‘Sourcebook for refugee skills training’, 1996). Successful programmes have included a major apprenticeship programme for Afghan refugees, placed in refugee and local informal sector workshops in Pakistan, implemented by the NGO Solidarite Afghanistan. This programme had a very high percentage of placement of its graduates in informal sector employment, with monitoring reports showing that as many as 80% of those traced, or over 50% of all trainees, were using their new skills as a source of income. The situation is much more difficult in closed camp situations, where earnings opportunities are limited. A modified apprenticeship programme was nevertheless conducted in the Rwandan refugee camps in Tanzania, using group attachment of adolescents to skilled craftsmen working on production of relief goods and school furniture. In many locations, graduates from skills training centres have gained valuable work experience through the production of school uniforms, school furniture or buildings.

Among the many NGOs active in this field, the Salesian Don Bosco organisation has provided vocational training for displaced and otherwise emergency-affected students in countries such as Albania, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.

Special concerns

Education inclusive of children, youth and adults with disability

‘Millions of children are killed by armed conflict, but three times as many are seriously injured or permanently disabled by it. …In Afghanistan alone, some 100,000 children have war-related disabilities, many of them caused by landmines. …The lack of rehabilitative care is contrary to Article 23 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which lays out clearly the responsibilities of States Parties for ensuring effective access of disabled children to education, health and rehabilitation services.’ (Machel Report, para. 145).

Many children suffer disabilities as a result of conflict and associated destruction of health facilities. Emphasis is often given to the effects of landmines but malnutrition and disease also flourish during war, and can lead to disability. It is therefore imperative to provide the needed care and prostheses, and also the education that will help disabled persons to live as valued members of their communities. Where possible, children with disabilities should study alongside other children from their community, in " inclusive " schools. Teachers should be trained accordingly. In some circumstances, special classes and teachers may be needed. It is important also to take advantage of the opportunity of outside expertise and resources, often present during an emergency, to train teachers in special techniques such as the use of Braille sign language.

Programmes for the education and training of refugees with disabilities, whether from war, disease or other causes, have indeed been developed in many locations, but the coverage is not systematic and depends on both the interest and expertise of the organisations implementing education programmes and the availability of resources. Where possible, the principle of integration in education and training programmes alongside other students is preferred (and is more economic), but in some instances specialised programmes are more appropriate.

  • In Pakistan, refugee social welfare committees organised ‘child groups’ for severely disabled children, who meet for structured activities three times a week. Some of these children have subsequently been able to enter normal schools or vocational training programmes. Vocational training/apprenticeship and income generation projects for refugees receiving UNHCR funding were required to include a quota of disabled, often ex-combatant, refugees among their beneficiaries. Apprenticeships and mobile training programmes in some skills such as tailoring were specifically limited to disabled men and needy female heads of household.
  • In the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, special classes are held in selected schools, for deaf students and blind children and adults. Two teachers per camp were trained for teaching of mentally handicapped children and three teachers were trained to integrate blind, deaf and physically handicapped adults into the adult literacy programme.
  • In Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal, there are seven Special Needs Resource Teachers (one per two schools). These teachers receive a one-day training twice a month and an orientation workshop of 3 days at the beginning of the school year.
Separated children

In many crisis situations, children get separated from their parents or primary caregivers. UNESCO, UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children and other agencies have developed different new systems for identifying such children and tracing their close relatives, on the basis that family reunion is normally in the best interests of the child.

It is not normally desirable to set up special orphanages and schools for such children. This can in fact lead to family separations, whereby parents deposit their children as ‘orphans’ so that they can have a better future than the family can provide in times of hunger and displacement. Best practice guidelines encourage the fostering of children with responsible members of the community, combined with monitoring of the care provided and support for the foster families in sending the children to school.

Sometimes, displaced and separated children are forced to act as servants or to work in mines etc in return for food. Others may become street-children, and earn their livelihood through prostitution. It is important that humanitarian agencies develop an awareness of these problems so that protection can be provided to children displaced and traumatised by conflict. In this connection, UNHCR and the Save the Children movement have developed a training programme entitled ‘Action for the Rights of the Child’, which is intended for the training of UN and NGO staff working with refugees and other conflict-affected populations.

Child soldiers and ex-combatants

The problem of child soldiers has become acute during the 1990’s, with an estimated 300,000 child soldiers in the world today. Far too many adolescent boys in the age under 18 have been recruited as soldiers. As educators, we support the moves to raise the minimum age of recruitment to 18. The problem of child soldiers is wider than this, however. There has been widespread use of children of age 10 and above, or indeed of any age that can serve the purposes of the militias that have engaged in civil combat during the 1990’s. Both boys and girls have been recruited, often forcibly, to fight or to provide militias with services, including carrying, cooking and sexual services. They are often victims of physical abuse, malnutrition, drug abuse and AIDS. Children and adolescents have been forced to commit terrible atrocities, and worst of all, these atrocities have sometimes involved mutilating or killing their own family members.

Many young people who have been able to escape to refugee camps, who have been demobilised under campaigns led by international or national organisations, or who have otherwise been able to begin a new life, have benefited from access to emergency education and training programmes of the type described above. Often, these young people have the resilience to join with others of their age group in the shared life of schools and training centres. In such cases, staff training to cope with the special needs of ex-combatants is needed, -although this has often been neglected.

In other cases, the degree of traumatisation, and sometimes social exclusion, of ex-combatant children, has required the establishment of special programmes combining education, training, cultural and sports activities and intensive group and individual counselling programmes. Don Bosco, Save the Children Fund and other organisations have set up centres or ‘homes’ in Liberia, for example, to meet the needs of child soldiers, taught to kill and mutilate, many of them addicted to drugs. In Sierra Leone, the NGO Children Against War provides counselling, ‘special conversations’ and informal educational activities to ex-child soldiers before helping them to re-enter their communities of origin.

While statistics are not to hand, it is likely that many more young people, both boys and girls, need such help than currently receive it. The international community and national governments, as well as leaders of militias, must realise that the future is imperilled wherever there is a generation of children who cannot read or write and only know the respect that is earned from the barrel of a gun.

The re-integration of adult ex-combatants into civil life is a challenge after any conflict. For young people who have grown up as soldiers or in militias, the coming of peace may leave them with no skills and no prospects for the future. Agencies such as ILO and UNESCO have supported national programmes for ex-combatants in countries such as Cambodia and Mozambique.

Mozambique: Reintegration of ex-combatants in a post-conflict situation

At the signing of the Mozambique Peace accords in 1992, 75,000 regular soldiers and 11,000 other combatants, including many young men and women, needed to be reintegrated into society. The objective was to provide these young people with literacy and work skills that would prevent them from regressing into a state of abject poverty and perhaps undermining the peace.

A collaborative project under the auspices of UNESCO developed a literacy programme linked to management and skills training , which responded to labor and market needs. Project management was gradually handed over to the young people who were quick to reject participation of the more disruptive youth among them. The esprit de corps was a driving force in reinforcing a sense of identity and goals to succeed.