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The findings > Thematic Studies> Emergency>Part 4
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PART IV: CHALLENGES OF THE NEW CENTURY: LESSONS LEARNED FOR THE FUTURE
 
On the basis of this brief review of the current situation of emergency education, some conclusions may be drawn regarding progress towards Education for All. What have been the failures and shortcomings, and what have been the strong points on which we can lean in the future?
 
 
1. THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION AND PROTECTION OF CHILDREN IN CRISIS SITUATIONS
 
When it comes to emergency education, the findings are clear: much has been achieved but much remains to be done. Millions of children remain on the margins of the education system. In some situations, such marginalisation was present before the emergency: education systems had not reached the poorest sectors of society, and rural areas were under-served. In other situations, including parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, conflict has disrupted the ongoing education of a generation of young people. Education systems have been destabilised or even completely destroyed by the disastrous effects of war (as in Somalia or Sierra Leone) or natural disasters (the case of Central America affected by Hurricane Mitch). The goals of Jomtien are thus far from being reached.
 
The world wide Education for All movement will only have real meaning if it confronts this challenge, and finds ways of ensuring the right to education for the millions of children who are marginalised by violence, natural disasters, social exclusion or extreme poverty. This right must be ensured even under extreme conditions. The phenomenon of large scale exclusion is a direct violation of children's right to education, as defined by the national legislation of countries of origin or host countries as well as by international agreements.
 
This injustice is compounded by the problems of protecting children in situations of crisis. Too often, children are not adequately protected from instability and violence. They are the first victims, and instead of being at school, they are often used in armed conflicts. More than 300,000 children are actively involved in armed conflicts throughout the world.(28) In armed conflicts, schools often become shelters for the armed forces or the target of deliberate destruction. Their status as places of knowledge, dialogue and community mobilisation, and the principle of their inviolability even in the middle of chaos, are no longer respected.
 
Numerous children are acutely affected by emergency situations related to social disasters. This is the case, for example, of the thousands of child soldiers, the large numbers of children who are orphaned by the spread of AIDS, children who become drug addicts due to large scale violence, marginalised children in urban areas or those who have to leave school as a result of extreme poverty. The poorest countries are those recently affected by war. The beginning of the new century begins with this alarming scenario. Emergency education will have to develop in stature in order to tackle these new challenges.
 
2. GENDER INEQUALITY
 
 
Many traditional education systems are still characterised by significant gender gaps. This problem can be even more serious in emergency situations. Girls and women may have been subject to rape and subsequent social stigma and anguish. They have often become heads of household, having to cope in a situation where previous social and economic systems have broken down, or living in refugee or internal displacement situations. Where a family has been affected by AIDS, girls are the first to have to leave school, to help with household chores, nurse the sick or work to support the family.
 
The education of girls and women remains a challenge, even where international agencies are able to provide support. Sometimes, discrimination against girls and women becomes almost an official policy, despite their human rights under international agreements (the case of Afghanistan at this time). Often the situation of girls and women is more limited by social constraints, after families are displaced as refugees or IDPs. The insecurity of living among strangers may lead to pressures for girls and women to stay close to home.
 
There is wide variation between the levels of resourcing and the extent of management efforts devoted to promoting the education and training of girls and women, in different emergency education programmes. Agencies can insist on the equal participation of girls and women in the educational process. Where support for schooling has been made conditional on at least half the children being girls, there has been a positive impact on girls' education. It is vital to ensure in future that there is full participation of girls and women in school management committees, parent-teacher associations, the teaching force and student enrolments.
 
 
3. EMERGENCY EDUCATION AND RECONSTRUCTION PROGRAMMES
 
Education is at the centre of the interactive triangle "peace - development - democracy". It is both the starting point and the goal of this interaction. Apart from its apparent humanitarian character, emergency education represents a formidable springboard for reconstruction and sustainable development in situations of crisis.
 
Emergency programmes, by definition, respond to immediate needs, whether at the humanitarian, pedagogical, organisational or infrastructure level. All projects analysed here emphasise these pressing needs. However, any humanitarian interventions which focus only on immediate needs will remain insufficient and incomplete unless they look forward to the reconstruction of education systems and, through this, the perspective of general rehabilitation.
 
As a basic social service, education is a model type of programme for the transition between emergency humanitarian action, the phase of rehabilitation and general, national reconstruction. This long-term vision is vital for social stability and the return to normalcy, since it should guarantee the logical continuity of assistance programmes from the beginning of a crisis to the phase of actual reconstruction. Any interruption of education programmes constitutes a serious violation of children's rights. This new vision of a strong link between humanitarian intervention and reconstruction is a clear result of the experience gained in recent years. Governments as well as international bodies need to integrate this vision in their humanitarian and development programmes.
 
 
We should avoid the situation whereby several major donors take the attitude that humanitarian assistance should include only the necessities for staying physically alive until the next day, week or year! When the 'humanitarian' crisis is over and 'development' begins, how will children's and adolescents' delayed education be affected by this experience of an educational vacuum? Or will they have joined militias in the hills by the time education services are resumed? We should avoid the situation whereby education assistance cannot be provided in countries such as Somalia, Southern Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo because they are 'not yet ready' or 'too disturbed' to receive 'development assistance'! (These are real examples of funding problems from the recent past.)
 
Crisis situations have to be treated as an integral part of development politics and planning. The countries in Central America which were affected by Hurricane Mitch have shown for the first time that this approach is feasible and realistic, provided it is supported by political will and consultation. In Kosovo, assistance was even more speedy and efficient. It was also characterised by continuity, from the assistance to refugees to their repatriation and the setting up of reconstruction programmes. Not all populations affected by crisis have been able to benefit from this continuity of assistance.
 
 
Strategic planning must include listening to the voices of parents and students, identifying ways to build management capacity at local, regional and national level, and dialogue with organisations likely to intervene significantly at any stage in the future. NGOs working with pre-school children, for example, need to be part of the dialogue alongside multilateral agencies and bilateral that may be involved in assistance to educational reconstruction and development. The decision taken by an influential NGO on Day One regarding the modalities and resourcing of pre-school education, for example, can reverberate down the years ; likewise, decisions regarding possible incentives for in-service teacher training have lasting impact, and almost every other decision about education does too.
 
The current 'Jubilee 2000' proposals for debt cancellation and for a focus on social sector expenditures should be seen as an opportunity to move forward in the field of education in emergency and reconstruction. Countries recovering from crisis or implementing 'structural adjustment' programmes have been faced with financial constraints that have contributed to, or delayed recovery from, conflicts, with the education sector being badly affected. The concept of investment in education as 'human capital' needs to be re-interpreted in the light of the crises of the 1990s as investment in 'skills for peace, democracy and strengthening of civil society' and then brought to the attention of global decision-makers at the highest levels. We should ensure that education in emergencies and in countries seeking to recover from chronic conflict and insecurity is seen as an investment in global security and prosperity.
 
 
4. EMERGENCY EDUCATION: STANDARDS AND INNOVATIONS
 
One sometimes forgets that an education system that reinforces social fissures can represent a dangerous source of conflict, just as education can be a powerful factor for peace, stability and development if the system is well designed. The experience of the last ten years shows many examples for either case. In situations of conflict, emergency education has to be geared towards laying the foundations for progress and modernisation. The sooner this approach is implemented the greater are its chances of success.
 
As dramatic as they may be, situations of emergency can also provide a chance for a new beginning, by allowing large-scale innovations in traditional systems marked by inertia and narrow-mindedness. Paradoxically, a crisis can provide the unhoped-for opportunity to introduce change and new pedagogical methods in education. An analysis of the current situation shows that existing emergency programmes deal mostly with basic education in the classical sense of traditional schooling. There are small and scattered innovative projects reflecting, for example, concerns about functional literacy, community integration, education for youth, psycho-social rehabilitation or socio-economic integration. At the same time, the situation calls for large-scale mobilisation of expertise and resources to build a better future, through education programmes which include new contents such as education for human rights, education for peace, democracy and tolerance or environmental education as well as innovative pedagogical methods, emphasising participation and conflict resolution techniques. Most organisations in the field of emergency education programmes are now speaking about the importance of these changes, but they need to come together to assert that emergency education must systematically incorporate these changes in the coming years. (29)
 
5. COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION AND CAPACITY BUILDING
 
Lack of consultation and communication between emergency programmes in the field and beneficiary populations often causes setbacks or even blockages. Humanitarian assistance programmes must not be seen or experienced by local populations as encouraging passivity or restraining local initiatives, nor should they upset and prevent development.
 
The preparation of development initiatives, especially when it comes to redesigning and rebuilding destroyed education systems, needs to be based on the active participation of the concerned population groups. Few completed or on-going emergency programmes sufficiently emphasise active community participation. This has a negative impact on the local ownership of programmes and their success.
 
Generally speaking, the partial or total collapse of government structures and the institutional chaos which follow a conflict or serious natural disaster seriously reduce or even wipe out the operational capacity of a country and pose significant problems for foreign aid programmes. Under these conditions, people often resort to self help despite their lack of means, whether in the case of refugee camps, of groupings of displaced persons or make-shift camps. The sense of initiative, solidarity, self-help and the search for innovative solutions often come to the surface when communities are thrown into the face of adversity. In order to be effective, external assistance needs to build upon this large-scale motivation; otherwise, any irregularities in the provision of assistance will have dramatic consequences. Community participation throughout an educational project is a precondition for its success.
 
One can never emphasise enough the role which aid agencies have to play in emergency situations to build local operational and human capacities at all levels in order to ensure the sustainability of education programmes and their eventual integration in post-conflict reconstruction plans. This capacity-building at local level brings a pay-off beyond the education sector, in the foundations it lays for a better functioning civil society and democratic governance.
 
The 1990s have shown that capacity-building at national and local level is critical to designing appropriate and sustainable interventions. Many assistance agencies now use the approach of initiating activities in the field through supporting design workshops of key actors, often under local leadership. Agencies working in the field of emergency and post-conflict education should commit themselves to coordinating their activities through joint support for capacity-building programme design and should avoid the confusion and waste of disparate and uncoordinated initiatives.
 
6. STRATEGIES FOR CO-OPERATION IN EMERGENCY EDUCATION
 
The many and varied types of assistance provided to countries in crisis often pose significant problems with regard to planning, management, organisation, logistics and distribution, not to mention the possible risk of programmes not being adapted to immediate local needs. Local authorities and external organisations alike are often faced with a need for improvisation, a lack of preparation and consultation, insufficient definition of priorities and a lack of co-ordination between programmes. This often results in wastage, overlapping, bureaucratic delays, a slowing down of operations in the field and, sometimes, the reduction of aid for the concerned target populations.
 

An analysis of the situation in the field shows that much progress has been made over the last ten years regarding inter-sectoral and inter-agency co-ordination. Many education projects are jointly implemented by several organisations. Sometimes, several donors coordinate their assistance to finance one project. However, much remains to be done to further improve the efficiency of emergency assistance, both in conceptual and operational terms. This problem needs to be tackled by donors and humanitarian and development organisations alike. Improvements in emergency education assistance require action on several fronts:

A better co-ordination of aid programmes, from their preparation to implementation and evaluation;

The setting up of institutional and financial inter-agency arrangements to ensure continuity in emergency education programmes, from the immediate humanitarian response to the definition of achievable post-conflict reconstruction programmes based on well defined priorities;

Stronger support to capacity-building for the planning, management and implementation of education reconstruction programmes, at national and local levels;

Stronger research, monitoring, evaluation of emergency education programmes, by those who implement them, those who fund them, those with interests in applied and policy-oriented research in education or the social sector in specific regions;

A new architecture of inter-agency technical co-operation in the field of education in emergencies, drawing on electronic communications to link field, headquarters and technical specialists on an inter-agency basis.

 
7. EDUCATION AND CONFLICT PREVENTION
 
The causes of conflicts and of natural disasters are diverse. Every country affected by an emergency is faced with a particular situation, requiring a specific response. Nevertheless, some factors are common to several or most emergencies, and the experience of one country can be useful to another. By definition, humanitarian assistance arrives after a disaster has already occurred, with the aim of limiting its effects on the local population and their suffering. This assistance is necessarily limited in time and scope and cannot always meet the overall need.
 
' Conflict prevention remains the most suitable solution in areas at risk. This requires the setting up of complex, participatory structures to which everyone can contribute (government, civil society, the international community, etc.), whether at national or regional level, leading to the non-violent solutions of social and economic problems. International assistance may be part of the solution. However, the cost of peace is often less than that of war. Education remains one of the best investments in security, stability and prosperity, provided it is treated as a real priority.
 
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