Education in emergencies

Education is a fundamental right, yet in times of conflict and disaster it is often significantly disrupted, denying millions of girls and boys the opportunity to have a quality, safe education.

Schools are, in many instances, occupied by armed groups or used as evacuation shelters, making education impossible.

Education, emergencies, refugees, Syria, Lebanon, girls

Keeping children in school

Education is an urgent priority in emergencies because it:

  • Saves lives and provides a safe space for children, where they are protected from physical harm, early and forced marriage, neglect, exploitation, child labour and from being recruited as child soldiers.
  • Is identified as a critical need by families and communities affected by emergencies.
  • Provides space where children can learn about preventable diseases, nutrition, hygiene and other life saving topics.
  • Supports children’s mental and physical health and can include subjects such as conflict resolution, democracy, human rights, climate change and disaster risk reduction.
  • Ensures children who were already in school can get back to learning, and allows children who were not in school before to start.

Emergencies affect education

Recent research indicates that the number of crisis-impacted school-aged children and adolescents requiring educational support has grown from an estimated 75 million in 2016 to 222 million today. Of these, as many as 78.2 million are out of school, and close to 120 million are in school, but not achieving minimum proficiency in math or reading.

An estimated 84% of learners who are not in school are living in areas in protracted crisis.*

Safe education

Plan International’s education work in emergency contexts strives to provide quality formal and non-formal education opportunities that meet the needs of children affected by humanitarian crises, from early childhood to adolescence. Our work has a particular focus on adolescent girls who are among the worst affected by disasters. Working with teachers is central, to help them manage their own stress, and teach in ways that provide the social and emotional support children need to recover from their experiences and pursue their learning. We collaborate closely with child protection colleagues to enable access to specialised services where necessary. 

Ensuring the continuity of education through crisis means preparing for emergencies where they can be predicted. This includes teacher training, and ensuring buildings and school environments are safe. Education should be part of support immediately following a fast onset emergency, based on long term collaboration with education authorities, schools and communities. 

Plan International uses the INEE Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response and Recovery and the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPMS) as guiding frameworks. 

Plan International provides support in conflict-affected fragile states, refugee situations, and in countries affected by disasters linked to climate change and natural hazards. Current responses include: complex crises that exacerbate hunger in East and West Africa and Haiti; Ukraine and refugee receiving countries; Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh; Tigray in Ethiopia; the migrant crisis in South America. 

Governments must prioritise education in emergencies

We must protect children and young peoples’ fundamental human right to education, write Yoris, 22, from Indonesia and Angela, 24, from Malawi.

Plan International is an active member of the following inter-agency groups:

School gives hope to vulnerable children in jordan

To address the biggest violations of children’s rights, Plan International began work in Jordan in 2016. We are supporting young children to overcome emotional distress from the war in Syria and get an education.

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