How would you feel sending your children to study in a school that was damaged in battle and had no learning materials available? What would you think if your child was attending a class much lower than other children his age because the exams were in a foreign language and he couldn’t pass them? Would you want your children to study the history of a neighbouring or foreign country instead of that of your own? What if your children couldn’t go to school at all? And how would you do your job if you were the only teacher in a class of 198 students?
During the 2014/2015 school year, 2.8 million Syrian children and adolescents weren’t able to attend school. That’s 40% of all school-aged Syrians. After five years of conflict, there are many causes for this, but surprisingly many of them are related to the quality of education which directly affects learning. The problems in the quality of education are different for Syria than they are for the refugees, but always difficult to resolve. The language of teaching, the curriculum, organising teacher training, and the wellbeing of teachers and students are the core issues.
Finn Church Aid (FCA) operates within different international networks to find solutions to the issues of education in emergencies and quality of education. Since 2010, we have been part of the UN’s Global Education Cluster which is responsible for supporting local education officials in coordinating education-related emergency relief efforts. Last year we joined the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), a network of education professionals. This week the experts of INEE’s working groups have assembled in Amman, Jordan, to cooperate in improving the quality of education in the world’s most difficult crises. This group of about 50 experts from UNHCR, UNRWA, UNICEF and the international branches of Plan and Save the Children also includes two representatives from FCA.
On the agenda this week have been many refugee issues, not limited to the Syrian crisis alone. We have been preparing guidelines for ministries, civil society organisations and schools on how to organise psychosocial support to children, youth and teachers. The process is directed by FCA and Plan International. Increased wellbeing often translates to improved learning outcomes.
We have also been contemplating the use of self-study programmes in regions that have become isolated by war. A new teacher training programme was also launched in Amman with the intention of training primary school teachers who work under crisis situations. The programme is freely available on the INEE website and has already been used in Iraq and the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. This project has been led by UNHCR, and FCA has been one of the seven organisations involved. In relation to this training programme, FCA has organised a pilot project on the use of mobile phones to solve the problems teachers face daily in refugee settings, for example: how to ensure equal learning in a class of 198 students.
Quite a bit can be achieved with expertise, experience, imagination and problem-solving, yet money is also required. We have also had to contemplate how we could more effectively advocate towards donors and decision makers to release more funds for education in emergencies. Everybody has the right to education, even those caught in conflict.
FCA Senior Thematic Adviser, Right to Education
PS. FCA’s Regional Education Specialist for Eastern Africa, Mary Tangelder, was also present in Amman.