On the Move in Pakistan – the Crisis of Internal Displacement

By Madeeha Ansari

Over the past few years, there has been a change in the nature of conflict. Intrastate conflicts, often with blurred beginning and end-points, now account for a large proportion of political violence in the world today. This form of violence takes a large toll on the civilian population, often causing repeated waves of internal displacement.

Pakistan is an illustration of how conceptions of poverty and development must necessarily evolve in response to new challenges. Since 2004, disaster, conflict and economic need have combined to cause massive movement of people from their homes to sprawling temporary settlements, either in designated camps or on the margins of urban society. Current patterns of displacement are driven by counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations against non-state armed groups such as the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the north-west regions of the country. As of June 2013, there were 1.1 million registered Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone, and unknown numbers of unregistered IDPs living elsewhere.[1] It is estimated that just over half of those displaced are children.[2]

Internally displaced children face the same risks as refugee children; in some cases, they experience even higher levels of uncertainty, as they continue to live in and around conflict zones. However, there are no binding provisions regarding internally displaced children in international law, and few organizations have clear institutional mandates owning responsibility of care. The lack of a legal and institutional framework protecting the rights of these children means that they often fall through the cracks of services provided by state and humanitarian agencies.

In spite of the magnitude of the population movements due to intrastate violence in Pakistan, the Government does not consistently acknowledge its responsibility for protecting or assisting IDPs and has not adopted a national IDP policy or law. In fact, national authorities often refrain from use of the term “IDP”, instead describing individuals as “temporarily dislocated” or “affected. An entire generation, therefore, is in a state of flux.

While there is no specific validation of the crises of internal displacement, there are some rights that can be invoked by every individual. On the global scale, education has been recognized as both a basic right and an “enabling right,”[3] that should be incorporated in any humanitarian response. As a state, Pakistan has committed to providing free, compulsory education to every child under sixteen.[4] In practice, however, there are serious challenges impeding the provision of schooling to displaced populations. Presently, the authorities are placing emphasis on return and continuing to discourage permanent settlement of IDPs anywhere other than their places of origin. At the same time, efforts to facilitate return have been offset by forced movement due to ongoing violence. The situation of uncertainty means that internally displaced children rarely have formal access to public schooling. While those in camps can benefit from services provided by non-government organizations, those who are dispersed among urban populations are at a particular disadvantage.

The longer children stay out of school, the less likely they are to return.[5] Thus, neglect at this point not only has immediate implications for children experiencing the trauma of displacement and disruption, but will also impact their future trajectories. In a fragile country wracked by terrorism, these children are particularly vulnerable to recruitment by exploitative groups. The choices they are given will in turn have implications for the future of their families, communities and society.

The idea of school space is a sacred one, where childhood can be protected and preserved. In a less than ideal world, both policy and practice need to evolve in response to dynamic needs. The international community, the Pakistani state, and the plethora of local organizations committed to Education for All have a serious task at hand, when it comes to constructing possibilities to follow the wandering child, lost within state borders.

Madeeha Ansari is a Fulbright scholar at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

[1] Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). 2013. “Northwest Pakistan: Massive New Displacement and Falling Returns Require Rights-Based Response.” http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004BE3B1/(httpInfoFiles)/5CD59AE0A97C3676C1257B880038E607/$file/pakistan-overview-12jun2013.pdf.

[2] IDMC, 2013.

[3] INEE. (2010). Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery. New York.

[4] Article 25A, Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

[5] Global Education Cluster. (2010). Education Can’t Wait. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mve8EeGF-jA&feature=youtu.be


The Challenges of Access to Education for Refugee Population on the Colombia-Ecuador border

By Diana Rodríguez Gómez

Access to education for refugees in border areas poses a challenge. Frameworks for action usually address procedures related to admission to school, such as access to safe infrastructure, registration, grade transfers and certifications, and placement exams. Policy makers and education stakeholders minimize how social context and local practices and understandings shape and re-define the paths to access education refugee youth follow.

In the late 1990s the intensification of the Colombian armed conflict, particularly in the border regions of Nariño and Putumayo, triggered a large influx of refugees and asylum seekers into Ecuador. In the second half of the 2000s, violent battles over territorial control among the Colombian state forces, left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary forces caused the migration of approximately 250,000 Colombians into Ecuador. According to UNHCR, in 2012, 59,090 Colombian refugees lived in Ecuador; and of these, roughly 40% were under 18 years of age. The majority of this population has settled in the northern provinces of Esmeraldas, Imbabura, Pichincha, Carchi, and Sucumbíos, and in the cities of Quito and Guayaquil.

Due to a partial absence of regulations guaranteeing access to education to the refugee population, in 2006 the Ministry of Education crafted Accord 455. The accord declared that refugee children, youth, or applicants for refugee status who could not provide documentation proving their level of education could access the Ecuadorian education system at the level corresponding to their knowledge, skills and age by simply presenting their temporary certificate as asylum seeker conferred by the UNHCR or the national government. Accord 455 was amended in 2008 through Accord 337; schools are now required to grant temporary enrollment to children until they are able to provide proper documentation, even if they don’t have a temporary certificate. This stipulation requires that children be placed in the grade based on their foreign school documents or performance in a placement test. In addition, Accord 337 states that access will not be denied to indigenous children and youth in the border zones even if they do not possess identification documents or their nationality is unknown. Children with special needs, regardless of their migratory status, shall enjoy the same rights. Most importantly, it states that all the procedures described in the accord shall be free of charge and that the Ministry of Education will implement a procedure that promotes, diffuses, and monitors the accord.

Sucumbíos, located in 160 miles of the Colombian and Ecuadorian border, is rich in natural resources, mostly oil. Whilst the province contributes more than 50% to the Ecuadorian national income, the people here live precariously, with poor access to basic facilities like sewage, water and electricity. Information regarding access to education for Colombian refugees in Sucumbíos is scattered. In 2011, AECID and the Jesuit Refugee Services reported the lack of information on the total number of refugee children and youth living in Sucumbíos and attending school. With a small sample of three schools in the region, the report identified a total of 31 Colombian refugee students, almost 10% of the total population of each school. According to the Provincial Education Secretariat, 52% girls and 48% boys between the ages of 5 and 18 are out of the educational system in the province.

Structured and semi-structured interviews, and classroom participant observation in two rural secondary schools in Sucumbíos, in the eastern-most area of Ecuador, proved that access to education, is limited by factors that go beyond the scope of the Accords 455 and 337. The education system in this region fails to absorb the youth for the following reasons: late provision of textbooks and teachers’ guides; poor in-service training and instruction support; hard terms of service for teachers, including low salary; insufficient deployment of teachers; poor access for students living in distant areas; and an irrelevant curriculum.

In year 2012, the new Mathematics, Science, Social Science, and language textbooks from the government arrived to the easternmost town of the province one week after the school year had started. The English textbooks arrived four months later. To get around the problem, teachers decided to bring back to the classroom old textbooks; therefore, in their first five months of the academic year, students studied the same books they had already covered in the previous academic year. When they finally arrived, the new textbooks caused a commotion among teachers. In contrast to the old textbooks, teachers claimed that the new textbooks required a deeper knowledge and understanding of the subject, and research skills teachers didn’t necessarily possess. Even though the Ministry of Education included pedagogical guidelines for teachers in the shipment, the teachers asserted that these were not sufficient. Teachers admitted to having received training on the new curriculum reform and the new subjects (20 hours each subject) in 2011, but they received no training on the use of new textbooks, nor were they provided subsequent monitoring and evaluation of previous trainings.

The Ley orgánica de servicio público (Organic Law of Civil Service) standardizes teachers’ salaries according to their education and experience. However, in contrast to other areas of Ecuador where pennies have economic value, in some areas of Sucumbíos, all prices are set in series of five, which diminishes the value of money in the region. One of the teachers explained how she couldn’t simply buy two pennies worth of cheese, but that she had to buy “five pennies worth, or nothing.” In this context, there aren’t enough incentives to promote the presence of well-trained and motivated teachers in this region.

With regard to the curriculum, students claimed they found some classes “boring,” “monotonous,” and “irrelevant”. These adjectives were also used by youth to justify their disruptive behavior in class. In class, the activities teachers employed most frequently were: read aloud, copy from the book and/or from the board, math problem solve, answer questions, draw, and complete the sentence. Two students who had attended middle school in Colombia complained about the lack of dynamic activities in class and the disconnect between the Colombian and Ecuadorian Social Studies curriculum. They said that teachers didn’t ask them about their previous knowledge or connect the knowledge they brought to the Ecuadorian curriculum. One of the students lamented that the knowledge he possessed was “useless.” Further, in one of the classrooms I visited one teacher mocked the use of words spoken only by Colombian students, such as ‘peinilla’ (comb) and ‘chuspa’ (plastic bag), evidencing the subtle but powerful practices of discrimination migrant population face.

There is a clear absence of legal livelihood opportunities for the youth in the region. Fish farming, stockbreeding, cacao and rice farming are harsh and poorly paid activities in which most students feel reluctant to participate; nevertheless, they miss classes when their parents require their help on their farms during harvest. Instead, they get drawn towards more illegal forms of work as found on the Colombia-Ecuador border. The border region emerges as a low-risk/high-opportunity environment that blends civil war and drug violence. In the Colombian and Ecuadorian Putumayo, apart from coca cropping, gas and drug trafficking form the basis of the illegal economy. Youth participate in coca cropping as raspachines (coca collectors) and in gas and drug trafficking by passing gas and drugs through the border. When children and youth participate in these illegal activities, they usually get a tip. The income from participating in these illegal activities exacerbates the chances of dropping school.

Other factors that exacerbate dropout rates include early marriage, pregnancy and maldad (evil eye), an illness whose symptoms include shaking, rolled-back white eyes, fainting, and an irrational desire to run. As one student explained, “You feel like you’re drunk.” One of the schools in the sample is reportedly cursed – attributed to its location on a disputed territory between Siona and Kishwa indigenous communities — preventing students from staying too long in the campus. It therefore requires a trustworthy shaman who can pray and cleanse the school.

There are, however, also local solutions that promote access to education. Real Combí, with a population of nearly 30 Colombian families, is located in the Ecuadorian border of the Putumayo River, 45 minutes by boat from Puerto El Carmen, the easternmost town in Ecuador. The school, La Frontera, featured one regular classroom, an early childhood classroom, and a soccer field. In front of La Frontera, across the river on the Colombian side of the Putumayo River, there is a middle and high school named Escuela Nueva Granada. The agreement between La Frontera and La Nueva Granada is simple: students attend primary school in Ecuador, and then transfer to Colombia to attend middle and high school. To overcome the complications of transferring grade certificates from one national system to another, teachers make use of the Convenio Andrés Bello (Andrés Bello Covenant.). The Andrés Bello Covenant provides the equivalences between 10 different national education systems, including Colombia and Ecuador. Teachers from both schools plan to meet soon to design a bi-national curriculum to help students enjoy a smooth transition from the Ecuadorian national curriculum to the Colombian national curriculum.

The principles that frame the Accords 455 and 337, demonstrate concern for providing migrant population with admission to the Ecuadorian educational system. But little attention is paid to attendance, progression through an educational system, and the transition from one national educational system to other. The Ecuadorian legal framework conceptualizes access to education as a linear sequence that starts and almost ends when children and youth enter school. The implications of framing access to education magnifying the role of admission versus other components are evident in classrooms where the quality of the education provided limits the potential of learners. Access as a set of conditions for admission, neglects the political, social, economic and cultural conditions of the border between Colombia and Ecuador. To ensure that children and youth will attend school regularly, access can be better conceived as a fluid continuum, where the quality of the education, in addition to the social context of the child, together function to enhance or prevent regular attendance, progression, transition and completion.

Diana Rodríguez Gómez is currently an Ed.D. Student in International Educational Development at Teachers College, with a concentration in Peace and Human Rights Education.

Additional readings:

Doná, G. and Veale, A. (2011). Divergent Discourses, Children and Forced Migration. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37 (8), 1273-1289

Fassin, D. and Rechtman. (2009). The Empire of Trauma. An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood. Princeton University Press: Princeton and Oxford.

Macleod, J. (2008). Ain’t No Makin’ It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood. Westview Press: Boulder, Colorado.

Malkki, L. (1992). National Geographic: The Rooting of Peoples and the Territorialization of National Identity among Scholars and Refugees. Cultural Anthropology, 7 (1), 24-44

Impact of Militarization on Education in Kashmir

By Samir Ahmad

While it is relatively easy to define militarization, measuring the extent and degree of militarization in a particular society can be a daunting task. Militarization also does not lend itself to a single unique measure: e.g. the amount of expenditure on the deployment of military resources in a particular state, region or country. In addition to budget allocations and expenditure, many other indicators of militarization demand rigorous conceptual constructs.[i]

Over the last two decades the number of the military personnel on active deployment is consistently increasing in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the early 1990’s the Indian state deployed five divisions, i.e., around 250,000 soldiers, including 1,500 companies of paramilitary forces and state police, in the Kashmir valley alone[ii] which according to different reliable sources has reached up to more than half a million now. This is despite the fact that the number of militants has considerably declined over the last ten to fifteen years. As per the recent public declaration by the DGP of Jammu and Kashmir, there are less than two hundred militants active in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir.[iii] In other words, there are 81 soldiers for every square mile and roughly one soldier for every ten civilians against the national average of about 800 civilians per soldier. Ninety five percent (95%) of these military men are non-Muslims (Muslims form the majority of the state population) and non-Kashmiris, and therefore, hardly bear any sympathy for the local population.[iv] A European Union delegation during their visit to the State in 2004-05 declared Jammu and Kashmir a beautiful prison on earth. Moreover, the military institutions have been equipped with enormous arbitrary powers under various draconian laws such as, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) etc. All these laws confer complete impunity to the Indian military in the State of Jammu and Kashmir that has led to a complete emasculation of the democratic machinery, if any, in the State.[v]

Given this situation a need was felt to measure the extent of the impact of militarization on the education system and the school children in the Kashmir valley in the last twenty years of conflict. The broader objectives of one such study, that I conducted, were; assessing the various kinds of impacts of the military camps/bunkers established within and in the vicinity of schools and other educational institutions, exploring and measuring the relation between the presence of security personnel within or around schools and the sense of insecurity among school going children, and exploring the link between the presence of the military and the growth of the various psycho-social problems among the student community in the Kashmir valley. The purpose of the study was also to investigate, whether the presence of the military was causing any impediment for students to have free and safe access to their schools. This  study is of particular importance because it provides information to sensitize various concerned government bodies/institutions, media, civil society groups (within and outside Jammu and Kashmir) and other stake holders, including the general public, about the repercussions of the widespread deployment of the military and paramilitary forces especially within the civilian areas in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

During the research 360 students (including pilot sampling) were interviewed, and each student was asked to answer questions related to the issue of militarization and its consequences on the education system. During the study, students shared their experiences of various violent incidents and the difficult situations they encounter every day. In the various phases of the study, it was discovered that despite the claims made by the government of India and its defense ministry in the recent past, a large number of educational buildings are still either under direct military occupation or surrounded by their camps and bunkers, distracting students and causing a disruption of their daily activities in school. Out of the thirty schools randomly selected for the survey across the valley, seventy nine percent (79%) were at a distance of less than one kilometer (1km) from the nearest military camp/bunker. In fact, some of the schools share a common border with the camps. While twenty percent (20%) of them were just 2-3 kms away from the nearest military camp and one percent (1%) was partially occupied by the military or Para-military troops.


A military camp in front of school and students are being used by the military to buy cigarettes etc. from the markets.

 Due to the presence of a military camp next to my school, which still exists there, we always feel threatened and scared. We were not allowed to play in the school ground as they (military personnel) could see us from the building that they occupy, and pass abusive comments or make obscene gestures.[vi]

The thick presence of the army in the residential areas has serious ramifications including sexual violence, insecurity, abuse and other sorts of harassment. Unfortunately, girls are more vulnerable to the adverse consequences of militarization of educational spaces.[vii] As a result, there has been an increase in the dropout rate among school going children, particularly girls.

Samir Ahmad, is a PhD Research student at the University of Kashmir.

[i] See, Seema Kazi, Between Democracy and Militarization: Gender and Militarization in Kashmir,   New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2009

[ii] Oberoi Surinder Singh, Kashmir is Bleeding, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 53,  no. 2,  March-April 1997

[iv] Kiothra, Verghese, Crafting Peace in Kashmir, New Delhi: Sage, New Delhi, 2004, p. 71

[v] See, Kashmir: A Land Ruled by the Gun, Report by Committee for Initiative on Kashmir, New Delhi

[vi] Interview with a student (May, 2010)

[vii] See, HRW: Everyone Lives in Fear: Patterns of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir, September, 2006

Stopping the Shakiro: How an ethno-high school in Colombia stands up against armed conflict

The following is an interview with Kevin C. O’Dowd, Director of Stopping the Shakiro. This compelling 22 minute documentary tells the story of two female students who attend the Ethno-High School in the rural village of Chajal, outside the city of Tumaco in South-West Colombia. Chajal is primarily comprised of Afro-Colombians who are disproportionately affected by Colombia’s 5 decade-long armed conflict. As a result of the conflict sensitive and ethno-centric curricula, taught at the ethno-high school,the two students share with us their transformative experience as the audience learns what it is like living alongside armed conflict in Colombia.The film weaves in key stakeholder interviews from INEE, UNICEF, Save the Children, NRC and ECHO.

1. What drew you to make a film about this population?

I was curious about why the Afro-Colombian population is disproportionately affected by the armed conflict. The Afro-Colombian population lives on the Pacific Coast in the western parts of the Andes mountain range.  They receive very little support from the Colombian government and I wanted to explore what the people of this community actually thought of this negligence. However, I found it extremely challenging to delve further on the subject. As one can imagine, this is a very contentious issue, as the iNGOs working with this population have to work with the Colombian government and therefore have to be diplomatic when expressing their opinion regarding what the government is doing on the ground. All of the Afro-Colombian interviewees in the film, including ones in the government, spelled out reasons why the government’s support does not reach their community. In my opinion, the Colombian government is trying to lend support but for some reason it seems to fall short, when it crosses the Andes.

2. What educational challenges does this population face?

The educational challenges that the Afro- Colombian population, in the Tumaco region, face is the lack of quality education. Other challenges are what one may find in any developing context: young mothers dropping out of school to raise a family; no money to afford school supplies and school uniforms; parents that don’t see the value of an education-some parents can easily understand how fishing will bring in economic security, as compared to an education; the school schedule is not a good fit for the young mothers who have to raise a family; young people don’t see themselves in the text books, the curriculum was not created for their population and therefore they lose interest.

3. Does education address these challenges?

This Ethno-High School does address these challenges. The curriculum was designed and implemented for and by Afro-Colombians living in the Tumaco region. The school schedule is on the weekend, therefore making it easier for parents to raise a family and work during the week and then study during the weekend. The high school’s aim is to create leaders in the community who understand that they have opinions that can be voiced by other means than joining an armed group. The schools are empowering each student with the knowledge of better fishing practice, agro-forestry, and how to confront conflict in a professional and rational manner.

4. Why is this film significant?

This film is significant because it attempts to address the challenges raised in question 1, while at the same time, trying to portray Colombia in good light. We read a lot of negative stories coming from Colombia but there are thousands of positive stories, like that of the Ethno-High School.

5. What questions need further exploring or are contentious in the context of this population?

Questions that I think need further exploring would be to investigate what exactly the Colombian government is doing in these hostile regions that is helping to improve the lives of marginalized populations. This is such a contentious topic because many people in Colombia, and outside Colombia, including diplomats, do not want to address it. What is really at the heart of this problem is racism.  Just as in the US, there is substantial racism in Colombia. But there are not a lot of people who want to talk about it.  The people on the Pacific Coast are neglected by the state because of their race.

 The film is being screened at Teachers College, Columbia University on September 18th, 7:00-8:30 PM. Russell, 306. Screening followed by Q & A with the Director.

Kevin C. O’Dowd, is a Humanitarian Media Professional who utilizes visual storytelling as a communications tool to raise awareness of humanitarian issues and support global efforts to aid programs for countries in need, including Columbia, Afghanistan, and North America. Kevin has an M.S. in Global Affairs from New York University and a B.A. in Film and Video from Columbia College, Chicago.

Integrating Conflict Sensitivity In Education Programs and Policies

by Tzvetomira Laub, INEE Coordinator for Minimum Standards

The field of Education in Emergencies has grown and expanded over the last decade, and today there is a more pronounced recognition that education could potentially contribute to tensions and grievances and thus exacerbate conflicts. INEE has addressed the need for systematized guidance on developing and carrying conflict sensitive education programs and policies: the new INEE Guidance Note on Conflict Sensitive Education was launched in March 2013.

 What is conflict sensitive education?

Conflict sensitive education is defined as the process to:

  • analyze and understand the context within which education takes place
  • analyze and understand the complex, bi-directional interaction between education  and conflict
  • and, on the basis of context- and conflict-analysis, take action to maximize education’s contribution to peacebuilding while minimizing education’s potential to contribute to tension, grievances and conflict.

In conflict-affected and fragile contexts, it is important to take concrete actions to ensure that conflict sensitivity is mainstreamed in education policies and practices.

 What does this mean in practice?

In the new INEE good practice tool, the Guidance Note on Conflict Sensitive Education, we share some strategies for actions to incorporate conflict sensitivity in education programs and policies. Here are a few highlights:

 Access and Learning Environment: Making education equally accessible to all means including previously marginalized or newly marginalized groups, such as children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups (child soldiers, children working as cooks and porters for armed groups/forces etc), IDP and refugee children, host communities, and speakers of the non-dominant languages. The protection and well-being of all school community members, especially students, must be ensured. To keep the schools, and the routes to them, free from violence and occupation, strategies include establishing “schools as zones of peace” and working with armed forces and armed groups to recognize them as such zones of peace. Providing education facilities and services in a conflict sensitive way involves considering the proximity and safe access of girls and boys to schools, water points and latrines. Learning spaces should also be clearly marked with visible protective boundaries and clear signs.

 Teaching and Learning: A conflict sensitive curriculum should include information for teachers on developing and delivering lessons free from stereotypes and bias, lessons that promote inclusivity, respect, peace and nonviolence. One strategy for conflict sensitive teacher training, professional development and support is to ensure that opportunities for teacher training are equally available and accessible to both male and female teachers and without discrimination against any group, including refugee and displaced teachers. Structures for peer-to-peer learning and mentoring can be established to increase conflict-coping skills, share good practices, and provide psychosocial support. In a conflict sensitive teaching and learning process, it is best for students to learn in their mother tongue for early grades, so recruiting, training and retaining teachers who speak the minority languages is important. Finally, fair and accessible assessment of learning outcomes should be implemented. This means that tests should be reviewed and redesigned so that they are free from bias against social groups and conflict-inciting content is removed.

 Teachers and Other Education Personnel: Informed by the conflict analysis, conflict sensitive teacher recruitment and selection should be transparent, participatory and inclusive. A diverse selection committee, for example, can be utilized and this should include representatives from groups previously marginalized due to the conflict dynamics. Strategies for conflict sensitive conditions of work and compensation should include providing sustainable, fair teacher compensation that is also equitable with the local labor market.

The INEE Guidance Note includes many more strategies as well as case studies and other examples on conflict sensitive education.

What resources are available on conflict sensitivity in and through education?

INEE offers a holistic package of tools and resources to support the integration of conflict sensitivity in and through education:

To learn more about INEE’s work on education in emergencies and conflict sensitive education, please visit www.ineesite.org and www.ineesite.org/toolkit or email [email protected].

Tzvetomira Laub coordinates the INEE Working Group on Minimum Standards and Network Tools, and manages capacity development, projects and advocacy on Education in Emergencies.

Strengthening Education in Emergencies Capacity in East Africa for East Africa

By Mary Mendenhall

Director, IRC-University of Nairobi Education in Emergencies Partnership

 In 2009, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the University of Nairobi joined forces to establish the first-ever graduate program for Education in Emergencies. This partnership between a humanitarian NGO and an African university seeks to build a cadre of qualified education practitioners and scholars prepared to respond to the educational needs of children and youth whose lives have been affected by conflict and crisis.

UoN EiE Faculty


Photo of faculty after completing capacity building series, supported by IRC and TC. 

Children and youth living in Sub-Saharan Africa figure greatly in out-of-school statistics and their educational access and attainment are further hampered by armed conflict and natural disasters. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, half of the 61 million primary school-aged children currently out of school globally live in Sub-Saharan Africa, with another 10 million in the region dropping out every year. Almost three-quarters of out-of-school girls are expected never to enroll, compared to two-thirds of boys. Out of the thirty-five countries that were affected by armed conflict from 1999 to 2008, fifteen are in Sub-Saharan Africa, where protracted armed conflicts remain all too common. As a result, young people affected by conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa face enormous barriers to accessing quality education and subsequently earning a livelihood and contributing positively to their communities.

The decision to launch this flagship program at the University of Nairobi and to focus on East Africa was based on a number of factors. First and foremost, Kenya had just experienced its own post-election violence in 2007-08 after the last presidential election. The crisis highlighted the need for educators and school administrators to be better equipped to prevent, prepare for and respond to inter-ethnic conflicts through schools and educational processes. The faculty and administrators within the School of Education at the University of Nairobi were keen to play a role in this process and sought out an opportunity to partner with the IRC on this initiative.

Second, Kenya is host to an incredibly large number of refugees—the majority originating from Somalia and Sudan—in two refugee camps, both of which have been operating for over 20 years. Dadaab refugee camp, which is located in northeastern Kenya on the border with Somalia, is the largest camp in the world. It currently hosts close to 500,000 refugees, making it the third largest city in Kenya. Kakuma refugee camp on the border with South Sudan has been experiencing a renewed influx of arrivals from South Sudan as a result of continued violence and instability in the region, with the camp population exceeding 100,000 refugees. The availability and quality of education in both camps have been weak, but with second and third generations of children being born in the camp, educational opportunities must be increased and improved.

Dadaab (outside classroom)EiE students created ECE Kit for semi-nomadic community in Kenya (Aug 2012)

Class being held in Dadaab refugee camp during a study visit by UoN faculty; student initiative to develop appropriate early childhood materials for semi-nomadic communities.

Third, there are significant numbers of refugees residing outside of the camps in Nairobi and other cities and towns. According to UNHCR’s 2012 assessment of refugee education in Nairobi, there are over 55,000 refugees residing in the city, including more than 29,000 school-aged children, with numbers expected to rise in the future. Despite their relative ease of mobility in comparison to camp-based refugees, urban refugees experience discrimination, xenophobia and extortion in their efforts to attend school and receive an education.

Within this context and the challenges that accompany it, education practitioners require specialized knowledge, skills and qualifications to assist governments, international organizations, and local communities not only to prevent and better prepare for humanitarian crises but also to overcome the challenges of providing quality education during emergencies and in their aftermath. The need for qualified national education practitioners is particularly acute in Africa. Even though many educators have lived through emergencies and have tremendous practical experience, there are few opportunities, apart from on-the-job training and one-time workshops, for them to obtain the skills and qualifications required to be effective practitioners in the humanitarian field. To date, there are also few universities in Africa that have included humanitarian subjects in their curricula.[1]

The establishment of a University graduate program for Education in Emergencies responds to the need for comprehensive study and training opportunities that adequately equip graduates with the requisite skills they need to work with a diverse array of stakeholders in their collective efforts to provide quality education for children and youth affected by crisis. Graduate study, when coupled with experiential learning opportunities, provides a more meaningful and lasting way to build the capacity of current and emerging education practitioners in the East Africa and beyond.

 Mary Mendenhall is a Lecturer in the Department of International and Transcultural Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University (starting Fall 2013). 

Further Reading: IRC-University of Nairobi Education in Emergencies Partnership and Student Activities

 Project/Partnership Overview: http://www.rescue.org/news/education-emergencies-10594

From child soldier to teacher: Ador’s story: http://www.rescue.org/blog/child-soldier-teacher-adors-story

The Kenya Forgiveness Project is an inspirational exhibit showcasing stories of forgiveness and reconciliation in Kenya in the aftermath of the violence that took place after the contested presidential elections in December 2007. The project was born out of a deep desire to contribute towards peace in the build up to the 2013 presidential election, which took place last week. One of the education in emergencies students who interned with the Forgiveness Project and was later hired has been working on this project, collecting stories, putting together exhibits, and touring the country. http://www.kenyaforgivenessproject.org/

Additional Resources

Borderless Higher Education for Refugees: http://crs.yorku.ca/bher

Council for Assisting Refugee Academics: http://academic-refugees.org/

IIE Scholar Rescue Fund: http://www.scholarrescuefund.org/pages/intro.php

Scholars at Risk: http://scholarsatrisk.nyu.edu/

Dadaab Stories: http://www.dadaabstories.org/

[1] Namusobya, S. (2008). Can’t Africans be Humanitarians too? Building Local Capacity to Co-ordinate and Manage Humanitarian Responses in Africa. Presentation to 3rd ICVA Conference; ‘Essential Humanitarian Reforms’, Geneva, Friday 1 February 2008.

Photo credit: Mary Mendenhall