“In conflict, crisis, poverty and discrimination … how we are helping children into school”

Save The Children Photo For Ngos Hopes For 2018
Many leading organisations around the world are helping children to get into education and fulfil their potential (Facebook / Save the Children UK, https://www.facebook.com/savethechildrenuk/)

Barriers to education, Child soldiers, Children in conflicts, Children with disabilities, Discrimination of marginalised children, Double-shift schools, Education in emergencies, Girls' education, Refugees and internally displaced people, Right to education, Street Children

Theiworld helps refugees into school and supports Safe Schools as part of our work to help every child into education. Read more about how we change their world. To mark the start of a new year, we asked leading charities and NGOs to tell us what they are doing - about some of their most valuable education projects in 2017 and their aims for 2018. Here is what they told our education in emergencies writer Billy Briggs.

Street Child

Street Child is a UK-based organisation that works to help the most marginalised children in the world go to school, taking a locally-rooted inter-sectoral approach to education in emergencies.  

This year, as part of our education in emergencies work in North East Nigeria, we built a temporary learning centre (TLC) in a community on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency.  

The TLC serves over 300 children and addresses the multiple barriers that children face to access a basic education.  

The infrastructure provides a safe space for children, and 10 teachers provide education not only in literacy and numeracy but also on essential emergency related topics including basic hygiene, psychosocial counselling and gender based violence.  

Five months on, improvement has been significant. Standardised tests have shown a 49% improvement in basic numeracy and a 48% improvement in basic literacy.

Street Childs First Temporary Learning Centre In Maiduguri Nigeria

Children at Street Child’s first temporary learning centre in Maiduguri, Nigeria (Facebook / Street Child, https://www.facebook.com/streetchilduk/)

We also have provided 100 livelihoods packages to address the overarching barrier to education for IDP and host community families – household poverty.  

Next year, Street Child is taking this model to scale. In 2018, we have secured funding to build 60 such temporary learning centres, rehabilitate 120 damaged classrooms and train 450 teachers across the North East.  

23,000 conflict-affected children will have access not only to basic education, but teachers and social workers trained in counselling and child protection. 

Street Child continues to seek funding to deliver livelihoods support on scale in its target communities. There are an estimated 2.5m children out of school in the North East. 

To ensure that a generation of conflict-affected children does not lose out on an education, interventions must be both holistic – and scalable.  

Save the Children

Emma Wagner, Education in Emergencies, Policy and Advocacy Adviser for Save the Children, said that 2017 saw one of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with more than 500,000 South Sudanese refugee children fleeing war in their homeland and reaching safety in refugee settlements across northern Uganda. 

In doing so, the refugees left behind family, friends and everything they owned. 

Wagner said Save the Children has provided basic schooling to refugees across Uganda since the conflict in South Sudan started, offering early education for young children, top-up classes for those who have fallen behind and running play camps which help children to recover from their trauma.    

She added: “With the vast majority of refugee children out of school and those in school having to learn in overcrowded tents or schools that don’t have the textbooks or teachers who speak their language, we were seeing hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese children being denied an education and a future as a result.     

“But as education is the only way out of poverty for these children, Save the Children launched a campaign ahead of a high-level summit for refugees in Uganda in June which aimed to secure quality universal pre-primary, primary and secondary education for South Sudanese refugee children in Uganda for the next three and a half years.   

“Following the launch, education was placed at the top of the agenda at the summit and the Education Minister in Uganda publicly committed to providing education to South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.    

“As a result, the government of Uganda, the UN and international community is producing an innovative multi-year Education Response Plan which – if fully funded in 2018 – could ensure all refugees in Uganda can access a quality education.”  

Norwegian Refugee Council (in Jordan)

There are hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan, which has put pressure on the country’s already strained infrastructure. Schools in particular have suffered, with some having to operate in two shifts to accommodate the overwhelming increase of both Syrian and Jordanian students.

The problem is even more evident in northern cities like Irbid, close to the border with Syria and home to one of the largest populations of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

But the issue of schools operating in two shifts is not the only hurdle. Schools often cannot receive more students, leaving children and their families with no option but to register in faraway schools, if they are lucky to find space. 

Moreover, schools now have to accommodate larger numbers of students for longer hours, putting more pressure on their facilities than what they were built to accommodate.

To address these issues, since 2015 the Norwegian Refugee Council has developed an education programme for local schools with a high rate of Syrian refugee students.

Through this project, developed with approval from the Jordanian Ministry of Education and funded by the Norwegian government, we have been working to help expand and rehabilitate overcrowded schools.

Syrian Student At Arabic Class In Nrc Learning Centre In Jordan

10-year-old Syrian refugee Raghad in an Arabic class at the NRC Learning Centre in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan (NRC/Hussein Amri)

In total, the project has already helped expand seven schools throughout Irbid. It is alleviating some of the pressure off schools by reducing the number of students per classroom, as well as enabling more Syrian refugee and Jordanian students to go to these formal schools, often nearer to their homes, instead of commuting to farther schools.

These seven schools in Irbid now boast 51 fully furnished classrooms, eight sanitation facilities and seven playgrounds. In total, the project has created 1836 additional spaces for students. Construction works are currently taking place to expand four more schools with 34 classrooms, four sanitation facilities and playgrounds which will be operational in July 2018.

Our broad aim for 2018 is to try and get as many refugee and host community children into quality education.

We aim to achieve this by targeting in-school children – the goal being to have increased numbers of children achieving quality learning outcomes in formal schools via improved systems, facilities, personnel skills and environments, and having targeted remedial and social support.

We will also target children, specifically adolescents, who are out-of-school, the goal being for increased numbers of children to have improved life and academic skills and accreditation for future education options and community participation.

Plan International

In Sierra Leonne, access to education remains a barrier for children, particularly for marginalised girls who live in poverty, live in rural areas and/or are disabled.    

Girls face sexual abuse in schools and communities, early marriage and pregnancy, and poor access to sexual and reproductive health services.    

Our Girls Education Challenge project seeks to support access to education in five districts in Sierra Leone, with an aim to provide support to marginalised girls and children with disabilities through a package of services that remove barriers to school attendance and facilitates a higher quality of education.   

The project targeted 21,600 children in total, including 2019 children with disabilities in primary schools and junior secondary schools.    

Recognising the needs of girls from the most impoverished households in rural areas, single parent homes, orphaned girls, girls whose households face extra challenges and school dropouts, the Girls Education Challenge project primarily targets these disadvantaged groups to improve access to education and learning outcomes through:   

  • Providing bursaries including school supplies, uniforms, bag, textbooks, pens and pencils to girls at primary and junior secondary schools.      
  • Study groups where girls can go to study, away from distractions at home.     
  • Radio messaging and teacher training which focuses on sexual and reproductive health rights, in order to change cultural norms and taboos around teenage pregnancy and early marriage training.       
  • The improvement of the classroom environment to support children with disabilities.      
  • The introduction of community-based scorecards which give girls a mechanism through which they can voice their needs, be heard and participate in decisions relating to their education.   
Plan International Girls Education Challenge In Sierra Leone

The Girls Education Challenge aims to give more girls a quality education in Sierra Leone (Facebook / Plan International Sierra Leone, https://www.facebook.com/PlanSLE/)

Tanya Barron, Chief Executive of Plan International UK said: “As a global girls’ rights charity we know that, for girls in particular, the chance to go to school can be life-changing. 

“But in Sierra Leone, even if a girl makes it to school, often the quality of the education remains poor – especially for those with particular needs.  

“Through our Girls Education Challenge we are aiming to tackle that problem, by helping to ensure that girls and children with disabilities in particular are supported and that they are they are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”

Looking ahead to 2018, Plan International UK will focus on strengthening its Because I am a Girl campaign, empowering young people into successful adulthood, building resilience in fragile communities and striving for diverse and effective partnerships in order to help fulfil its vision of a just world for all children and in particular girls. 

2018 will see the launch of an innovative programme called Stand with Girls to support girls to thrive and lead in their local areas in the UK, the launch of a campaign to support nationwide momentum around Modern Slavery and a new UNICEF-funded $1 million cyber-safety programme to help children and young people in the Philippines to get specialised medical and psychosocial support.

Child Soldiers International

In 2017, the use of children by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo continued, while the recovery and reintegration of returning children remained under-resourced and underserved. 

MONUSCO, the UN mission in DRC, facilitated the release of 8546 children associated with armed groups in the country between 2009 and 2015. Only 7% percent were girls. 

Girl soldiers account for 30% to 40% of all minors recruited in DRC. In addition to traditional fighter roles, girls are often made to work as porters, cooks, spies and messengers in Congo’s disparate armed groups, while many also suffer serious sexual and physical abuse.   

These experiences often result in girls who manage to escape being stigmatised and discriminated against by their home communities and many are unable to go to school.   

Since 2016,Child Soldiers International, along with its local partners, has been running education projects to help some of the retuning girls across eastern DRC. To date, 177 girls are now back in school or in numeracy and literacy classes thanks to our work.   

Our education projects are supplemented by dialogue meetings held with local communities discussing the dangers of child recruitment using our Practical Guide for local organisations and communities on how to better to support girls coming out of armed groups.   

Our projects in DRC will move forward in 2018 as we continue to support girls formerly associated with armed groups and their communities while the work of our newly created National Action Group gets underway.   

Made up of local organisations and government representatives, it will conduct outreach work with communities and government officials to  promote community acceptance of girls associated with armed groups. This will build the foundation needed to ensure that girls caught up in armed groups can be supported for the long term. 

Child Soldiers International

The organisation is working to help former child soldiers into education (Facebook / Child Soldiers International, https://www.facebook.com/childsoldiersinternational/)

At the same time, Child Soldiers International’s work in the Central African Republic will also move forward. In March, we return to the country to begin training with government officials and local organisations on measures to help prevent the ongoing recruitment of children into armed groups. 

February 2018 will see the 18th anniversary of the adoption of the child soldier treaty. As the organisation founded to call for the treaty we will be marking this with an event at the UN in New York, bringing together child protection actors, governments, UN officials and young advocates. 

At the event, we will be launching our new Online Global Report – an internet-based information resource, with an interactive map; facts and data on child recruitment, and downloadable advocacy resources – designed to support the work of child protection and child rights organisations across the world.   

Sandra Olsson, programme manager, Child Soldiers International, said: “The power of education cannot be underestimated. The social value of going to school goes beyond the education itself, it means girls have a structure that protects them from roaming the streets with nothing to do rendering them vulnerable to meet boys and get pregnant.    

“Even in remote areas where there’s little to do with your diploma it is still considered one of the most valuable things a girl can have, bringing marriage proposals to girls who were once considered unmarriable due to their experiences with an armed group.   

“The girls we met in eastern DRC had experienced great suffering in armed groups and many were rejected by family and friends when they came home because of their experiences. Yet it was the prospect of returning to the classroom which many of them told us would have a transformative impact on their place in their communities.”  

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