Reactions to Google Hangout: education in emergency and conflict situations

Children in conflicts

The Global Faiths Coalition for Education (GFC Education) held a Google Hangout session to discuss the role of education in emergency and conflict situations, as part of the A World at School 500-Day Countdown Campaign.

The hangout brought Coaltion members together to discuss their work and share their insights on the criticalities of working in such contexts. Each organisation presented a unique perspective based upon their experience – from a local grassroots NGO working in D.R. Congo, The Association of Christian Mothers for Assistance to the Vulnerable (AMCAV), to larger international organisations, such as Muslim Aid and World Vision International.

Emergencies and conflicts affect half of the world’s out-of-school population – 29.8 million children are not going to school as a result. The situation is candidly expressed in the google hangout discussion by Kolleen Bouchane, AWAS Director of Policy and Advocacy:

In these contexts we have a worrying pattern that attacks on education are going up, conflicts are rising and at the same time education aid is dropping. And nowhere faster than in the humanitarian context… part of the issue is that it is not understood what a lifesaving intervention education is.

Education can provide a sense of normalcy amidst tense and tragic environments. Imtiaz Mohammad from Muslim Aid picks up on this:

One of the things that the parents and the community will tell you in any emergency is that they want a return to normalcy for their children very quickly – they want their children to be back in school”.

One of the key messages drawn out from the discussion is the importance of looking to the future, beyond current emergency situations. An overlooked aspect of emergencies and conflicts is that they go far beyond an initial stage of disaster. The estimated time of a protracted emergency is an astonishing 17 years – an entire education lifetime. Lucy Strickland, from World Vision International, stresses the importance of language and curriculum considerations when thinking about the long-term impacts of refugee children. She says:

Last year I was in Tanzania on the border of DRC and the Congolese kids had been learning the Congolese curriculum in French for 17 years and there was no opportunity for these kids to mainstream into the Tanzanian system.”

A World at School Global Youth Ambassador Beyan Pewee, who lived through the Liberian civil war reacted to the discussion on the hangout by highlighting the importance of faith-based groups to be active during conflicts and emergencies, given their unique position within their communities.  

Faith-based or religious groups are critical people in our society as most conflicts around the world are closely linked to ethnic or religious tensions. They also provide high quality education. They must continue to play a natural role in delivering education and must take into account the best interest of every child” Beyan says.

Having established a youth-led organisation to promote equal access to quality education during a time of war in Liberia – the Youth Coalition for Education in Liberia – Beyan also has a message for other young people looking to become more involved.

It's rewarding when young people stand up for their fellow friends in emergency areas. Young people can have a large impact on the lives of the children who see them speaking on their behalf. Children facing conflicts and emergencies often gain hope simply by interacting with their peers and taking action alongside them” he says.

After all, “the fight for quality education is the fight for every one!” – Beyan Pewee


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