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Education in emergencies (EIE)
Through its Education in Emergencies (EiE) programme, UNRWA helps to ensure that Palestine refugee children across Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank can continue to access their right to quality, inclusive and equitable education, even in times of crisis and conflict.
With the increasingly volatile situation in the region - the conflict in Syria, the blockade in Gaza, the ongoing occupation in the West Bank, and the deteriorating situation in Lebanon – the delivery of education to Palestine refugees living in areas of crisis is a continuous challenge. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the closures of UNRWA educational institutions in March 2020, has added another challenging dimension to the EiE context. Here, the UNRWA response is to strengthen the UNRWA education system, whilst complementing it with innovative approaches to respond to new and challenging contexts. The UNRWA EiE programme achieves this through: ‘doing things differently’ (delivering education in alternative ways), ‘doing more of other things’ (more psychosocial support to children) and ‘doing things that had not been the focus before’ (safety and security training for students, staff, and parents).
In this regard, UNRWA adopts a multi-stranded approach to EiE to ensure that the response is holistic and meets the needs of children, teachers, and parents:
- Ensuring a safe and secure learning environment for Palestine refugee children and youth, that supports their physical and emotional wellbeing;
- Relevant and quality teaching and learning, including alternative methods of teaching and learning in times of crisis;
- Ensuring parental, community, and student engagement to support the quality and continuation of education in emergencies.
The UNRWA EiE programme has become renowned in the region and beyond: the host countries in which UNRWA works, as well as other UN agencies, continue to replicate its approaches and use the specific resources developed.
1) Safe and secure learning environments
In light of the negative psychosocial impact of conflict and crisis on children and education staff, the UNRWA EiE response emphasizes the importance of psychosocial support. UNRWA puts additional school counsellors in place to provide individual and group counselling, provides regular recreational activities and ensures referral of cases to specialized services, if required. UNRWA counsellors provide ongoing psychosocial support to children during the school year, as well as through summer recreational activities, to meet the psychosocial needs of all students. UNRWA also supports the capacity development of its teachers in identifying and responding to students’ diverse needs and providing psychosocial support in the classroom.
To better support the school counsellors and teachers in providing recreational activities for UNRWA students and promoting the well-being and resilience of children, UNRWA has developed a Recreational Activities Guide that includes a wide range of psychosocial support activities.
Safe and Secure Delivery of Education
UNRWA works to promote the safety and security of its students, education staff and schools. To this effect, safety and security training modules have been developed and the capacity of education staff and students has been built up to help them to better respond in emergencies. School risk assessments and evacuation drills are also regularly carried out in schools. Parents are kept informed about the security measures at school and how they can help to keep their children safe in and on their way to schools.
SAFE LEARNING AND RECREATIONAL SPACES
During emergency situations, education may be interrupted, leaving Palestine refugee children unable to access their regular schools. Some children may be living in collective shelters for internally displaced persons and not have a place to study at home. To help address this disruption to children’s learning, UNRWA has set up safe learning and recreational spaces. These provide a safe and child-friendly environment where children can learn and engage in recreational activities, all of which are supported by qualified teachers and specialized psychosocial counsellors.
Learning activities at a Safe Learning Space in Khan Dunnoun, Syria. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad
2) Quality teaching and learning
UNRWA works to ensure that Palestine refugee children living in challenging contexts continue to have access to quality teaching and learning.
The UNRWA Department of Education has developed a self-learning programme to facilitate the learning of basic skills and core subject concepts in Arabic, mathematics, English and science. The programme is designed for those children who cannot regularly access school to learn at home or in their communities. The programme includes material in print and an UNRWA YouTube TV channel. Most recently and amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme further evolved into the UNRWA Digital Learning Platform (DLP).
Boy in Gaza using the Interactive Learning Programme website. © 2017 UNRWA photo by Tamer Hamam
Learning Support Activities
The UNRWA EiE programme also contributes in the provision of learning support to help children make up for any lost school time; this is through catch-up classes and summer learning programmes.
3) parent, community, and STudent engagement
The involvement of parents and the wider community is vital in times of emergencies as it can help to ensure the continuation of education at home or in alternative spaces. Parents should also play a key role in emergency preparedness, as well as in recovery after an emergency. Parents are engaged in supporting their children's education through regular parents’ awareness sessions on a variety of topics, including psychosocial support, safety and security and the self-learning programme. The Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) in place in every school strengthen the vital link between the school and the community, and support contingency planning at the school level.
Students are centered in every strand of the EiE programme, specifically through the involvement of elected student School Parliaments in any contingency planning for emergencies and with regards to the training of children on safety and security skills and procedures (for example, school evacuation).
Parents engaged in recreational activities with their children during the annual Back-to-School Campaign in Gaza.
© 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Sarraj
As part of its EiE programme, UNRWA has developed an animated video for children and communities affected by conflict. The video, ‘Education Brings Hope in Times of Emergencies’, encourages families to utilize UNRWA resources and support their children in re-engaging in education during times of crisis.
Learn more about how UNRWA delivers education on the frontline for Palestine refugees in Syria.
Working to improve data management and strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of the EiE Programme, UNRWA developed an Agency-wide EiE Bank of Indicators. The Bank builds on existing global and regional EiE indicators and seeks to achieve consistency of measurement across the UNRWA five Fields of Operations, enabling programmatic and Emergency Appeal monitoring and reporting to be more comparable. However, in view of the COVID-19 crisis, the Bank of Indicators was updated in 2021.The Bank can be accessed here.
UNRWA EiE Programme and COVID-19
Within the COVID-19 context, the focus of the EiE programme was as follows:
- Teaching and learning: The emphasis on self-learning continued, but new modalities for teaching and learning were developed adhering to the need for social distancing. These included remote and hybrid approaches.
- Health and hygiene safety: Safety and security are non-negotiable prerequisites of schooling and this crisis added a clear health dimension.
- Psychosocial support: The pandemic is not ‘merely’ a health, educational or economic crisis, it also affects the basic wellbeing of refugee learners.
- M&E: To ensure continuous system-level learning and to contribute to Agency-wide evidence-based decision making
- TVET: Merits its own domain due to its very specific nature which includes practical learning.
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