Editorial: Inclusive education for a changing world

Su Corcoran

Global context
Every year, communities across the world face situations of risk, including armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies, and natural disasters. These situations have an impact on access to quality education and training. Infrastructure, such as school buildings and education ministries are often damaged. Personnel, from teachers to policy-makers, may be killed or displaced. According to UNICEF1, an estimated 50 million children today have crossed country borders or have been forcibly displaced; 28 million of these fled conflict and insecurity. Around one-in-nine children still lives in a conflict zone.

Providing education in situations of conflict, disaster and humanitarian emergency requires us to look beyond just the question of access. Education is an important tool for protection. The provision of quality education is also vital for helping communities rebuild. Education programmes become even more essential in protracted emergencies or conflicts.

Different perspectives on inclusive education in emergencies
The articles in this edition of Enabling Education Review consider various different timescales and perspectives in crisis situations. At the start of a crisis, the structures and systems for providing education may require rapid adaptation within new, often difficult, situations. In Sierra Leone, the spread of Ebola almost immediately prevented people from gathering, and closed schools, which led to the development of innovative radio education programmes by Pikin to Pikin Tok. In Haiti, safe spaces were provided by CBM as an immediate solution for children whose schools had been damaged by the earthquake. These alternative inclusive settings then became a longer-term step towards rebuilding a more inclusive regular education system. Mobile schools, like those used by Glad’s House with street-connected children in Kenya, offer a means of bringing education quickly and flexibly to those unable to attend school.

Conflicts, disasters and humanitarian emergencies often generate flows of refugees, especially in protracted conflicts. This is giving a new dimension to inclusive education. Education programmes for refugees, until recently, have focussed primarily on situations in southern/developing or transition states. The recent influx of refugees into Europe has brought the issue to the doorstep of the ‘rich’ countries. In this edition, we feature experiences of education programmes working in both these ‘old’ and ‘new’ contexts. We see the similarities and differences between how refugee education, and the related challenge of inclusion, is handled by agencies as a ‘development’ intervention and as a ‘domestic’ intervention.

In countries neighbouring Syria, Islamic Relief is starting an inclusive education programme that caters for the needs of refugee and host communities. FinnAid’s article shares details of its programme in Uganda to ensure the educational inclusion of children with disabilities in refugee settlements. Geeta Raj’s article describes the process of developing digital solutions for providing education for refugees and displaced learners.

In recent years the world seems to be experiencing a different ‘type’ of conflict and migration challenge. The Syria crisis, and the rise of Daesh, seems to herald a more extreme and potentially permanent, or at least much longer-term, movement of people. Questions arise about how to address these much bigger, longer-term and more culturally impactful crises in relation to education. Earth Asylum is a project running in the UK to educate children about refugee issues, to develop acceptance of diversity and promote social inclusion. In France, Chemins d’Enfances is using play-based activities with children in refugee and migrant communities in low income areas, to improve inclusion and learning in schools. Similarly, supplementary schools in the UK encourage links to learners’ home cultures as a way of supporting learning.

In countries experiencing ongoing conflict or unrest, supplementary education programmes can encourage children to see the benefits of staying in school, and can provide educational activities that encourage creativity. The Tamer Institute in Gaza offers an example of this. Supplementary education, such as that provided by Mish Madrasa in Egypt, can also help develop critical thinking to prevent children being drawn into extremist movements.

Rebuilding education systems affected or destroyed by conflict or disaster is an area that receives significant attention. The articles from Somalia and Afghanistan describe two approaches to including stakeholders from across the education sector to ensure inclusive education is the focus when rebuilding.

In all the situations featured in this year’s articles, some groups of learners face greater risk of educational exclusion than others (e.g. girls/women, and learners with disabilities). The issue of menstruation is rarely considered, yet it plays a central role in the exclusion of many girls from education, in both crisis and stable contexts. Two articles look at this issue: one documents the growing use of low-cost menstrual cups by school girls in Kenya; the other looks at a resource developed by Water Aid to explain why menstrual hygiene matters in education and emergencies.

To close the edition we have included several pages that provide ideas for further reading (or watching) about situations of risk and inclusive disaster risk reduction. We hope you find them useful in your work.

1www.unicef.org/videoaudio/PDFs/Uprooted.pdf


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