Supporting Students in Gaza

By Dr. Mohammed Awad Sabhair

This blog is a slightly adapted transcript of a podcast – episode 2 of EENET’s “Inclusive Education: Unheard Stories” series. The podcast is available in Arabic.

 Watch on YouTube.

Listen on SoundCloud.

Head and shoulders photo of Dr Sabhair


I am Dr. Mohammed Awad Sabhair, a volunteer activist in the educational community. I hold a Ph.D. in Educational Administration, a Bachelor’s degree, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I work as a director and a distinguished school supervisor at Al-Aqsa University in the Gaza Strip. I am actively involved in the Arab and global campaigns for education for all and the Palestinian Educational Coalition.

I am also the founder of the Pulse of Peace Association for Mental and Community Health, a mental health first aider in times of crisis, and a certified educational and community trainer within the Gaza Strip. I am involved in various civil, private, and popular voluntary institutions. I am a member of the Community Accountability Committee in Gaza and a researcher with numerous published research papers, studies, articles, and diverse writings locally and regionally.

My current situation

I am in Khan Yunis Governorate, southern Gaza. We were told by the Israeli forces to evacuate our homes due to the precarious situation. We find ourselves in a dire situation, facing inhumane conditions with a complete lack of services. The harsh winter conditions surround us. This area is also close to the Rafah border, where over a million and a half people are cramped in a small space, lacking essential services.

There are insufficient words to describe the scene in the displacement area where my family and I are located. It is almost impossible to convey the complete picture. We are experiencing power outage for over three months, no communication or internet services due to the destruction of the communication network. There is a complete lack of water services due to the destruction of underground networks. We resort to primitive methods to obtain and transport water.

Transportation services are entirely halted, fuel is scarce, and essential goods are absent. If available, prices have skyrocketed. Special medications for children, women, the elderly, and pregnant women are unavailable. People are suffering with difficult health conditions. There is a shortage of basic goods, and tents, blankets, and winter clothes are unavailable. The local stock of water, livestock, crops, and goods is depleted due to the lack of entry of supplies.

4 very thin flatbreads on a hot plate. A woman's hand holds another piece of flattened dough.

Living under siege

Daily life is severely impacted by the complete closure of land crossings, a comprehensive naval blockade, full control of the airspace, and continuous airstrikes and destruction throughout the day. As night falls, fear and anticipation take over, and in the pitch-black darkness, movement becomes impossible due to reconnaissance aircraft hovering above.

The continuous shelling of coastal areas by naval vessels adds to the danger. As I write this message, the sound of shelling intensifies. In the face of these conditions, we are lost, not knowing where the circumstances will lead us or how to meet the needs of our families and children.

My children, who now ask questions and engage in discussions, are met with silence from us adults in the face of the crisis and the catastrophe we are living through day and night.

Concrete buildings destroyed by bombing

 The education situation up to October 2023

Around 650,000 students were enrolled in education in Gaza. Supervision of education was shared among the Ministry of Education, the Palestinian Education Authority, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and private schools. In Gaza, before this war, 750 schools were operating on a two-shift system due to the high student density. The political division imposed by Israel since 2007 led to a comprehensive blockade affecting all aspects of life until 2023. This has caused significant destruction in all areas, particularly in education.

The conditions for teachers and educational staff were extremely challenging. They did not receive their salaries regularly, and delays in payment led to a loss of motivation, forcing them to seek additional employment to meet their needs. The severe poverty and unemployment experienced by parents also affected students, as many parents were compelled to send their children to work to support their families.

A mound in the earth, with a cardboard sign - probably a grave

The impact of war on education

Then came the latest war on Gaza in October 2023, where Israel terminated all agreements, treaties, and conventions calling for the protection of the right to education and the preservation of educational institutions and facilities without harm or disruption. As of now, the education sector has reached a point of complete destruction and collapse due to Israeli practices, including the brutal and genocidal war.

The numbers attest to the difficult situation: 4,119 students have been killed and 75,000 students wounded. Additionally, 221 teachers and administrative staff working in the ministry have been killed and 703 injured. Furthermore, 83 schools have suffered severe damage, seven schools have been completely destroyed, and 278 schools require major maintenance. Also, 65 schools affiliated with UNRWA have been damaged. The Ministry has indicated that 90% of school buildings have been directly or indirectly damaged.

All schools in Gaza – whether under the Ministry of Education, UNRWA, or private institutions – have been turned into shelters for displaced people fleeing Israeli attacks. The situation is dire, with schools that were once able to accommodate 2,000 students now housing 9,000 displaced individuals. Other schools have been subjected to theft, vandalism, and looting of school furniture, which is sometimes used as fuel for cooking due to the lack of fuel and cooking gas.

There has been direct targeting, arrest, and displacement of many people, including those managing the shelters. In light of these figures and this grim scene, the education sector in Gaza has reached a point of complete destruction and collapse. No local entity can provide any services for education in the near or distant future without a halt to the war and the intervention of a state to rebuild the education sector, including schools, universities, and kindergartens.

Supporting students

Students have developed psychological symptoms, manifested in severe fear, constant anxiety, various behavioural problems including involuntary urination, night terrors, withdrawal, intense crying, constant panic, clinging to parents, difficulty sleeping, reluctance to participate in group activities, loss of passion, absence of hope, feelings of guilt, constant self-doubt, and frustration, as well as various health issues and emotional numbness.

Through my work in shelters and displacement centres, I see this vivid reality that we experience every day with the children and their families. We strive to provide first-level psychological and social support services to children and their families to alleviate fear and provide temporary stability. We collaborate with the Teacher Creativity Center to offer socio-emotional learning services to children in shelter centres, helping them stay connected with various educational skills and make up for what they missed during the past three months of the war.

Many children and a few adults playing with a rainbow coloured sheet of cloth and some balls

Several youth and volunteer initiatives and organisations try to provide play services, support, and distribute gifts to children and students to alleviate their suffering. The distribution of some guidance manuals for parents on first aid for psychological care, child protection, emergency education times, and emotional support is ongoing.

What we witness is extremely dangerous and challenging. However, we believe it is our duty to uphold the right to education and learning during emergencies, and to be present to provide humanitarian services to students and children, guiding parents on providing education based on available resources and under difficult circumstances.

A man hoding a ball, with children around him. They are inside a refugee tent.


Looking ahead

Many questions remain unanswered from parents and children. When will the war end? Is there a ceasefire? What happened to my father who was arrested by the Israeli army? Will we return to our school? What about our teachers and classmates who were killed in this war? Where is our home, and in which house? How can we make or find food? I want to buy clothes; we need a tent to live in. Faced with these questions, we stand helpless, as there are no answers to these questions. No countries in the world can answer them in the face of the might and aggression of the Israeli war machine.

Everyone’s hope for a future life has been shattered, as the students reported when asked about their outlook for the future. Their responses were heartbreaking:

“There is no future; the future is gone. There is no hope.”

This is the language of children, and I convey it to you. We stand together to protect our students and keep the flame of their right to education, towards providing sustainable, equitable, and dignified education for all. We will not leave anyone behind due to the atrocities of the Israeli war.

I wish you a day and times filled with hope and peace.

Bande de Gaza : l’enseignement est attaqué

Cet article du blog a été écrit par Ayman Qwaider (EENET’s Arabic/MENA Network Manager), le 7 novembre 2023.

Traduit par Siham Touil.

Les enfants pris pour cible

La moitié des plus de deux millions d’habitants de la bande de Gaza sont des enfants, et actuellement, l’un d’entre eux est tué toutes les 10 minutes. Depuis le 7 octobre 2023[1], les statistiques du Ministère de la Santé à Gaza montrent qu’au moins 4 100 enfants palestiniens ont été tués dans les bombardements incessants de l’armée israélienne. Plus de 1 000 autres enfants sont portés disparus, probablement enterrés sous des bâtiments détruits. Prendre pour cible des civils, en particulier des enfants, constitue une violation grave des Conventions de Genève et est considéré comme un crime de guerre. Les enfants ne devraient jamais être la cible d’un conflit, de part et d’autre. Les enfants de Gaza sont les plus touchés par l’agression israélienne en cours, qui les prive de leurs droits fondamentaux, notamment l’accès à la nourriture, à l’eau, à un abri, à l’éducation, aux soins de santé et à la sécurité.

Une enfance en cage

Aujourd’hui dans la bande de Gaza, aucun enfant n’a jamais connu la liberté. Depuis 2005, le territoire est soumis à de sévères restrictions imposées par Israël, et le blocus s’est renforcé lorsque le Hamas est arrivé au pouvoir en 2006. L’ONU considère Israël comme une « puissance occupante » au sein des territoires palestiniens et le blocus viole le droit international. L’enclave est l’une des zones les plus densément peuplées de la planète (5 850 habitants au kilomètre carré), souvent décrite comme la plus grande prison à ciel ouvert du monde. Depuis 16 ans, l’économie, les infrastructures, l’emploi, les communications, l’éducation et le système de santé suffoquent et les déplacements de la population sont presque entièrement limités. La plupart des enfants n’ont jamais bénéficié de 24 heures d’électricité en continu dans leur vie. Tandis que la catastrophe humanitaire actuelle, extrêmement meurtrière, attire l’attention du monde entier, l’ONU et les agences humanitaires parlent depuis de nombreuses années de la crise humanitaire croissante dans la bande de Gaza et mettent en garde contre les violations flagrantes des droits de l’Homme.

L’enseignement perturbé

Les Gazaouis sont des personnes dynamiques et instruites, rêvant d’un avenir meilleur. Les aspirations de plusieurs générations sont aujourd’hui plus que jamais attaquées. Plus de 625 000 étudiants et 22 564 enseignants de la bande de Gaza ont été touchés par les attaques contre l’enseignement ce mois passé. Les enfants n’ont pas accès à la scolarité et n’ont pas d’endroit sûr où se réfugier. Le Ministère de l’Éducation a annulé l’année scolaire, et 214 écoles ont jusqu’à présent été endommagées par les bombardements, parmi lesquelles 45 sont entièrement hors service. Des enseignants ont été tués dans les bombardements.

Alaa Qwaider, une mère aimante, a été tuée dans sa propre maison, détruite lors d’une frappe aérienne israélienne. Cette attaque dévastatrice a également coûté la vie à ses trois jeunes enfants : Eman, tragiquement tuée le jour de son cinquième anniversaire, Faiz, quatre ans et la petite Sarah, âgée de sept mois seulement. Quatorze autres membres de sa famille ont été tués dans la même frappe aérienne, ne laissant en vie que le mari d’Alaa.

A headshot of Alaa Qwaider smiling at the camera wearing a black and white spotted headscarf.

Alaa n’était pas seulement une mère. C’était aussi une professeure de mathématiques très respectée dans son lycée à Gaza City. Elle était très fière de sa carrière et de sa mission importante consistant à enseigner auprès des jeunes. Elle partageait souvent avec moi (Ayman Qwaider, auteur de l’article, est son frère) des photos de ses réalisations. Son dévouement à l’enseignement était évident dans ses interactions avec ses étudiants qui la tenaient en haute estime pour son implication dans leur scolarité. Alaa connaissait le contexte de vie de ses élèves – vivre sous blocus pendant 16 ans au sein d’un régime d’apartheid[2] et être témoin d’opérations militaires régulières – et l’impact sur leur apprentissage et leurs besoins émotionnels. Elle recherchait activement des opportunités de formation et de développement de ses compétences pour mieux soutenir ses étudiants, en particulier ceux qui avaient été exposés à un traumatisme.

Le Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur rapporte que 437 de ses étudiants et 12 membres du personnel universitaire ont été tués au cours des trois premières semaines de cette guerre, dont 85 % à Gaza City. On craint que de nombreux autres étudiants soient ensevelis sous les décombres. La scolarité de près de 90 000 étudiants de l’enseignement supérieur est perturbée, les universités ayant été contraintes de suspendre toutes leurs activités. Une université de Gaza a dû annuler son année universitaire 2023-24 en raison de la perte de tous ses étudiants dans les bombardements israéliens.

Un cinéma pour les enfants de Gaza et une pédagogie adaptée aux traumatismes

Jusqu’au 7 octobre, le projet Gaza Children’s Cinema (GCC) a fonctionné dans les bibliothèques locales à travers la bande de Gaza, en partenariat avec l’Institut Tamer pour l’éducation communautaire. Le GCC avait concentré ses activités sur les communautés marginalisées et frontalières (avec Israël), s’adressant aux enfants les plus isolés. Malheureusement, ces communautés frontalières sont particulièrement vulnérables face aux destructions des forces israéliennes, notamment lors d’incursions terrestres. Les rapports indiquent que dans toute la bande de Gaza, plus de 200 000 logements ont été soit détruits, soit endommagés, et des dizaines d’installations publiques et de services – telles que celles utilisées par le CCG – ont subi des dommages importants. Le GCC a été justement créé pour offrir des alternatives éducatives et des activités récréatives aux enfants profondément touchés par un traumatisme. Cela leur a fourni un répit temporaire face à la réalité difficile à laquelle ils étaient confrontés. Avant cette nouvelle guerre à Gaza, près d’un enfant sur trois recevait déjà un soutien psychologique. Les bombardements dévastateurs actuels, d’une ampleur sans précédent, ont exposé les enfants de Gaza à des traumatismes encore plus graves et plus durables, avec des conséquences qui persisteront probablement tout au long de leur vie. Mais les programmes vitaux destinés à les soutenir, comme le GCC, ont été anéantis et leur reconstruction pourrait prendre de nombreuses années.

L’UNICEF a déclaré qu’au cours des dernières semaines, « Gaza est devenue un cimetière pour des milliers d’enfants ». Il est impossible de comprendre l’impact de cette situation sur les enfants qui survivent. Les programmes éducatifs pour faire face aux traumatismes devront être un point essentiel de la scolarité dans un avenir prochain. Cela signifie approfondir la formation des enseignants, des éducateurs afin de les doter des compétences nécessaires pour soutenir efficacement leurs élèves. Mais les enseignants et les éducateurs, eux-mêmes traumatisés, auront besoin de beaucoup plus de soutien émotionnel et professionnel pour apporter l’accompagnement nécessaire aux élèves également traumatisés. Cependant, rien de tout cela ne pourra se produire tant qu’il n’y aura pas un cessez-le-feu complet entre les forces israéliennes et le Hamas.

Protéger les droits des enfants

La communauté internationale prend note de cette guerre. Adele Khodr, directrice régionale de l’UNICEF pour le Moyen-Orient et l’Afrique du Nord, la qualifie de « tâche croissante sur notre conscience collective ». L’UNICEF, aux côtés de centaines d’ONG, a également appelé à un cessez-le-feu immédiat pour protéger les enfants de Gaza. Il est crucial que la communauté internationale prenne des mesures immédiates pour protéger leurs droits et leur bien-être : fournir une aide humanitaire et œuvrer en faveur d’un cessez-le-feu durable. Le monde doit s’unir pour garantir que la sécurité, les soins de santé et l’éducation ne soient pas un luxe mais des droits fondamentaux pour tous.

Les étudiants et les enseignants tués à Gaza

Plusieurs milliers d’enfants innocents, leurs familles et leurs enseignants ont été tués à Gaza, non seulement ces dernières semaines, mais au cours des 75 dernières années.

Osama Abu Safia[3] était étudiant en médecine à l’Université Al Azhar de Gaza. Il avait récemment réussi l’examen de la première étape du USMLE[4] et était un bénévole actif, faisant la promotion de l’éducation sanitaire dans les mosquées et les écoles. Son potentiel pour devenir un médecin talentueux dans le futur et ses contributions à sa communauté ont été tragiquement stoppés par une frappe aérienne israélienne sur Gaza.

Osama Abu Saifa smiles at the camera as he leans on a counter. He has his arms crossed and is wearing a blue t shirt. There are trophies on the shelves behind him.

Yasmine Khorshid[5] a été diplômée en gestion des bibliothèques il y a à peine trois mois. Elle a été tuée avec sa famille, ses tantes, ses oncles et leurs enfants dans la ville de Gaza. Plus de 30 personnes de la famille Khorshid ont été tués.

Yasmine Khorshid stands on a podium, smiling and addressing an audience. She is wearing a headscarf and a cap and gown.

Khalil Abu Yahiya[6] a été tué avec toute sa famille à Gaza. Khalil était maître de conférences à l’Université Islamique de Gaza et était largement reconnu pour son génie en tant qu’écrivain, activiste et penseur.

Khalil Abu Yahikya smiles at the camera holding a bunch of flowers and wearing a graduation gown with red trim. over his suit and tie. Behind him is a wood panelled wall with a poster in Arabic.


[1] Le 7 October 2023, le Hamas a tué 1400 Israéliens et a pris en otages plus de 200 personnes, incluant des enfants

[2] See: and


[4] Le United States Medical Licensing Examination est un programme d’examen organisé en trois étapes dont l’objectif est d’obtenir un permis médical aux États-Unis



Education under attack in Gaza

This blog article was written by Ayman Qwaider (EENET’s Arabic/MENA Network Manager), 07 November 2023.

A French translation and an Arabic translation is also available.

Children as targets

Half of Gaza’s two-million population are children, and right now one of them is being killed every 10 minutes. Since 7 October 2023,[1] Gaza Ministry of Health statistics show that at least 4,100 Palestinian children have been killed in the Israeli army’s relentless bombardment. More than 1,000 more children are missing, likely buried under destroyed buildings.

Targeting civilians, especially children, constitutes a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions and is considered a war crime. Children should never be targeted in any conflict by any party. Children in Gaza are the most affected by the ongoing Israeli aggression, which has deprived them of their basic rights, including access to food, water, shelter, education, healthcare, and safety.

A caged childhood

No child in Gaza today has ever known freedom. Since 2005, Gaza has experienced severe restrictions imposed by Israel, and the blockade strengthened when Hamas came to power in 2006. The UN considers Israel to be an ‘occupying power’ within Palestinian territories and the blockade violates international law. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on earth (5,850 per square kilometre), often described as akin to the largest open-air prison in the world.

For 16 years Gaza’s economy, infrastructure, employment, communications, education, and health systems have been strangled and the movement of its people almost entirely restricted. Most children have not experienced a full 24 hours of uninterrupted electricity supply in their lives. While the recent extremely life-threatening humanitarian catastrophe has attracted global attention, UN and humanitarian agencies have been speaking about the growing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip for many years and warning of the gross violations of multiple human rights.

Education disrupted

Gazans are vibrant, educated people with dreams of a better future. The aspirations of generations are under attack now more than ever before. More than 625,000 students and 22,564 teachers in the Gaza Strip have been affected by the assault on education for the last month. Children have no access to education and no safe place to hide. The Ministry of Education in Gaza has cancelled the entire academic year, and 214 schools have so far been damaged due to shelling, with 45 schools entirely out of service. Teachers have been killed in the bombardment.

Alaa Qwaider, a loving mother, was killed in her own home during an Israeli airstrike that destroyed her house. This devastating attack also claimed the lives of her three young children: Eman, tragically killed on her fifth birthday, Faiz, aged four, and little Sarah, only seven months old. Fourteen other family members were killed in the same airstrike, leaving only Alaa’s husband alive.

A headshot of Alaa Qwaider smiling at the camera wearing a black and white spotted headscarf.

Alaa was not only a mother but a highly respected maths teacher at a high school in Gaza City. She took great pride in her career and the important mission of educating young minds. She often shared photos of her accomplishments with me. Her dedication to teaching was evident in her interactions with her students who held her in high regard for her commitment to their education. Alaa recognised the context of her students’ lives – living under blockade for 16 years within an apartheid regime,[2] and witnessing regular military operations – and how this impacted their learning and emotional needs. She actively sought training and skills development opportunities to better support her students, especially those who had been exposed to trauma.

The Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education reports that 437 higher education students and 12 academic staff were killed in the first three weeks of this latest war, 85% of whom were in Gaza. Many more students are feared buried under the rubble. The education of nearly 90,000 higher education students is disrupted as universities have been forced to suspend all operations. One university in Gaza has had to cancel its 2023-24 academic year due to the loss of all its students in Israeli bombings.

 Gaza Children’s Cinema and trauma-responsive education

Until 7 October, the Gaza Children’s Cinema (GCC) project operated within local community libraries across the Gaza Strip with the support of the initiative’s partner, the Tamer Institute for Community Education.

GCC had focused its activities in marginalized and border communities, where it reached out to children who were often hardest to access. Unfortunately, these border communities have been particularly vulnerable to destruction by Israeli forces, especially during ground incursions. Reports indicate that across the Gaza Strip, over 200,000 housing units have been either destroyed or damaged and dozens of public and service facilities – such as those used by GCC – have suffered significant damage.

GCC was purposefully created to offer alternative educational experiences and recreational activities for children deeply affected by trauma. It provided them with temporary respite from the challenging reality they faced. Before the latest aggression in Gaza, nearly one-in-three children in Gaza already received support from trauma response programmes. The current devastating bombardment on an unprecedented scale has exposed the children in Gaza to even more severe and long-lasting trauma, with consequences that will likely persist throughout their lives. But vital programmes to support them, like GCC, have been wiped out and may take many years to rebuild.

UNICEF has stated that in the last few weeks “Gaza has become a graveyard for thousands of children”. It’s impossible to comprehend the impact of this on Gaza’s surviving children. Trauma response education programmes will need to be an essential component of mainstream education in emergency interventions for the foreseeable future. This means scaling up relevant training for teachers and educators, and equipping them with the skills to support their students effectively. But teachers and educators, themselves traumatised, will require much more emotional and professional support to ensure they can provide the necessary assistance to their traumatised learners. However, none of this can happen until there is a complete ceasefire between the Israeli forces and Hamas.

Protecting children’s rights

The international community is taking note of this war. Adele Khodr, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, has called it a “growing stain on our collective conscience”. UNICEF, along with hundreds of NGOs, has also called for an immediate ceasefire to protect the children in Gaza.

It is crucial for the international community to take immediate action to protect the rights and well-being of Gaza’s children, provide humanitarian aid, and work towards a sustainable ceasefire. The world must stand together to ensure that safety, healthcare and education are not luxuries but fundamental rights for all.

Gaza’s lost learners and teachers

Many thousands of innocent children, their families and teachers have been killed in Gaza, not just in recent weeks, but over the course of the last 75 years.

Osama Abu Safia[3] was a medical student at Al Azhar University in Gaza. He had recently passed the USMLE[4] Step 1 exam and was an active volunteer, promoting health education in mosques and schools. His potential to become a talented medic in the future and his contributions to his community were tragically cut short by an Israeli airstrike on Gaza.

Osama Abu Saifa smiles at the camera as he leans on a counter. He has his arms crossed and is wearing a blue t shirt. There are trophies on the shelves behind him.

Yasmine Khorshid[5] graduated just three months ago after specialising in library management. Yasmine was killed with her family, aunts, uncles and their children in Gaza City. More than 30 people from the Khorshid family were killed.

Yasmine Khorshid stands on a podium, smiling and addressing an audience. She is wearing a headscarf and a cap and gown.


Khalil Abu Yahiya[6] was killed along with his entire family in Gaza. Khalil was a lecturer at the Islamic University of Gaza and was widely recognised for his brilliance as a writer, activist, and thinker.

Khalil Abu Yahikya smiles at the camera holding a bunch of flowers and wearing a graduation gown with red trim. over his suit and tie. Behind him is a wood panelled wall with a poster in Arabic.


[1] On 7 October 2023 Hamas killed 1400 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages, including children.

[2] See: and


[4] United States Medical Licensing Examination




Rethinking the way we work – Part 2

“Around the world, people are rethinking their ways of working: whether due to the increasingly incandescent disaster that is human-driven climate change or the more recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). This is an opportunity to develop and implement better ways of working and deliver greater, more sustainable impact that decolonises existing power relations.”

Climate change – rethinking the way we work’ by Rachel Bowden with Juliette Myers and Anise Waljee, EENET, 15 March 2020

Rethinking who the experts are

Three years have passed since we published the blog entry quoted above. The COVID-19 pandemic became an opportunity for EENET to radically change the way it worked. For almost two years all our work was done remotely, through online meetings, emails, and text messaging. The change that excited us was the increased opportunity to work with, support and mentor local expertise.

EENET has always been committed to supporting education stakeholders, consultants, advocates and trainers within the countries where we work to become more experienced and skilled. We used to ask donors and clients for budgets and timelines that would enable our international consultants to work alongside and mentor national counterparts, with the longer-term ambition of reducing or removing the need for international consultants in many activities. But some clients and funders did not want to pay for the extra cost or take the extra time, preferring only to fund the international consultants’ costs and leaving it to ‘someone else’ to support national expert capacity building.

When COVID-19 stopped all international travel, suddenly the vital importance of national consultants, advocates and trainers could not be ignored. We invested a lot of energy (and client/donor funds) into quickly developing ways to remotely support and mentor a range of personnel in countries where we were involved in projects so that they could carry out work previously done by visiting international consultants. Of course, it would have been easier if we had been able to work consistently on this process over a long period before the pandemic, rather than it being an emergency measure.

Discussions around power relationships and institutional inequality in humanitarian and development work are not new. The discourse received impetus in May 2020 when the killing of George Floyd by US police spotlighted institutional racism around the world. And the pandemic offered an unusual opportunity to interrupt further the balance of power among experts in development and humanitarian work. But where are we heading now?

International consultants can travel again, and NGO and government budgets are squeezed by economic crises. What will happen if clients/donors revert to the pre-2020 routine of employing international consultants and strive to avoid the extra cost and time often needed to simultaneously intensively mentor local expertise? What if they choose only to work with the (usually less expensive) national consultants, advocates and trainers who were fast-tracked into new roles during the pandemic but refuse to take (financial) responsibility for further professional development for them?

EENET calls on donors and NGOs to value the (perhaps unplanned and unintended) progress of interrupting the reliance on international consultants and find ways to keep investing in challenging the balance of power among inclusive education experts.

Rethinking our environmental impact

The pandemic made it much easier for EENET to move towards its environmental policy ambitions – stopping harmful international travel was easy when no travel was allowed! In 2022, travel fully resumed and projects expected international consultants to return to in-person work. This reignited dilemmas for EENET around how we move towards reducing our carbon footprint.

We are also challenged to rethink EENET’s core networking and information-sharing activities. Since we were established in 1997, we have prioritised providing hard-copy materials to education stakeholders considered ‘hardest to reach’. Free printed materials for those without internet access is something we still passionately support. But how do we square that with the environmental impact of printing and sending materials around the globe? And how do we afford it now that printing and international postage and courier costs are soaring? But if we don’t maintain hard-copy distribution, how can we reach our important offline audience, because EENET cannot single-handedly fix the digital divide?

We haven’t got all the answers! But here are some steps we have taken:

Localised printing (i.e., funding partners or cost sharing with partners in certain countries to print and distribute copies of Enabling Education Review). The printing is not necessarily cheaper, but we save money on international shipping and reduce our environmental impact. The downside is that this passes an extra workload to the selected partners who must get quotes, supervise the printing process and then distribute the copies. It also means we do intensive distribution in a few countries rather than dispersing copies across many countries.

USB flashdrives. We have distributed hundreds of flashdrives containing our video training packages, all editions of Enabling Education Review, and dozens of other inclusive education guides, training packages and posters. In a tiny package, we can distribute an entire library which the recipient can access without needing the internet. The recipient still needs a computer or tablet, of course. The downside is that flashdrives can be subject to customs duties on arrival, although we try to pre-pay duty wherever the option exists, and flashdrives often get ‘lost’ in the postal system.

You can order an EENET flashdrive through our online shop.

Hand-delivery. We have always ensured that consultants carry as many EENET materials as possible when they visit a project. These days paying for a little excess luggage on a flight can be cheaper than sending a large package by post or courier. If you are based in the UK, visit education projects in other countries, and would like to take some free EENET materials to distribute to your partners/colleagues, please contact us to make arrangements.

Constant reflection and action for change

During our AGM in 2022, we discussed how to continue reducing our carbon footprint, how to question assumptions around international consultants’ travel to projects, and how to push for change. We recognised that change will be incremental, and probably there will be steps forward and back. But the climate crisis and the urgent need to challenge unequal power relations in development and humanitarian work mean EENET will continue to reflect critically on everything we do and will remain committed to having difficult conversations with donors and clients.


Annette Rebentisch and Ingrid Lewis, EENET

May 2023


[Online community] GPE blog series on the importance of school nutrition programmes

The Global Partnership for Education has written a blog series on the role of school meals in improving access to education and learning.  In this series, experts present their views on how school nutrition programs contribute to improve students’ well-being and ability to fulfill their learning potential.

With countries seeking effective solutions to protect and invest in the future of their children, school health and nutrition programs are one of the smartest investments they can make.  Healthy and happy children learn better and are more likely to lead healthy and fulfilling lives, whereas poor nutrition leads to both physical and cognitive developmental delays.

This series of blogs features experts and practitioners’ views about the importance of school meals to improve children’s learning.

Transforming Education Summit: Our call for world leaders

Author: Takyiwa Danso, Sightsavers, September 2022

We’re setting homework for global education leaders to protect the rights of children with disabilities. Here’s why we’re doing it.

World leaders and the international education community convene in New York on 19 September at the Transforming Education Summit (TES). The summit will mobilise political ambition, action and solutions to transform the future of education and accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) – inclusive and equitable education for all children and young people.

In preparation for the summit, over the last few months education ministers have been focusing on the key areas that need attention for transformative change in our education systems: inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools; learning and skills for life, work and sustainable development; teachers and the teaching profession; digital learning; and financing of education.

But while discussions have highlighted the many challenges faced by children and young people around the world, the 240 million children with disabilities are being forgotten. Widening inequalities, global austerity cuts to education budgets, the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change threaten the future of learning for all, but the impacts for children with disabilities are disproportionately higher.

A girl wearing glasses and a face mask sits in a class with other children. She raises her right hand. In front of her on the desk is a raised sloping book stand.

What is the issue?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, children with disabilities were already among the most excluded from learning. Nearly 49% of children with disabilities worldwide were likely to have never attended school, and even if they did, they were usually less likely to progress or receive proper support within the school system. Girls with disabilities often experience double discrimination based on their gender and disability, facing even more barriers to participating fully in society.

We know pandemic-related school closures disrupted lives of millions of children around the world, but for many children with disabilities the impact has been devastating. Schools are integral to the life and wellbeing of all children, as places for learning, personal development, socialising and receiving other vital services including meals and hygiene care. But the sudden shift to remote schooling often left children with disabilities unable to continue learning and cut them from the benefits of the school environment.

Pre-existing digital inequalities have worsened. While more than 90% of countries offered some form of distance learning, at least 31% of children were unable to benefit from this due to limited access to internet and technology, inaccessible tools, or lack of access to tools.

Children with disabilities already faced numerous barriers to learning and by not including them in the pandemic recovery, they risk being left behind for good. The window of time to enact change and get back on track to achieve SDG4 is narrowing.

In the middle, a woman sits on the floor holding a card saying '5'. On the left a girl sits in a wheelchair, On the right a girl sits on the floor also holding a card that says '5'. The wall behind has the alphabet painted on.

What are we calling for at the summit and why?

Until now, there has been a lack of urgency to use the TES to demand more inclusive education systems. Sightsavers and partners are calling for world leaders to act now so that the 240 million children living with disabilities around the world can access their right to a quality, inclusive education.

We want to see world leaders deliver on their promise to ‘leave no one behind’ by ensuring disability inclusion is fully embedded into their national and global education plans. That’s why through our #DoYourHomework campaign we’re setting world leaders six pieces of homework to build an inclusive education system.

  1. Sociology homework: Include children with disabilities in mainstream education and collect data that includes everyone
  2. Economics homework: Invest in inclusive training, so that teachers can respond to diverse learning needs and develop flexible curriculums for all children
  3. Politics homework: Implement policies, plans and budgets to include and support children with disabilities
  4. Computing homework: Tackle the digital divide and ensure digital learning and other education technologies are accessible for all
  5. Maths homework: Allocate sustainable financing for inclusive education so that all children with disabilities can learn
  6. Design homework: Involve people with disabilities in all stages of inclusive education design and make sure their voices are heard

Through our education work, Sightsavers has demonstrated that change is possible and that when education systems are inclusive, children with disabilities can not only access school but can learn among their peers and thrive.

We have tested approaches that embed inclusive education at all levels of the education system including:

Governments must adopt these approaches and embed them in policy. Education transformation means doing things differently. Strong political leadership, sufficient financing, and the implementation of robust institutional frameworks founded on inclusion and equity are required to make quality education a reality for all children.

None of this is possible without the voices of people with disabilities at the helm of decision-making. The TES must ensure the full representation and participation of children and youth with disabilities, their families, and their networks. Their knowledge, expertise and experience are key to creating sustainable change.

Time is running out for us get on track to meet SDG4. Priorities defined at the TES have the potential to change the future of education. We’re looking to world leaders to do their homework to ensure education transformation is truly inclusive, so the 240 million children with disabilities worldwide are not left behind.

You can also find this blog on Sightsavers’ website.

Call fo**Deadline expired** Articles – Enabling Education Review – Issue 11 (Deadline 30 June 2022)

The COVID-19 pandemic turned education upside down during much of 2020 and 2021. Schools have reopened in most places, but our education systems will never be the same again. We all experienced not just disruption and challenges but innovations and achievements that can shape the future of education for the better.

The theme for the 2022 edition of Enabling Education Review will be:

 “Inclusion in the new normal”

The deadline for submitting first drafts of articles is 30 June 2022. Details of suggested topics and how to submit articles are provided below.

Contact with any questions and your submissions.

We want to share your experiences of transitions back into school, what the situation is like in the ‘new normal’, and what we have learned that could help us rebuild education systems better and more inclusively. For example:

  • What has been done to support learners transitioning back into schools?
  • How have approaches to teaching and learning changed because of the pandemic?
  • As a teacher, what did you do to reach and support all your learners when schools reopened? What challenges and opportunities have you experienced? Who has helped you?
  • How have adaptations to the new normal been financed and managed, and by whom?
  • As a parent/caregiver/learner, how have you advocated at the local or national level for approaches to education to be more inclusive after schools re-opened?
  • For learners who were already learning at home before the pandemic, how has their home learning been affected (positively or negatively) by the changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How has the pandemic affected the mental and physical well-being of learners, parents, families, and teachers? What has been done to support them?
  • What lessons have we learned that we could use to improve the design and inclusivity of education systems long term?

Home learning for children with disabilities in a pandemic: an analysis of the EENET home learning survey, 2020

This is the first of a series of posts about the 2021 UKFIET conference. Here, we provide an overview of the research presentation that Su Corcoran, Helen Pinnock and Rachel Twigg delivered as part of a panel on disability.

Background to the project

When schools were closed across the globe in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of learners had to learn at home. Their parents and caregivers became responsible for delivering this education. There was an increase in the number and variety of home learning resources available through online platforms, but less focus was put into supporting learners with disabilities, especially in low-income contexts where access to the internet is limited. In partnership with the Norwegian Association of Disabled, EENET set out to develop easy-to-read resources and guidance to support learners,  their parents and caregivers with home learning.

We wanted to make sure that these materials matched a need. Therefore, we sought to understand what support and materials were already being provided for children’s home learning and the barriers learners faced trying to learn at home.

Two surveys were conducted. Over 1000 parents, teachers and other education system stakeholders from 27 countries completed an online survey. A second telephone survey reached 97 parents in Zambia and Zanzibar who had no access to the internet. In our UKFIET presentation, we explored the findings of both surveys, highlighting the major challenges identified by the respondents.


The respondents raised the following concerns:

  • They mentioned the additional risks faced by children who were already living in poverty. Families who relied on the informal labour market found that their income-generating opportunities decreased as non-essential businesses closed and they struggled to provide for their children.
  • The focus on delivering education using radio, television and/or the internet may have provided quick and easy countrywide coverage. However, learners without access to radios, television or the internet were unable to use this provision.
  • Parents mentioned uncertainty about how they were expected to take responsibility for their children’s learning. They wanted access to useful guidance, especially on adapting home learning materials.
  • Not knowing when schools would reopen caused additional stress and worry for caregivers, indicating a need for mental health support during the crisis.
  • Home learning provision did not always consider learners with disabilities. They were often invisible. For example, television programmes did not feature sign language; some mainstream schools stopped their additional rehabilitation and learning support provision; and school closures in some areas meant that access to medication ceased.

Successful experiences

A number of respondents described home learning support they perceived as successful. Despite the challenges mentioned above, lessons disseminated through television and radio broadcasts reached large numbers of learners in some countries such as Eswatini. Elsewhere, there was a focus on the distribution of hard copy materials that families without access to television, radio, or internet appreciated.

The most innovative use of online platforms came through teachers’ and parents’ use of social media. For example, teachers shared short videos through WhatsApp groups and used the platform to make regular contact with children (and their parents). Parents shared resources and other advice with each other through locally established peer-support WhatsApp groups.

In addition:

  • In Jakarta, Indonesia, a stipend was available to families through the schools, enabling them to access the internet.
  • In England, learners with educational health care plans were allowed to continue attending schools and other education programmes provided by disability centres.
  • In northern Syria, electricity was more reliable at night. Night schools were set up that took advantage of this electrical supply.


The respondents suggested that when schools are closed good home learning for ALL learners requires: safe, healthy homes; local support networks for sharing resources and caring for each other’s children; access to electricity and the internet or to reading materials if this is not possible; input and/or support from educators to either provide home learning lessons or adapt general provision to make them accessible to learners with disabilities or additional needs. There is also a need to repair, strengthen or develop existing educational frameworks to improve on the conditions in which children may be expected to learn at home.

From the survey, we have identified five key recommendations:

  1. Catch-up education, good nutrition and health support, and effective disability rehabilitation should be a focus to prioritise and encourage recovery from widened equity gaps when schools reopen.
  2. Where possible, national human resource development strategies (such as education sector plans and donor support programmes) should prioritise electricity supplies and internet access for schools and wider neighbourhoods.
  3. Teachers, schools and other local agencies providing education programmes need autonomy, access to appropriate (e.g. hard copy) resources and the ability to distribute these through their network to reach more children.
  4. Learners experiencing crisis are under additional pressure. Learning resources should be designed to fit around the patterns of their lives. Parents need guidance to set up learning routines and adapt resources for children with disabilities and additional learning needs. The content of our home learning resources was therefore designed to integrate learning activities into daily routines.
  5. Where possible, plans should be developed to support the mental health of young people and their parents. Such support could be integrated into the process of distributing educational content. It is also important to keep parents up to date on existing plans and possible changes.

More information about the home learning project is available on EENET’s website. Project reports and copies of the home learning resources and guidance can also be found there.


This blog post is based on data analysis conducted by Su Lyn Corcoran, Helen Pinnock and Rachel Twigg. The wider project team involved in developing the data generation, language translation, and project management for the surveys and the creation of the home learning resources includes: Sandrine Bohan-Jacquot, Hasmik Ghukasyan, Cotilda Hamalengwah, Alexander Hauschild, Mustafa Himmati, Said Juma, Moureen Kekirunga, Khairul Farhah, Khairuddin, Polly Kirby, Ingrid Lewis, Oleh Lytvynov , Duncan Little, Emma McKinney, Aubrey Moono, Alick Nyirenda, Ayman Qwaider, Paola Rozo, Hayley Scrase, Anise Waljee, and Jamie Williams.

Call for Articles: Enabling Education Review, Issue 10, 2021

Over the last year we have all found ourselves in an unusual situation. Our theme for the next edition therefore draws on the work being done to support children’s learning as we have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures. It will also look at the broader context of what it means to learn at home.

The theme for the 2021 edition of Enabling Education Review will be:

 “Home learning”

The deadline for submitting first drafts of articles is 31 March 2021. *EXTENSION – new deadline now 30 April 2021*

Details of suggested topics and how to submit articles are provided below.

Contact with any questions.


Why have we chosen this topic?

Many children learned at home before the COVID-19 pandemic for various reasons. For example, they may have been denied access to school, or their parents may have chosen home schooling as their preferred approach. Plus of course most children experience a great deal of informal learning at home, even if they also go to school.

Learning at home has often been seen as separate from mainstream education and not part of the movement towards inclusive education. EENET has always argued that, with the right strategies, approaches and support in place, learning at home can be considered an integral contribution to an inclusive education system.

Over the last year, COVID-19 school closures meant millions of children suddenly had to learn at home, and their teachers and education ministries had to work out how to facilitate that. One of the biggest challenges has been ensuring that learning at home is inclusive of every learner.

In early 2020 EENET, through our partnership with Norwegian Association of Disabled, launched a project to explore home learning and the education experiences of stakeholders during the widespread lockdowns. Using evidence from a survey, we developed a home learning guidance poster and booklet for families. These resources recognise that home education can be extremely stressful for learners and families, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also show that home learning is always relevant, whether or not schools are open, and we can do more to weave effective learning at home into high quality inclusive education systems.

What has been your experience as a teacher, parent, family member, learner, or other stakeholder involved in education? Was home learning a new experience for you during the pandemic, or is it something you have been involved with for a long time? How do you cope with or support learning at home? What works well and what is challenging? What support did or do you receive, or would you like to receive?


What could you write about?

There are many aspects of home learning that you could write about, including but not limited to:

  • What has been done to ensure emergency-response or long-term home learning initiatives promote inclusion and are inclusive for all learners?
  • How are inclusive home learning initiatives financed and managed?
  • As a parent/caregiver/learner – how have you advocated at the local or national level for home learning provision to be more inclusive.
  • As a teacher – what did you do to reach and support all your learners when schools were closed? What problems did you solve to help you reach and support more/all learners? Who helped you?
  • For learners who were already learning at home before the pandemic, how has their home learning been affected (positively or negatively) by the changes in the education system resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How have approaches to learning changed as a result of responsibility for learning shifting heavily onto parents and families for prolonged periods?
  • How does home learning affect the mental and physical well-being of learners, parents, families, and teachers?
  • What lessons have we learned from the COVID-19 home learning experiences that we could use to improve the design and inclusivity of education systems long term?

Enabling Education Review helps people share and learn from each other’s experiences. We therefore welcome articles that offer practical insights, to help others who are looking for ideas that they can adapt and try. We like articles that provide a little background to the context, project or programme, and then explain in more detail the activities that happened (what, where, when, with or by whom, and why). We also like to read about the results, if possible.

For more information on how you can submit an article please download the full call for articles.

Call for Articles (Arabic).

Schools are re-opening – but this is not the end of learning at home

Author: Ingrid Lewis

This is a presentation given at a webinar for GIZ Jordan, July 2020.


What is this presentation about?

Inclusive education is not just about schools. Genuinely inclusive education systems look at a continuum of learning experiences and support, from home and community, to non-formal settings, through to formal education institutions. Often, inclusive education programmes focus narrowly on schools. The Covid-19 crisis reminds us that education is – and has to be – about much more than the formal school system. In this presentation I’ll share some thoughts on how to position home learning in the discussions on rebuilding and improving education systems.

How did we get here?

 When Covid-19 caused schools around the world to close, it was hard to predict the full implications – for learners, their families and communities, and for education systems and countries as a whole. The speed, complexity and rigour of government responses and reach varied massively, even within countries.

In many countries, schools are now re-opening, often in phases, such as exam-year students returning first. Some have decided not to re-open this year. Some are attempting to follow social distancing rules, such as limiting the numbers of children allowed in classrooms, and breaking classes into smaller groups who attend at different times or on different days. Thousands of schools around the world are asking: how can we stay safe with 60+ children per class and no water for handwashing?

Re-opening schools presents multiple challenges:

  • how to help learners ‘catch up’ with months of missed education;
  • how to teach classes of learners who are now probably more academically diverse than ever;
  • how to deal with the ongoing absence of many learners, because of their own or other family members’ health or vulnerability;
  • the inevitable growth in drop-out rates where families need or want their children to work or get married instead of returning to school;
  • the ever-present risk that the pandemic will force schools and society to shut down again.

While it feels wrong to talk about positives in a situation that has been devastating for so many people, I do want us to think about the potential positive inclusion-oriented opportunities that now exist.

Lessons from the home learning experience

EENET believes that to develop an inclusive education system, we need to be reflective and critical – learn from every experience; think how we could do better next time; and listen to colleagues, learners, families and communities.

To rebuild and reform education systems now, we must reflect critically on the experiences of home learning during Covid-19. What can we learn that will help us move forward with a more inclusive, higher quality education system?

There are various clear messages emerging from this experience – I’m focusing on just a few that feel particularly relevant to inclusive education.

  1. Persistent interpretations (mis-interpretations) of what education is undermine inclusivity.

The crisis highlighted in many places the obsession with seeing education only as a highly academic, exam-driven process.

EENET’s rapid global survey revealed that parents, caregivers and family members in diverse countries felt under immense pressure to maintain high standards of academic learning at home. Sometimes this pressure came from the government, schools and teachers who provided complex instructions for how parents could – overnight – become multi-subject, multi-grade teachers. Sometimes the pressure came from friends, neighbours or from parents themselves – like it was a competition to see whose child would be furthest ahead when schools re-opened.

Such pressure probably emerged because a pressurised academic system is all that most people have ever experienced in their life – so they had nothing else to use as a template for planning learning at home.

  1. Equality in learning is not just about equal access to school.

Many families and learners have been overwhelmed by the quantity of online learning materials available, and many more have been demoralised by having no access to any such materials. Families have felt despair because they could not offer the time, support, or materials they wanted for their children whilst learning at home. Such inequality of learning opportunities and support of course happened all the time before the crisis, but this really hit the spotlight when schools closed.

  1. Education systems do not provide what learners really need in order to participate and learn.

Many crisis responses – from government and non-government sources – focused on advising parents how to teach every topic in the curriculum, how to make a timetable covering every subject, how to motivate children to learn all day. Worryingly there was even a growing discourse on how parents could assess and grade their children’s work. This followed the established school-based exam-oriented formula, but arguably was not what most learners (or their families) actually needed during this crisis.

By contrast, we were encouraged by examples of innovations from some teachers, families and learners who rejected high-pressure academic expectations and chose to ‘go with the flow’ – throwing away timetables and curricula and responding flexibly and spontaneously to what was happening in the home and to how families and children were feeling each day. This is the kind of flexibility that characterises inclusive education; the kind of flexibility that the formal education system in many contexts did not offer during this crisis.

  1. To build an inclusive education system we must acknowledge that the system is the problem, not the child.

This is a key concept in inclusive education. It is not the child’s fault they struggle to learn, but the teacher’s responsibility to teach better or the curriculum developer’s responsibility to create a more accessible and flexible curriculum, and so on. Throughout the crisis a lot of discussion has focused on how education systems can help children – especially the most marginalised – ‘stay on track’ with the expected learning programme at home, or get ‘back on track’ when schools re-open. This discourse seems rooted in ‘child-as-problem’ thinking – based on an assumption that the system will be the same when schools re-open and the child will have to do something special to keep up or catch up.

In developing our own response, EENET (through its partnership with Norwegian Association of Disabled) chose to offer families simple accessible materials that prioritise family and learner mental wellbeing whilst highlighting accessible learning opportunities available in day-to-day life. Our message was “everything you are already doing at home can be a relaxed and fun learning opportunity. Use what you have in the home and community, use what feels comfortable right now, use what interests you. Value real-life learning and skills-building not just information retention.”

Building inclusive education systems that value the home learning experience

Of course EENET’s response was not unique. Around the world many individuals and groups have promoted similar responses. But the big question is, to what extent will education systems endorse such messages? Will they value the real-life lessons children have learned during lockdown? Will they recognise the importance of the social, physical, intellectual, communication and emotional skills that learners have developed through their home learning experiences, if such skills and competencies are not measured through the existing exam system? When schools re-open, will education systems want ‘business as usual’ as fast as possible, or will they embrace change and do what the learners really need?

If education systems stick rigidly to pre-crisis ways of organising, facilitating and examining learning, they will build a barrier to millions of children who did not – and had no possible chance to – ‘keep up’ during school closures, or who cannot now return to school as quickly or regularly as their peers, due to health or other reasons.

‘Building back better’ after Covid-19 has to involve developing an education system that values a much wider interpretation of what learning, competency and skills development is about, and that responds to the individual child’s needs instead of expecting the child to keep up, catch up, or adapt in some other way.

Education systems have to recognise the learning that happened in homes and acknowledge that what families achieved has real value and contributes positively to children’s education and futures. As schools re-open, millions of parents and caregivers feel nervous about what is going to happen to their children. They don’t just fear for their children’s safety at school, they are scared that their children will now fail and that everything they as parents tried to do during lockdown will be considered wrong or inadequate by teachers and officials.

The best way now to say “actually we do value your home learning experiences” would be to work on properly embedding learning at home into the education system. By this I certainly do not mean we should dump more work and responsibility on parents or exclude more learners from school!! I simply mean we need to focus on the idea that an inclusive education system is a continuum of learning – from birth and home, through community-based informal learning opportunities, through to more structured non-formal learning and formal school-based learning.

Given that for months learning was a home and community-based process, we now need to ask how schools and the curriculum can more effectively connect with the community and learners’ home lives.

Why bother?

Why should we radically redesign the education system when we could just treat the home learning period as an unfortunate blip in history and return to normal as fast as possible?

For a start, the crisis is not over yet. Schools are not all open full time, for all year groups, and in some places the need for social distancing and quarantine will keep many children out of school for months to come. Home learning is not history yet.

Sometimes big changes only happen after a crisis. A crisis gives us an opportunity that socially, economically or politically might not have been possible before.

But home learning is not just something that is necessary as a crisis response. At all ages, children learn huge amounts at home and in the family and community. Some children rely more than others on opportunities to learn at home, such as children with disabilities, chronic health conditions, behavioural challenges, mental ill-health, children living in poverty or remote places, etc – all of whom may start school late or be unable to attend as much as their peers. If we had a system that valued learning at home – and invested in supporting home and community-based learning opportunities – imagine how many more children could benefit from education. I do not mean as an alternative to attending mainstream schools, but as an extra option on a continuum of flexible learning opportunities.

Crises like Covid-19 are predicted to become more frequent. We owe it to future generations to become better prepared. If we have education systems that value home and community-based learning, focused on real-life relevant skills development and not just school-based, academic knowledge retention, then future crises like this will be less of a shock. We’ll have mechanisms in place that can more easily be scaled up; teachers will already be used to supporting formal and informal learning in and beyond the classroom; families will be more familiar with supporting learning at home, and they’ll feel more confident that whatever support they can give is valuable to their children’s futures.

Inclusive education has never been a simple checklist of school-based actions. It’s never been as simple as building ramps in schools, providing Braille books and hearing aids, and sending teachers on a few training courses (although sadly many programmes have operated on that basis!). Inclusive education has always been about innovation, finding different ways to approach teaching and learning so that everyone joins in and benefits. The home learning experience has handed us a wealth of potential ideas to feed inclusive education innovations

How many countries will take the opportunity to learn and change, and how many will simply fall back into the old routine as quickly as possible – oblivious to the fact that ‘business as usual’ is now excluding more leaners than ever?