By the end of 2018, over 70 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a direct result of persecution, conflict, violence, as well as human rights violations. This represents an increase of 2.3 million from the previous year. The world counts over 25 million refugees, 41 million internally displaced people, and 3.5 million asylum-seekers.
As of 2018, conflict has become a negative characteristic of the contemporary Middle East, forcing millions of individuals and families to flee their homes. Of the 70 million displaced people worldwide, close to 40% originate from the Arab region, mainly Syria and Palestine.
Education: a fundamental human right to ensure in times of emergencies
The right to education is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed through numerous international conventions and agreements, such as, but not limited to, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Under the Global Campaign for Education's Global Action Week overarching theme: "Making the right to an inclusive, equitable, quality, free public education a reality", the Arab Campaign for Education for All (ACEA) member organizations coordinated events in more than 10 countries around the Arab Region.
In addition, recognizing the importance of ensuring education in emergencies, ACEA trained its members in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq using conflict-sensitive education as a life-saving response and the INEE (Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies) standards. ACEA members are now familiar with INEE standards' key elements and how to apply them. It is both necessary and important to understand the interaction between conflict and each INEE Minimum Standards domain, especially education policy and its interaction with coalitions' work.
In Yemen, progress through community mobilization but dire needs remain
In Yemen, effective coordination and collaboration efforts between the UN Office, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Higher Education, and the Yemeni Coalition for Education for All (YCEA) has led to the provision and access to schools and universities for refugees. Building on these achievements, the Yemeni coalition expanded the scope of its activities in order to involve all concerned people through a huge community mobilization that included parents, teacher unions, civil organizations, political parties, the Ministry of Education, international organizations, and media.
While significant steps have been taken by education stakeholders in the region, many problems still ensue. For example, in Yemen 97% of refugees are from Somalia and other surrounding African countries and there are more than 4 million displaced people in Yemen striving to access their right to education. Education is a critical tool to rebuilding society as a whole and refugees worldwide look forward to returning back to a normal life.
The Yemeni Coalition for Education for All (YCEA) has secured protection of the education process through agreements with the political parties and confronting factions in Yemen since after the war started in March 2014 until now. Furthermore, a strong position paper addressing the education crisis in Yemen was published by YCEA, ACEA, and GCE under the title “Education Needs Immediate and Collaborative Support to Prevent One Whole Generation Missing Out on Education”.
Government must invest in education during and after emergencies
Key learning elements are clear for ACEA members working in education in emergencies. The most important issue in emergencies is access to quality education. In addition, citizenship education, human rights values, life skills and self-assertion are very important to the children living in emergency settings. Basic, primary education and literacy are essential for children. Finally, no discrimination based on religion, sex, race or disability should be ensured in free, compulsory primary education.
We know that the greatest challenge in asylum and emergency situations is how to maintain mandatory and free education despite lack of financial and human resources. Therefore, special national policies should be adopted to deal with education under emergencies such as:
- allocation of fixed budgets for education in emergency;
- development and design of educational programs that respond to education under emergencies;
- taking into consideration the psychological and social counselling needs;
- a focus on human rights and citizenship values;
- development of a special curriculum, unbiased and focused on basic skills and knowledge;
- a focus on the use of technology and mobile applications (see the successful experience in Afghanistan);
- and hiring of qualified staff who are flexible and experienced.
Given these circumstances, the key policy challenge is to ensure that refugees and displaced people have acquired the skills needed to escape the cycle of poverty. We have to put education under the lens of conflict-sensitive education to identify new situations in current education systems.
We call on governments to invest in education systems to be more responsive to conflict and emergencies so that they maximize human resources, equip people with updated skills, protect children in emergencies and preserve their right to education; and to be more flexible so they guarantee social cohesion, inclusion, and wellbeing for all.
For more information, please contact:
- Refat Sabbah, General Secretary, Arab Campaign for Education for All- ACEA
- Fotouh Younes, Advocacy Coordinator, Arab Campaign for Education for All- ACEA