“The [humanitarian] emergency can provide an opportunity for new learning”

TAP spoke to Education Officer and Coordinator of the Education in Emergencies Working Group Nigeria Dr. Judith Giwa-Amu, who facilitates coordination among several humanitarian organizations and federal government towards improved access to education for displaced children in the northeast. This is part of a three-part series on children and education in the northeast. In this interview, Dr. Giwa-Amu shares with us key details about education sector humanitarian response through which conflict-affected children are educated, teachers are being trained, and coordination is happening among all key actors. She also tells us how education of girls is being attended to, and tells us of what is happening in terms of education to Nigerian children who had managed to flee to camps in neighboring countries. She shares her hopes for increasing school enrollment and how larger organizations can bolster support for smaller ones to further improve on delivery of education of this vulnerable population of children in the region.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation, and the full audio of the conversation is in the Soundcloud link below.

Thank you very much for agreeing to speak with us. What is your name and what you do?

My name is Dr Judith Giwa-Amu. I am an Education Officer with UNICEF, and I support education in emergency coordination for the sector.

Thank you so much for making yourself available for this interview. World Refugee Day is on 20th June, so I wanted to post something for marking that on children in IDP camps and the state of education for these children. There was a UN World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, and I know it produced the inter-agency network for education in emergency for preparedness, response and recovery(pdf) in 2004. Is that the framework you are working from?

It is, indeed this framework, INEE minimum standards for education in emergency that provides guidance in the way humanitarian response in undertaken in the education sector, one of the 11 sectors under which humanitarian response is undertaken globally. Apart from Education, other sectors include  Water, Sanitation and hygiene (WASH), Health, Nutrition, Protection sectors and so on. All these sectors are guided by global and national legal documents and minimum standards.

Can you talk a little bit about what the recommendation of this framework?

The framework has five domains and 19 standards.

The Foundational Domain which should be applied across all the remaining 4 domains focuses on coordination, analysis of the situation and community participation. The next domain is focusing on access to learning and the learning environment/conditions. This domain strives to look at what the condition of learning is towards the achievement of our primary objective which is the immediate resumption of schooling in a safe and secure learning environment. It pertains to the environment and access-related issues, as well as issues that will support the children to come to school.

The third domain focuses on teachers and teaching personnel. This concerns creating the conditions that will encourage teachers to give their best. It includes professional development, incentives and education quality. Students can only get what the teacher can give, so the teachers need to have the capacity and skills to give their best.

The fourth domain is concerned with teaching and learning and the curriculum being used. Children who have experienced trauma are not supported to cope using the regular curriculum being applied to children who have not experienced trauma found in regular schools. Teaching and learning materials to support the learning process are addressed under this domain. There exists an adapted education emergencies curriculum for use in the non-formal education sector which has been in use for more than 2 years now. Currently the Working Group is working towards the development of a formal education emergencies curriculum for use in the formal education sector similar to that found in other countries of the world affected by emergencies. This curriculum will address issues of trauma, advance peace building and conflict resolution while building build life skills in conflict-affected learners towards making them more resilient to possible future emergencies.

The fifth domain focuses on the education policy. The need for the policy to support teachers in emergencies is key. For instance, a teacher will be unwilling to risk his/her life while on duty when s/he is not sure s/he will be celebrated in death or that her children’s welfare will be taken care of in case of her demise. Finally, there is also a need for the policy to capture the need for all schools to have a functional school disaster management system or school emergency preparedness and response in areas vulnerable to conflict. Teachers are the focus of training for psycho-social support delivery at school levels because they are in close and constant contact with the children. If they are well-trained, they can identify children who have been severely traumatized and therefore must be given referrals to the experts trained to deal with such trauma levels outside the school system.

The Emergency Working Group is composed of humanitarian actors that work in the two education sectors. In the non-formal sector of education, social emotional learning (SEL) is being advanced to support healing for the trauma –affected learners while in the formal setting, teachers are trained to provide pycho-social support (PSS). .

Could you describe more what you mean by formal and non-formal education?

Formal education is the basic education provided by the Ministries of Education and State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEB), with a curriculum guided by the basic education scheme. We also have the secondary education curriculum. The non-formal education, through its curriculum, focuses on basic literacy, numeracy, life skills, and social and emotional skills and is delivered with the support of State Agencies for Mass Literacy and Adult Education (SAME). The latter currently has a curriculum that has been adapted by USAID-ECR project  (pdf) for conflict situations into which Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has been incorporated. Basically, what they have done is develop a nine-month program through which trained facilitators educate children guided by the adapted curriculum. At the end of the 9 months the children are assessed to ascertain readiness for mainstreaming into formal education. Currently ongoing is the fourth phase of capacity building for 7,100 teachers in Borno State. 78% of these teachers are in Maiduguri Metropolitan Council, Jere, Konduga and Kaga LGAs of Borno state. In 2016, we trained 1,364 (Non-formal education) facilitators and teachers in schools to deliver social emotional learning (SEL)/PSS to learners in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa  and Gombe states.

What was the situation before the conflict? It is hard to say pre-conflict, because the situation has mutated so much in the past five years, but can you give us a sense of what the situation was with school enrollment in previous years before the conflict got to this level?

Prior to 2012, there were about 52% of children in the northeast who have never even attended school. The 2017 humanitarian response plan which is currently being utilized has prioritized the three most affected states, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States for response. For Adamawa, we have 70% of children who have never attended schools, in Borno 74.8% and then in Yobe it is 73%. We also have high dropout rates in these states in terms of primary attendance of schools, as low as 17% with a breakdown of about 15% of girls and 17% of boys across the state.

The other side of it is that every emergency provides an opportunity for new learning. For instance, the experience we have had is that a lot of these children who had never been to come into the IDP camps get engaged through educational programs and actually throw themselves into it. Some of these children express unwillingness to return to their communities for fear of losing their newly found interest as they demonstrate their yearning for an education.

Do you think that by improving access to education for displaced children, we can make a broader case for education among populations where dropout rates are as high as they were pre-conflict in these three states?

What we are noticing is that there’s a need for alternative forms of learning. For example, for some of the camps, as much as we worked with partners to establish schooling to IDP camp schools, we still observed that a good percentage (about 30%) of the children prefer not to attend formal education, maybe for religious or cultural reasons. So we know that there is going to be a need to introduce alternative forms of learning. Yes, for some children and parents there is a preference for formal education. But you can imagine a 17-year-old child who has never been exposed to education, you may not want to take such a child to Primary One, and that’s where non-formal education provides a strong inroad.

How are we including gender here? Have they been any challenges in getting parents and guardian to allow their young girls to be in school in this non-formal education?

With education in humanitarian emergency response, we have had to selectively target girls, because with abductions some parents went as far as withdrawing their girl children from school. incentives including  school uniforms and classroom supplies and other efforts to encourage the mainstreaming of gender. Getting school teachers that are female and addressing access to clean water and good sanitary standards to make sure that girls have access to toilet and latrines as much as possible will encourage them to continue schooling through the month so that they are not absent from school one week every month [for menstruation]. We know that many families will rather the boys go to school, for protection. So it was important to create incentives so that parents will allow their girls attend.

There are a lot of young girls who are in the camp. It feels too much to ask that sex education be provided, considering the religious and cultural backdrop against which it would be happening, but is there some version of that happening as part of life skills?

In terms of life skills, I know it is captured in the formal education sector with emphasis on prevention of HIV/AIDS in the basic education curriculum taught in regular schools. However in the IDP camps, this is not addressed under the education sector. The sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) protection sub-sector has highlighted key issues. In terms of protection, however, issues have come up with regards the girls being properly protected from sexual-based violence, however in terms of birth control, I am not so sure that this will be possible because it is beyond the Education sector’s response mandate.

Has the conflict in the northeast and its attendant impact on school enrollment also dented school enrollment elsewhere in the north?

In neighboring states like Taraba, Bauchi and Gombe, there was an influx of displaced people in their local government areas. This meant you have host community children who were not directly by the conflict but could not access education because their classrooms were being utilized as shelter for displaced people. In other states like Kano, for example, we have an ongoing campaign to encourage school enrollment. According to a 2012 UNESCO report, at least 60% of out-of-school children are in the north, and this was before the conflict-related emergencies and now we do have some parents not sending their children to school because of fear. Once parents do not feel the schools are secure, they are not going to feel confident sending their children to school.

Also, while conducting our assessments, we observed a lack of availability of teachers. Parents will not send their children to school where there are no teachers, and teachers are absent for so many reasons, including: poor remunerations which are not being not paid on time; their feeling of insecurity having also fled because of the conflict. We talk about IDP children, but we sometimes forget that teachers are survivors, too. They too have families that have been affected and this has resulted in poor mental state of mind that prevent them from being able to deliver education as they should.

What does a school curriculum that addresses trauma look like?

Teachers are trained in a four- or five-day program wherein they learn to incorporate components of what we call healing classrooms. Children are taken through programs that focus on their psycho-social state of mind and include use of art and other strategies geared to make them feel relaxed, more expressive. For example, you have children sitting in a circle and you bring up a conversation of a time you weren’t feeling too good and some children may not want to talk, but when they see other children talking they feel comfortable to express themselves and begin to heal gradually. Teachers are also trained on how to address that child who have been mildly traumatized and become able to engage this child with creative activities that are tailored to draw him out. There are about 3-5% of the children in these classrooms who will need to be benefit from referral systems available in selected primary health care centers where specialists are available to provide special trauma healing support. There is a program for children of the 1-3 and 4-6 age group. This training for the teachers lasts for 5 days it is quite intensive, comprehensive and is tailored to ensure that children are carried along and are able to benefit from it.

I am curious to see and know what government role is at state and federal level. I know government have the PCNI at the federal level that they have put in place, state ministry of health and education at state level and international donors like the UNICEF and so on. What is everybody’s role in this?

From the Office of the Vice President, the humanitarian coordination working group (HCWG) that was established is led by Dr. Ayoade Alakija and is composed of membership of government and humanitarian actors working together towards a unified goal of achieving the needed humanitarian response in all sectors through cohesive coordination. Under the HCWG, the Federal Ministry of Education has worked with the education sector working group to develop a harmonized sector plan characterized by components that the humanitarian and government agencies are responsible to respond to. In the humanitarian arena, we are guided by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA) and a humanitarian response plan, which is developed after an assessment has been undertaken to identify critical needs of each sector.

There is a synergy with what happens at the state and national level. The national level is more involved in policy-making, but humanitarian response is at the state level, and members of the Education Working Group have links to the government network. For instance, UNICEF does not own any program. The program is owned by the Nigerian government, but they get support from UNICEF. Universal Basic Education Commission and State Universal Basic Education Boards are also very active in the working group and they constitute national level humanitarian actors at the state level. They play a major role in the implementation of education sector humanitarian response.

Can you rate the level of coordination between the state and federal government and donor organizations that actually ends up happening between a 1-5 (5 being the highest and 1, the lowest). I mean coordination between federal and state level humanitarian actors at the state level to make everything we have been talking about happen.

I will say 3, because sometimes people do choose to work in silos. Sometimes there are constraints to working in tandem. You have organizations that are guided by their donors’ terms and conditions, which may not work for the priorities of the work that needs to be done. Sometimes you have organizations that are committed, but cannot do as much as they would like to for lack of funds. Attracting donor funding is often a problem of fulfilling technical requirements, there is a need for bigger organizations to help mentor smaller ones.

Another challenge is funding from donor organizations for the sector itself. The education sector has not been well-funded in the humanitarian response in terms of capacity development for education emergency partners to be able to participate in key activities captured under the humanitarian plan for 2017. By September 2017, we will commence humanitarian response planning through the 2018 humanitarian programme cycle starting with another round of needs assessment, humanitarian needs overview and humanitarian response plan documents development, while the 2017 HRP has not been well executed due to lack of funding. Donors are looking for big organizations with great capacity and are not willing to give smaller organizations a try. This has remained a major challenge experienced by the sector.

Why hasn’t the linking non-formal and formal systems that we spoke about at the beginning happened yet?

The linking of both sector have actually happened in some areas. You will recall that I had mentioned the mainstreaming of the learners who had completed the 9-month non-formal education into the formal sector through working with SUBEB. Towards the efficient mainstreaming of these children, teachers from the schools are trained to continue to provide trauma support while children are provided with learning materials to support their full integration. A 4-phased capacity building of 7,100 teachers in 6 LGAs of Borno in teaching methodology, classroom management and social emotional learning has been conducted by humanitarian actors from the non-formal education sector. In addition, the adaptation of the non-formal curriculum to provide for education in emergencies has proven to be a best practice which will serve as a guiding document in course to the development of the proposed formal education emergencies curriculum. The linking of the 2 sectors is happening and with the strong coordination among the education in emergencies working group formal and non-formal sector partners, it is anticipated that this linking will advance further.

There was a time – I am not sure the level at which it is still happening – where people were fleeing to neighboring countries. Do children in camps in neighboring countries also get access to education as well?

The children are receiving adequate instruction in camps in Cameroon; it is our side that lacks adequate instruction delivery and partners to support the needed educational services. We have had cases such as in the Fufore transit camp at Yola and the Mubi transit camp at Mubi North LGAs where educational services are not provided for children for several weeks and months. I know that education has been provided to the level of WAEC for children in the Cameroonian sites. The problem we face in the Nigeria site is that sometimes we are not able to reach out to many children for many reasons. In some return areas civilian teachers are often unwilling to provide instruction to children due to fear of insecurity, so we also have the Nigerian Military Education Corps supporting the bridging of education supply gap as a result in addition to the provision of educational materials. This would not be required if the civilian teachers were available to provide education as is their mandate.


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