For over 40 years, Colombia has been a nation not only in the throes of conflict, but a country consistently hit by natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, severe flooding and volcanic eruptions. Subjected to this vast spectrum of emergencies the country’s infrastructure has deteriorated, allowing for an illicit drug trade to flourish, endemic violence to spread, and vast social inequities to persist. Across the country young people, parents, teachers, government and non-governmental organizations have consistently pointed to education as a long-term approach to help mitigate the violence and better prepare society to cope with natural disasters.
At the ringing of the bell, staff, students and their parents at the San Jose Elementary School know exactly what to do. They have practiced this drill before and know that in this disaster-prone corner of the Philippines, it is an exercise that could one day save lives. For behind this school, shrouded in mist and steam, is the Mount Mayon volcano – a permanent reminder of potential danger.
Supported by UNICEF, the local non-governmental organization TABI organizes a number of initiatives in schools in Albay province. The focus of TABI’s work with the local community is self-reliance, knowing that in times of emergency they may only have each other for support.
These programmes and investments in education have proved their worth in building resilience in the community and shaping a new generation of leaders for a more sustainable future.
The rhythmic chant of lessons can be heard from children of varying ages at these newly-re-established schools in a remote part of Eastern Sri Lanka.
Children are struggling with the basics of reading and writing because their education has been disrupted by the ongoing conflict in the region, where fighting has raged for 25 years. Destruction is everywhere, worsened by the havoc wreaked by the tsunami five years ago, affecting children in numerous ways.
But education is invaluable in the children's recovery from the war. Utilizing child-friendly school principles, teachers help care for the children's health and emotional well-being in addition to teaching lessons. This provides each child with a new opportunity to learn and grow.
Six years after its brutal civil war drew to a close, Liberia is struggling to pick up the pieces. Ghostly shells overlook the capital Monrovia, an ever-present reminder of nearly 14 years of conflict that saw the almost total collapse of infrastructure. The country’s youth were worst affected, many were killed, many were orphaned and many were recruited as child soldiers, losing childhood forever.
The education system, too, collapsed as various rebel groups swept through the country often targeting schools for recruits. Almost every child in every classroom has missed out on years of learning and now they’re desperately trying to catch up. Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is well aware of the importance of education and is trying to undo the years of neglect. Her government has introduced free primary education for all and has tasked the Ministry of Education with providing it. Since then, in the last 3 years student enrollment has increased by almost 50 per cent.
But implementing free universal primary education in Liberia comes with its own challenges. While Liberia is on the right track, it will require huge amounts of time, effort and investment. And it is only through education that the youth of Liberia will be able to lift themselves out of their poverty to rebuild their country.
Many schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina still reflect the ethnic tensions that triggered the 43-month siege of Sarajevo in the mid-1990s. During that time, schools were destroyed and classes were held in basements and shelters. Today, some Bosnian schools house ‘two schools under one roof,’ with separate curricula for different ethnic groups.
Džemaludin Cauševic Primary School is exceptional as a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural institution open to all students.The school, which was rebuilt with support from UNICEF, its partners and the Danish Government after the war in the region ended, has adopted a new model of inclusive child-centred education known as child-friendly schools. The school also made a special effort to reach out to Roma families who often miss out on education opportunities in the region. The school that brings children of all origins together, giving them equal opportunity to learn and thrive is helping to rebuild and reconcile a divided society.