NAIROBI/ HONG KONG, 9 September 2011 － As a new academic term began this week in countries affected by the on-going drought in the Horn of Africa, UNICEF is accelerating efforts to help children fully benefit from education.
“In addition to providing children with a basic education, schools and children’s centres also play an important role to deliver life-saving messages on nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, and health education- all of which are essential in the Horn of Africa today,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Elhadj As Sy.“In camps for refugees and displaced persons especially, schools become accessible to girls and other vulnerable children who may have never stepped inside a classroom before.”
“In affected communities, places of learning also ensure access to clean water, sanitation, and feeding programmes and provide a safe space for children to protect them from violence and exploitative practices.” added Mr. Sy.
These are the opportunities that we must maximise as we continue our focus on health, nutrition and other urgent priorities.Already ahead of the new term, UNICEF has provided key support to the education system in the countries affected by the crisis:
Continuation of education against drought
– In Kenya, many schools remained open during the vacation period in drought-affected areas, enabling some 1.2 million children to access feeding programmes. 155 schools in Somalia, reaching 37,000 internally displaced children, were also supported by UNICEF to remain open over the school break.
– In Somalia, since the start of this year UNICEF has been supporting schools for internally displaced children and those from host communities and in their places of origin for some 120,000 children. That support will expand in coming months to meet the needs of over 300,000 children.
Setting up Child-friendly spaces and learning spaces
– UNICEF’s education partners in Somalia are establishing more than 210 child-friendly spaces reaching up to 15,000 children, with water and sanitation facilities and psychosocial support provided and food vouchers distributed to children. In collaboration with child protection partners, a total of 350 child friendly spaces for 30,000 children will be up and running by 15 September.
– In Ethiopia, UNICEF and its partners have provided temporary child friendly learning spaces and education materials and supplies for some 8,000 girls and boys, as well as supporting the construction of four primary schools in the Dollo Ado refugee camps and two in host communities. Some 140 teachers have been assisted with training, including 120 from amongst the refugee population, including a focus on peace education and psychosocial support for students.
Increased provision of school supplies
– In Kenya, UNICEF and its partners havebeen providing equipment and supplies including beds, mattresses, classroom materials and recreation kits for over 60,000 children to date, in schools and early-learning centres that have enrolled large displaced populations.
– In the Dadaab refugee camps in north-eastern Kenya, UNICEF has been supporting accelerated education classes for children to prepare for the new school term and is providing school tents and materials to help meet the expected increased demand for classes.
The current drought in the Horn of Africa has posed significant challenges to education services in all affected countries.In central and south Somalia, an estimated 1.8 million children are out of school because of internal displacement and insecurity, while in drought-affected areas of Kenya, where many refugees have sought aid, communities are under pressure to accommodate new students – more than one in four schools in these areas are struggling to absorb the increased number of students now seeking education.