Education in Emergencies in anticipatory action and the first emergency response

“We want to encourage people to understand how these issues are compounding – they can either be compounding challenges, or compounding benefits. It’s a question of how we choose to invest, and choosing the right investments to yield a much higher return.”Lisa Bender, Senior Consultant on Preparedness, IASC Global Education Cluster

Anticipatory action (AA) – encompassing a set of planned and pre-financed measures taken when a disaster is imminent, prior to a shock or before acute impacts are felt – represents a significant opportunity to put in practice the humanitarian-development nexus. It ensures development investments are protected and can respond to shocks.

Far from being a new endeavor or sector, AA is an integral component of disaster risk management, adaptation, and resilience. Thus, one of the core elements of anticipatory action must be, without a doubt, education. Considering education as a key component of AA would greatly benefit the provision of basic needs and the path to recovery, as well as providing life-saving educational services.

A panel of speakers from World Vision International, UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), the Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector (GADRRRES) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) shared their expertise at an event hosted by the Geneva Global Hub for EiE as part of the 2022 Humanitarian Networks Partnerships Week. The topic was introduced by Frederique Lehoux of the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN. She spoke about the need to leverage early action and EiE, emphasizing the role of children themselves as agents of change in anticipatory action, and addressed the lack of familiarity among many in the humanitarian field with the opportunities to do so: “As a community, we have a long way to go to unlock the potential of anticipatory action for education. We must make further investment in this area, and we hope that this session is a modest but important contribution to this end.”

A strong theme running through the interventions was the need to support systems which brought local engagement and ownership into the decision-making around preparedness.

“In World Vision, so far, we have seen anticipatory action work spring up organically from our programmes, rather than being pushed from global level,” said Marco Grazia, Global Director, Child Protection & Education in Emergencies at World Vision International. “We have looked at it not from a sectoral perspective, but from an intersectoral perspective – determining how we can provide education, in concert with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), and with Child Protection interventions.”

His colleague Mesfin Jonfa, from World Vision Ethiopia, described an initiative to mitigate the humanitarian impact of prolonged drought on school attendance, heading off potential dropouts in the face of this situation through cash transfers, integrated with child protection, teacher training, and water and sanitation. “This involved establishing an action plan, with prearranged financing and assessment of the most efficient, effective interventions,” he said. “But even if your EiE team has a great preparedness plan, you also need to ensure awareness and engagement at the local level so that it is well implemented.”

“Coordinating across all levels, within ministries and between ministries, is key,” said Leonora Mac Ewen, Programme Specialist, UNESCO IIEP. “Standard Operating Procedures must clarify roles and responsibilities from the national level all the way down to school level – avoiding gaps and duplication.”

Lisa Chung Bender, Sr. Consultant on Preparedness, IASC Global Education Cluster & Former GADRRRES Chair in the Education Sector, agreed and explained that those considerations were at the core of the Comprehensive School Safety Framework (CSSF). “The CSSF is framed around duty bearers – identifying those on the ground, who’s in charge of what,” she said. “But that means ensuring we are doing what’s needed to strengthen capacities among all of those duty bearers – teachers, parents, the children themselves. It’s pushed all of us beyond our comfort zone, to look at how education is being affected by different hazards and challenges, and how we need to address them.”

“The time it takes to engage communities – if we make sure it is done in an inclusive way, and that we meaningfully seek their input –really does bring added value,” said Audrey Oettli, Coordinator, Child Protection in Emergencies, IFRC. “It ensures that we are meeting needs identified by the community, and that there is ownership – especially from children and youth.”

Amjad Saleem, Manager of Inclusion, Protection and Engagement at IFRC, who moderated the discussion, closed by summarising the three-way relationship between data and evidence, political leadership, and cross-sector coordination. “We need good data and evidence that will help us to make our case, and to get political engagement and funding – which, again, will be influenced by better data and evidence, which in turn comes from better coordination, since we cannot afford to keep information locked up in siloes.”