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Education in Emergencies

The Questions We Need Answered

By Rachel Nunn, Head of International Engagement

Last year, I spent a week on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu.

Much of the island was wiped out in the cyclone which had come through Tanna a year earlier. School buildings had been destroyed and children were out of formal schooling. Teachers were unable to take classes because they had to rebuild their own homes, or relocate to other islands where it was safer.

A family prepares food outside their ruined home. Photo credit: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/sites/sbs.com.au.news/files/styles/full/public/tanna_aap_3.jpg?itok=7fIpYaX1

Teaching materials like computers and textbooks were already scarce on the island, but had been destroyed in the heavy rains, winds and landslides. Roads were also already in poor condition, but the usual access routes to public spaces had been all but destroyed, leaving people confined to their homes, or what was left of them.

UNICEF was one of the first respondents to the emergency, and had built tents out of canvas and tarpaulins as makeshift classrooms. Over a year on, the schools had still not been rebuilt and the tents which were intended to be temporary were still being used.

I visited the tents and whilst teachers and students were doing all they could to make the best of them, the tents were uninspiring and lacked the basic teaching materials that were needed. They were not the kind of environment students enjoyed being in. School fees on the island had gone up to cover some of the costs of the damage too, so many families were struggling to send all of their children to school.

How could better, more inspiring classrooms have been built quickly, with materials that could be found on the island or could have been brought in easily?

How could teachers have been supported to teach their students with limited resources, whilst also rebuilding their homes and managing other demands?

How could students be taught at night time, without electricity grids in operation, in order to allow families to be together rebuilding homes during the day?

How could we have ensured that over a year on, schooling had completely resumed and students were receiving high quality and affordable education?

These are the sort of questions we need answered, urgently.

Right now, 75 million children and young adults are out of school because of conflict and crises.

Oaktree is partnering with InnovationXchange (a sub branch of DFAT) to run the Education In Emergencies challenge - which invites young people to pitch their own solution.

Find everything you need to enter the Education In Emergencies Challenge here.