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Helping Children Learn in Emergencies: Insights from Three FCDO Programmes in Nigeria

Helping Children Learn in Emergencies: Insights from Three FCDO Programmes in Nigeria
Helping Children Learn in Emergencies: Insights from Three FCDO Programmes in Nigeria

Education challenges are often compounded during emergencies; we share experiences of, and lessons for, navigating these challenges.

This blog aims to equip funders, implementers, and practitioners with the adaptive strategies needed to effectively navigate swiftly evolving landscapes, based on the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) work in conflict-affected states of Nigeria over the past decade.

Conflict, insecurity and North-East Nigeria’s educational crisis

North-East Nigeria is experiencing an educational crisis with alarming numbers of out-of-school children or children at risk of dropping out of school.  Even among those attending school, learning outcomes fall far below-desired levels. Particularly troubling is the disproportionate impact on girls, whose access to education is hindered by complex socioeconomic, cultural, and religious dynamics prevalent in the region.

Ongoing conflict and insecurity in the region since 2009 has been a significant contributing factor to this crisis, exacerbating existing challenges and creating additional barriers to learning. Recognising the urgency of the situation, the government of Nigeria and humanitarian partners are closely collaborating to address these multifaceted issues.

The education context in North-East Nigeria by 2017 in numbers

  • Over 2,295 teachers had been killed and 19,000 displaced.
  • 1,400 schools had been destroyed, damaged or looted in NE, and more than half of all schools remained closed.
  • 91% and 72% of schoolchildren were unable to read after completing grades 4 and 6, respectively.
  • 29% of schoolchildren were unable to do simple arithmetic after primary education.
  • 85% of girls could not read.
How did FCDO programming address Nigeria’s educational crisis from 2017 to 2021?​

The FCDO funded three programmes in North-East Nigeria to target out-of-school children, and those at risk of dropping out, from 2017-2021. These programmes were designed to encompass both formal and non-formal education sectors.

Interventions focused on accelerating learning, tutoring interventions and innovative teaching methods that had not been implemented in this context before such as Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL).

Find out more about the programmes:

  1. FCDO North-East Nigeria Transition to Development – Education in Emergency Programme (2017-2021)
    Implemented by the International Rescue Committee alongside local partners

The focus of the programme was to ensure a predictable, well-coordinated and equitable provision of education for populations affected by humanitarian crises. To achieve this, the programme supported out-of-school children by implementing an Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) and supported those at risk of dropping out with a tutoring programme.

  1. Addressing Education in North-East Nigeria (AENN) (2018-2021)
    Funded by USAID with top-up funds from FCDO

The overall focus of the programme was to support girls and boys in Northeast Nigeria to equitably access certified basic education opportunities. FCDO provided top-up funds to results area 1.3 which focused on improving education monitoring, establishing data hubs and education sector response plans at state and LGEA levels.

  1. FCDO Partnership for Learning for All in Nigeria (PLANE) Programme Phase 1 – Education in Emergency Programme (2019-2021)

Implemented by UNICEF alongside local partners

The focus of the programme was to ensure that children affected by conflict have access to, and can complete, a good-quality education in a safe learning environment, so that they can gain skills and knowledge for lifelong learning. To achieve this, the programme mainstreamed new teaching methodologies such as Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) and the Kanuri Arithmetic and Reading Initiative (KARI).

Results and lessons from FCDO’s education interventions

A recent evaluation study of the FCDO’s interventions by the Human Development Evaluation, Learning and Verification Service (DELVe) has revealed valuable lessons for implementing EiE programmes in Nigeria and beyond. The study analysed the three educational programs to identify successful strategies and provide recommendations for future initiatives. To find out more about how these lessons have been applied in a practical context get in touch here.

The learnings from the DELVe study were instrumental in guiding planning efforts of FCDO and UNICEF’s follow-on Partnership for Learning for All in Nigeria (PLANE) programme in Borno and Yobe states. 

Results from FCDO’s Education in Emergency programmes

  1. Collectively, the programmes led to enrolment of 273,344 children, with 41,894 previously out-of-school children finding placements in schools through these initiatives. These numbers underscore the tangible strides made towards bridging educational gaps and ensuring that every child has the opportunity to access quality learning environments.
  1. 6,661 facilitators, teachers and tutors underwent training to equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver effective and impactful educational experiencesThe commitment to enhancing the quality of education was evident in the significant efforts dedicated to training practitioners.
  1. These initiatives cultivated a sense of ownership and empowerment within communities, with School-Based Management Committees and Community Coalitions playing instrumental roles in disseminating information and fostering collaboration.

Community engagement emerged as a cornerstone of success; actively involving local stakeholders in decision-making processes and program implementation ultimately contributed to the overall effectiveness and sustainability of the programs.

Lessons for the Education in Emergencies Community

The study showed interesting learnings for the EiE community, particularly around fostering partnerships, learning from the Covid-19 pandemic, enabling sustainability and the use of new teaching methodologies.

Partnerships are indispensable catalysts for scalability, adaptability, and cost-effectiveness.

Uniting grassroots organizations, governmental bodies, civil society actors, and local communities in pursuit of common educational goals yields tangible benefits. Collaboration significantly reduces costs, enhances effectiveness, and allows implementation challenges to be better addressed.

Leveraging government infrastructure, community resources, and strategic alliances with other donors has also proven instrumental in extending educational reach and impact. Moreover, partnerships with civil society organizations and community counsellors can foster robust monitoring mechanisms, ensure accountability and allow adaptive interventions as needed.

Creative ways to teach long-distance developed during the pandemic can be scaled to other emergency situations.

During the Covid-19 pandemic programmes adapted to remote learning using instruments such as radio programs, SMS dissemination, and targeted distribution of learning materials. These tools should be considered useful and scalable in other conflict environments, especially when conflict escalates and students are not granted access to schools.

By leveraging accessible technologies and existing communication channels, programmers are able to maintain continuity in learning, empowering students to navigate the challenges of remote education with resilience and determination.

These tools also underscore the resilience and adaptability of educational systems as a whole in responding to crisis situations.

Addressing the incentive dilemma at the outset is critical for programme sustainability.

While stipends for teachers and facilitators are effective motivators during implementation, concerns regarding post-program continuity highlight the need for sustainability planning and exit strategies from the programme’s inception, particularly where government support may be limited.

A proactive approach might include exploring innovative funding mechanisms, forging partnerships with local stakeholders, and cultivating ownership within communities to ensure the seamless transition towards self-sustaining educational ecosystems.

Tailored teaching methodologies and innovative curriculum enhancements can help navigate the complexities of crisis contexts while providing meaningful and sustainable outcomes.

Tailored and cost-efficient practices (such as TaRL, Kanuri Arithmetic and Reading Initiative, and the Accelerated Learning Programme) can lead to tangible improvements in learning outcomes, maximising educational impact while optimising resource allocation.

These initiatives also facilitate academic advancement and cultivate a nurturing learning environment conducive to holistic growth and development.

Putting these lessons into practice

As we navigate the complex landscape of humanitarian settings, the importance of fostering partnerships, leveraging innovative teaching methodologies, addressing sustainability challenges, and prioritizing quality education for all children cannot be overstated.

We encourage the EiE community to embrace these key lessons and continue to collaborate, innovate, and prioritise education as a fundamental right and a pathway to resilience and empowerment for children affected by emergencies worldwide.

The insights gleaned from the FCDO-funded programmes in North-East Nigeria offer valuable lessons for the broader EiE community and particularly to the ongoing implementation of PLANE.

The synthesis report on Education in Emergencies in Northern Nigeria can be downloaded by following this link.