Education for emergencies
The IRC and the University of Nairobi are training educators to engage with young people whose lives have been disrupted by violent conflict, such as these Eritrean children attending school in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. (Photo: Sophia Jones-Mwangi/IRC)
NAIROBI, Kenya - The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the University of Nairobi have teamed up to offer the world's first post-graduate degree program focusing on education in humanitarian emergencies.
The result of a partnership forged in March 2009, the Education in Emergencies master’s degree program trains educators to engage with young people whose lives have been disrupted by violent conflict or natural disasters and to help them resume their education. The program builds on the skills that teachers and school administrators have acquired in their professional careers and equips them to help children cope during and after a crisis. The program coursework debuted last month, at the start of the spring semester.
"This project has been an eye-opener," said Rosemary Imonje, a professor in the Department of Education Administration and Planning at the University of Nairobi, who helped develop the program with IRC education experts. "Normally teachers take the perspective that the acquisition of knowledge and skills is for the long term benefit of the student. In an emergency, teachers must give their students immediate life-saving skills and knowledge which can be used on the spot."
The program also emphasizes strategies that can help educators quickly adapt to complex emergencies. After completing the program graduates will be prepared for careers with humanitarian aid agencies, international organizations, ministries of education, and as teachers.
The IRC’s Mera Thompson hopes that the collaboration with the University of Nairobi will establish that education is just as vital a part of emergency response as providing food, water and shelter.
“I know that education in emergencies specialists often have a tough time securing funding for their projects,” Thompson said. "Having a reliable training institution to produce a cadre of academics and practitioners will provide a major boost.”