“People must acknowledge that education is a human right, and that right does not stop in the event of a violent conflict or natural hazard.” – USA
When a disaster or a crisis occurs, many people may first think of response organizations such as the Red Cross, the Red Crescent or the United Nations as a crucial part of the recovery process. You may not have heard of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE). But after an emergency or disaster, schools provide children and families with protection, stability and a return to normalcy.
“I think the most remarkable thing about the work of INEE is that it is a non-competitive network of people and organizations from teachers on the ground in conflict situations through NGOs, UNICEF, UNESCO and governments,” says Dr. Lori Heninger, director of the INEE. “These individuals work together for the greater good, to ensure the right to quality education.” The INEE was started by a small group in 2000, and has grown to over 7,500 members from over 130 countries. Heninger’s role over the past two years has been to bring people together around existing needs, and to look down the road to determine upcoming needs. “It’s the best job I can think of,” she says.
Heninger and the INEE advocate to ensure teaching is as good as it can be in emergency situations. They have developed the INEE Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery, a set of standards that articulate the minimum level of educational quality and access in emergencies through to recovery. “INEE has also lifted up the role that education plays in conflict, looking at how factors of inequity, curriculum development, teaching, access to school, etc. can either exacerbate or mitigate conflict,” says Heninger. “Over the past five years, this subject has gone from ideas and theories to actually creating conflict-sensitive frameworks for education policy and programming.”
Today, Dr. Heninger shares some best practices for every school, remembering that emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime (Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes, tsunamis), and reiterates that it is collaboration that makes all the difference.
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
Although I can’t personally claim impact, I hope my work has provided children and youth with the opportunity to access quality education in conflict and crisis situations. Half of the 68 million primary-school-aged children live in conflict/crisis situations; millions more children ages 0-8 and youth are also denied education because of conflict and crisis. The members of the network I work for, the INEE, have worked tirelessly over the past 10 years to ensure that all children and youth have the ability to access education in emergencies.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
In the overarching idea of cooperation versus competition for the best ideas, my experience is that cooperation wins. The work of INEE is a living example of this.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
First, I think you have to define “technology.” Having the INEE Minimum Standards printed on Tyvek paper so that it lasts in the field is a huge advance for our members that are working in natural disasters and conflict—it can fall in the mud, get wiped off and be as good as new.
INEE is a network that provides information to its members. We use our website and Listserv messages to get this information out. It’s great for members who have access to functional Internet, but is deficient in areas where that is not the case.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
Since INEE is international in scope, this is a very big question if we’re looking at the technical part of education, and differs from region to region, country to country and emergency to emergency. Our biggest obstacle is getting people, even in the humanitarian world, to recognize that education is critical in emergencies. Parents ask for education for their children. Education can be life saving, is normalizing, provides an opportunity for parents to rebuild, look for family members and access food because they know their kids are in a safe place. In humanitarian appeals, only 4% of funding is designated for education, and only 2% of that funding is actually given. This is a huge obstacle.
What are other organizations doing well currently to support education?
Some groups, like the IRC, are doing great work in education through the development of Healing Classrooms. UNICEF has its Child-Friendly Spaces and School-in-a-Box initiatives. ChildFund International does excellent work on ensuring early childhood development and education are part of emergency response.
There are so many groups doing so many great things. A number of donor governments are providing financial support to education in emergencies, and that is hugely helpful—they set an example for the rest of the donor community.
What conditions must change in the world to better support education?
People must acknowledge that education is a human right, especially for children, and that right does not stop in the event of a violent conflict or natural hazard. Donors have to be willing to provide additional funding, and humanitarian organizations need to prioritize education in humanitarian response. Governments of countries with potential crisis/conflict situations have to actively prepare for natural hazards and ensure equity in education so that crises can be prevented.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
In my world, making sure kids are in school with trained teachers and supplies to ensure quality learning. And making sure that classrooms are girl-friendly.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
What you are doing is one of the most important jobs anyone can take on.
And one of the hardest. Make sure you don’t burn yourself out, because then you’re of no use to your students or yourself.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
Measuring learning is a great curse and a critical need. We have to figure out mechanisms that include all children and allow teachers to be inspired or we will have left a great many kids out.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
In some areas, a radio is the tool. In others, reading primers. In still others, computers. Of course I want everyone to have the best possible, but let’s start with what’s possible and go from there. Otherwise, we provide nothing, or tools that can cause more frustration than benefit.
That’s a tragedy.
About Dr. Lori Heninger
Director, Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, USA
Current residence: West Orange, New Jersey, USA
Education: BA in education from Kean University in New Jersey, Masters in Social Work from Columbia University, PhD in Social Welfare from City University Graduate Center
Website I check every day: NY Times
Person who inspires me most: Impossible to name one. My family—husband,
daughter, brother and sister-in-law each for a different reason. I think Paul Krugman is amazing.
Favorite childhood memory: My favorite childhood memory is falling asleep while my family talked in the background. It was the most wonderful feeling.
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): I just got back from a conference in Puerto Rico (work), and will travel next to a Formula 1 race in Montreal (pleasure).
When was the last time you laughed? About ten minutes ago. Why? My husband sent me a funny email about an antic of our new puppy and I was laughing out loud at my desk. I believe laughing is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.
Favorite book: The Power of Kindness, Piero Ferrucci
Favorite music: World Music and Hip Hop
Your favorite quote or motto: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” -Dwight Eisenhower