The following review was written by Helen Kearney and was based on independent consultants' Manuela de Gasperi and Serena Zanella's framework for collaboration between child protection and education in humanitarian contexts and overview of the bottleneck analysis and rationale on bringing the two sectors together, which was presented at the 2018 INEE-Alliance Roundtable on integrating child protection and education.
Stronger Together: Integrated Programming for Maximum Impact
In humanitarian settings around the world, teachers and education staff work side by side with child protection professionals to respond to the needs of children and youth affected by emergencies and forced displacement.
Practitioners know that education has a vital protective function. They also know that effective and holistic child protection can support access to education and improve educational outcomes. However, the potential of a collaborative approach across education and child protection has yet to be fully explored.
All agree that child protection and education should be working together. But are they doing so? If yes, where and how? Can we identify good practices that can be scaled up and replicated in new contexts? If no, where are the obstacles and how can they be overcome?
In practice, both child protection and educational practitioners report unsatisfactory levels of collaboration. They tell us that they work together in a patchy and unsystematic way. Collaboration is more prevalent at field level than at headquarters, but there is still vast room for improvement.
Why is this? Obstacles cited include the architecture of the humanitarian system; the lack of a rigorous evidence base; limited mutual understanding and inadequate funding. A defining similarity between Education in Emergencies and Child Protection in Humanitarian Action is the struggle for recognition in the wider humanitarian community. Evidence and experience show that both education and child protection save lives, now and later. Nonetheless, there is an ongoing struggle for acceptance.
The way in which the two sectors typically work in humanitarian contexts also presents some potentially challenging differences. For example, at the country level, not all countries have national-level child protection services with shared case management systems, whereas every country has a Ministry for Education or equivalent. In practice, this means that the entry points for the two sectors’ are often different, with child protection activities focusing primarily at the individual and community levels.
Where are the opportunities to improve? The research highlighted several important ways in which education and child protection can work together more effectively. In prevention and preparedness: protection messaging can be incorporated into lessons. Schools can play an essential role in the prevention of multiple child protection risks, including child recruitment, child labour and harmful traditional practices. Furthermore, school can promote essential Disaster Risk Reduction messaging, as well as peace education.
During the response phase, child protection and education need to work together to make learning environments safer and more protective. For example, the education system has a crucial role to play in the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups, but this requires expert support from child protection colleagues. Working together, education and child protection professionals need to reinforce and clarify referral pathways. It is also important that this collaboration continues both in and out of the physical school environment: we know that children out of the formal education system are among the most at-risk, and that protection issues outside school e.g. sexual violence on the way to school, often go unreported and can have serious impacts on educational outcomes.