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Kate Jongbloed

Emergency education: 5 ways to keep girls in school during a disaster

Kate Jongbloed

emergency, Plan Canada, Because I am a Girl

Children learn in a temporary school after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake in China.

For many girls, access to quality education is already a major challenge. When disaster strikes, disrupting classrooms and livelihoods, the barriers to girls’ education are even higher. Today we’re looking at 5 ways Plan works to help girls stay in school during an emergency.

1. Emergency classrooms: When a natural disaster leaves a school unusable, or displaces a community from their home, Plan steps in to provide temporary school facilities and supplies to help students get back to school as soon as possible.

2. Safety first: Keeping girls safe and free from harm is one of Plan’s priorities in an emergency. Crisis situations can leave girls vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation, and prevent them from returning to school. As well, if girls’ identity papers are lost during the disaster, they face enormous challenges to register in schools or participate in official exams. Birth registration is a must in order to achieve education for all after a natural disaster.

3. Emotional first aid: The emotional impact of disasters on teachers and students can be profound. Plan works to help them cope with grief and trauma caused by the crisis. This psychosocial support helps keep teachers at work, and girls from dropping out in the face of extreme stress. Creating child-friendly spaces is just one way Plan helps provide emotional first aid for children affected by disasters.

4. Family livelihoods: In a disaster, families’ livelihoods can be swept away. Girls may be called out of school to help families make ends meet. That’s why a big piece of Plan’s rebuilding efforts include helping families re-establish themselves financially. One approach is through Plan’s cash-for-work programs: people affected by the disaster are employed to clear roads, fix drainage systems, build schools and plant seedlings on deforested land.

5. Rebuilding schools: When the immediate aftermath of an emergency has passed, Plan helps communities re-build schools and strengthen the local school system at the same time. Part of Plan’s rebuilding plan after the earthquake in Haiti included enrolling more than 1,000 children who had missed school in summer catch-up classes to prepare them for the beginning of the school year.

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