Improving Learning Environments in Emergencies through Community Participation

Zeina Bali

Forced Migration Review, Issue 60, March 2019


This article describes an education in emergencies toolkit developed by Save the Children that uses participatory assessments to improve learning environments in humanitarian settings. Assessments cover five areas: emotional and psychosocial protection; physical protection, teaching and learning, parents and community; and school leadership and management. Data is collected from teachers, parents, children, a head teacher or school checklist, and through a classroom observation. Results are fed rapidly back to the school community for validation and discussion. A school improvement team is elected (comprising adults and children from the community) to design a school improvement plan based on the assessment results, and to follow up on the implementation of the plan with the assistance of a small grant. Pilot programs in Uganda and Syria highlight: the importance of sharing and validating results with the school community (increasing accountability); the value of encouraging parents and teachers to identify local, low-cost solutions that needed minimal financial support (e.g. parents volunteering to clean the school compound and improving playground facilities); the reality that it takes time to engage people in planning, and visible improvements emerge only after a few months; and strong community ownership enhances long-term sustainability. The pilots also highlighted a number of broader dilemmas: tensions between local solutions and global values upheld by Save the Children; some disempowering effects (e.g. a teacher who was left anxious about the effects of their poor classroom environment); and the need to use more child-friendly language and information mechanisms to enhance child participation.




Syria | Uganda