COVID-19, EiE, and Beyond: Reflections of a New INEE Member

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

This article is part of a collection of blog posts related to the education in emergencies response to COVID-19. 

Education actors the world over can learn a lot from the knowledge and experience of the education in emergencies community to better prepare for the future emergencies we will all face.

As this pandemic rages on, we are hearing from many experienced academics, teachers, school administrators, and practitioners about their perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic. They have provided the practical advice and technical support needed to respond to this crisis, emphasizing what the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) has already asserted: COVID-19 is not our first emergency. That being said, for a graduate student like myself who is new to the education in emergencies (EiE) community, this is my first emergency. This is the first emergency for first-year teachers and for many schools and school districts. While the EiE community has been preparing and responding to crisis after crisis over the years, people outside of the community have not. 

It was only by happenstance that I began my internship with INEE almost at the same time this pandemic began, offering me a window into what this response has looked like on a large scale. As a designated note-taker during recent INEE working group meetings, back-end support for a few of INEE’s COVID-19 webinars, and administrative and research support during the creation of the INEE COVID-19 technical note, I have seen the depth and breadth of this community’s experience and technical prowess with regard to EiE. 

All of these experiences and more have convinced me that this may be my first emergency, but it will surely not be my last. 

I believe that this revelation, one that I am sure is not unique to me or my situation, has implications on how EiE practices and resources should be presented to up-and-coming education practitioners, be they teachers or technical advisors in EiE contexts or elsewhere. Put simply: I wish EiE resources and knowledge had been included in my undergraduate Special Education curriculum, because I wish I had known about them when I was teaching in Jaipur, India and when I was teaching in a detention center in Chicago, USA.

I don’t think I am alone in this sentiment as I see my US-based teacher friends learn and research terms like “accelerated education” for the first time, or, my friends in education policy discover the INEE Minimum Standards for the first time as they curate recommendations for school districts in preparation for school reopenings. Especially as many teacher-training programs shift to becoming more remote than ever before, the EiE community can capitalise on its current exposure in a way that highlights its relevance and widespread applicability. This could look like EiE webinars specifically tailored towards graduate schools, encouraging colleagues in academic spaces to include EiE webinars and resources in the syllabi. Another approach would be to follow the lead of Indiana University, which offers professional development credits to current K–12 teachers for engaging in EiE conversations. 

If the EiE community properly seizes this opportunity at a time when educators everywhere are hungry for knowledge, I believe that the next time a global emergency comes around, it will be met by a more prepared and capable global education sector.

The views expressed in this blog are the author's own.

Yasmina is currently pursuing a Master of Education degree in International Education Policy and Management at Vanderbilt University where she also received her Bachelor of Science degree in Disability Studies in 2017. Prior to starting her graduate degree, Yasmina taught English for two years, first in Jaipur, India through the Fulbright Program and then in a detention center for minors in Chicago, IL. Her interest areas include international special education, inclusion, and EiE.