Domain
Domain 2: Access and Learning Environment

Standards in this domain focus on access to safe and relevant learning opportunities. They highlight critical linkages with other sectors such as health, water and sanitation, nutrition and shelter that help to enhance security, safety and physical, cognitive and psychological well-being.

INEE MS Domain 2 Map
Related Resources

Key Actions and Guidance for:

All individuals have access to quality and relevant education opportunities.

Key Actions

No individual or social group is denied access to education and learning opportunities because of discrimination

See Guidance Notes:

Learning structures and sites are accessible to all

See Guidance Notes:

Barriers to enrolment, such as lack of documents or other requirements, are removed

See Guidance Notes:

A range of flexible, formal and non-formal education opportunities is progressively provided to the affected population to fulfil their education needs

See Guidance Notes:

Through sensitisation and training, local communities become increasingly involved in ensuring the rights of all children, youth and adults to quality and relevant education

See Guidance Notes:

Sufficient resources are available and ensure continuity, equity and quality of education activities

See Guidance Notes:

Learners have the opportunity to enter or re-enter the formal education system as soon as possible after the disruption caused by the emergency

See Guidance Notes:

The education programme in refugee contexts is recognised by the relevant local education authorities and the country of origin.

Education services for disaster-affected populations do not negatively impact host populations.

Guidance Notes
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Discrimination

Discrimination includes obstacles imposed because of sex, age, disability, HIV status, nationality, race, ethnicity, tribe, clan, caste, religion, language, culture, political affiliation, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, geographic location or specific education needs. Discrimination may be intentional. It may also be the unintentional result of infrastructure that is inaccessible to people with disabilities, or of policies and practices that do not support learners’ participation. Examples of discrimination include barring pregnant girls or learners affected by HIV from school and costs for school fees, uniforms, books and supplies.

Particular groups or individuals may have difficulty accessing education in an emergency situation. Some may become more vulnerable as a result of emergencies and displacement. These groups may include:

  • physically and mentally disabled people;
  • those who su er from severe mental health and psychosocial difficulties;
  • girls;
  • youth;
  • children associated with armed forces and armed groups;
  • adolescent heads of household;
  • teenage mothers;
  • persons from particular ethnic or other social groups.

National authorities, communities and humanitarian organisations have the responsibility to ensure that all people have access to educational activities. This means assessing the needs and priorities of excluded groups and those with different learning needs in the specific context, and addressing them. Discriminatory policies and practices that limit access to learning opportunities should be identified and remedied. The lack of access to education for particular ethnic, linguistic, geographic or age groups can create or maintain tensions that may contribute to conflict.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) clarifies the right to education:

  • Article 2 recognises ‘the right to education without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status’;
  • Article 13 recognises the right of everyone to education that ‘shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace’. Article 13 also commits countries to recognise that, with a view to achieving the full realisation of this right: ‘1) primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all; 2) secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education; 3) fundamental education shall be encouraged or intensified as far as possible for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of their primary education’.
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Admission, enrolment and retention

Documentation requirements should be flexible. Certificates of citizenship, birth or age, identity papers or school reports should not be required for entry because emergency-affected populations may not have these documents.

Age limits should not be strictly enforced, provided that protection concerns and cultural norms are respected. Second-chance enrolment for drop-outs should be permitted. Special efforts are needed to identify the most vulnerable individuals and how to include them. Where there are security concerns, documentation and enrolment information should be kept confidential.

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Range of education opportunities

A range of quality education opportunities is necessary. The aims are to ensure that the educational needs of all learners are met and to contribute to the economic, social and political development of the country. These opportunities should be relevant to the learners and to the context and may include:

  • early childhood development;
  • primary, secondary and higher education;
  • literacy and numeracy classes;
  • life skills education;
  • youth and adult education programmes, such as technical and vocational education.

In acute crises, child-friendly spaces or safe spaces are often the first response while formal education is being established or reactivated. Child-friendly spaces aim to protect and promote the well-being of children and youth. Some prepare children and youth to re-enter the formal classroom, while others allow them to participate in non-formal learning activities. They provide different age groups, ranging from young children to youth, with access to structured learning, play, sports, drama, art, music, protection and psychosocial support. Child-friendly spaces can allow community members and humanitarian and government workers to assess needs and capacities for formal and non-formal education, including how to integrate and support local initiatives.

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Flexibility

Learning opportunities need to be flexible and adapted to the context. Adaptations may include:

  • changes to class schedules, hours, shifts and annual timetables to meet the needs of particular groups of learners;
  • alternative modes of delivery, such as self-study, distance learning and accelerated or ‘catch-up’ learning programmes;
  • provision of child-care services for young parents;
  • waiving documentation requirements, such as birth or age certificates

Adaptations should be discussed with community members, including youth, women and others who might otherwise be excluded. Relevant education authorities should be involved to ensure that proposed adaptations are recognised. If learners are spread over a large area, schools and other learning sites can be mapped to plan for their most cost-effective access to a range of education opportunities.

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Immediate education priorities

Immediate education priorities should be based on initial assessment. It is important to consider:

  • data disaggregated by sex and age;
  • vulnerability and protection concerns;
  • particular content needs such as life-saving information;
  • linkages with the re-establishment of the education system.

Prioritisation may also consider funding, logistical and security constraints, but should not lead to the exclusion of vulnerable groups.

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Quality and relevant education

Education is a affordable, accessible, gender-sensitive, responds to diversity and is relevant to learners' needs.

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Community involvement

Communities should be actively engaged in education processes in order to facilitate access to education. Community involvement helps to:

  • address communication gaps;
  • mobilise additional resources;
  • address security, protection and psychosocial concerns;
  • identify needs for alternative learning opportunities;
  • promote participation of all relevant groups, particularly those who are vulnerable.
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Resources

National authorities have ultimate responsibility to ensure that education is provided. This includes the coordination and provision of sufficient financial, material and human resources. If national authorities are unable to provide fully for education in an emergency through to recovery, additional support may be provided from other sources. Examples include the international community, UN agencies, international and local NGOs, local authorities, communities, faith-based organisations, civil society groups and other development partners. Donors should be flexible and should support a range of coordinated approaches to ensure continuity of education and learning initiatives.

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Minimising the use of educational facilities as temporary shelters

Educational facilities should only be used as shelters for displaced people when there are no other possibilities. Alternative locations for shelter in the event of an emergency or disaster should be identified during preparedness planning.

When educational facilities are used as temporary shelters, the negative impacts and potential protection risks must be minimised in collaboration with the shelter and protection sectors. Stakeholders should agree to a date for returning the educational facility to its original function. This minimises disruptions to learning and avoids families remaining in an educational facility long after an emergency has occurred.

If educational facilities are used as temporary shelters, it is important to protect school property, including books, libraries, furniture, school records and recreational equipment. The educational facilities should be returned in a usable state. Wherever possible, stakeholders should use the opportunity to improve the educational facilities. For example, sanitation facilities could be renovated and building structures could be reinforced.

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Learning environments are secure and safe, and promote the protection and the psychosocial well-being of learners, teachers and other education personnel.

Key Actions

The learning environment is free from sources of harm to learners, teachers and other education personnel

See Guidance Notes:

Teachers and other education personnel acquire the skills and knowledge needed to create a supportive learning environment and to promote learners’ psychosocial well-being

See Guidance Notes:

Schools, temporary learning spaces and child-friendly spaces are close to the populations they serve

See Guidance Notes:

Access routes to the learning environment are safe, secure and accessible for all

See Guidance Notes:

Learning environments are free from military occupation and attack

See Guidance Notes:

The community contributes to decisions about the location of the learning environment, and about systems and policies to ensure that learners, teachers and other education personnel are safe and secure

See Guidance Notes:

Safe learning environments are maintained through disaster risk reduction and management activities

See Guidance Notes:

Guidance Notes
1
Security and safety

A secure learning environment provides protection from threat, danger, injury or loss. A safe environment is free from physical or psychosocial harm.

National authorities have the duty to ensure security. This includes providing sufficient and good-quality policing and the deployment of troops where appropriate and necessary. If usual learning sites are insecure or not available, alternative safe and secure sites or modes of learning should be set up. Home schooling or distance learning may be options in such circumstances. In insecure situations, the community should advise on whether they wish learners to attend school. Security forces should never use educational facilities as temporary shelters.

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Emotional, physical and social well-being

Emotional, physical and social well-being depends on:

  • security, safety and protection;
  • health;
  • happiness and warmth in the relations between education providers and learners, and among learners.

From the earliest age, children’s development and learning are supported by their interactions with caring people in safe, secure and nurturing environments. Activities to ensure learners’ well-being focus on enhancing sound development, positive social interactions and good health. They encourage learners’ participation in decisions that affect them. By participating in problem-solving, decision-making and risk reduction, children and youth can feel less helpless and can contribute to their own well-being.

If parents are unable to provide for their children’s well-being at home, others need to help. This may include referrals to appropriate services if available.

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Protection

‘Protection’ means freedom from all forms of physical, emotional and social threat, abuse, exploitation and violence. Learners, teachers and other education personnel should be informed about and protected from dangers in and around the learning environment. Dangers include:

  • bullying;
  • sexual exploitation;
  • natural and environmental hazards;
  • arms, ammunition, landmines and unexploded ordnance;
  • armed personnel, cross re locations and other military threats, including abduction and recruitment;
  • political insecurity.

Risk assessments, including consultation with community members, learners, teachers and other education personnel, are important to understand protection needs and priorities. These assessments should take place regularly and should include analysis of relevant cultural and political factors.

When protection violations take place, they should be confidentially documented and reported, preferably with the assistance of people trained in human rights monitoring. Key information about the incident should be noted, including sex, age and whether the person was targeted on the basis of specific characteristics. Such information is important to identify patterns and may be needed to create effective interventions to address the problem. Responses to reported violations should also be documented, including referrals to health, protection and psychosocial service providers.

In environments where violence and other threats to the physical and psychosocial safety of learners, teachers and other education personnel are common, it is important to involve families and communities in promoting safety in the home and community. Activities may include:

  • information campaigns for parents and elders to reinforce positive methods for bringing up children including positive discipline practices;
  • outreach to police or other security forces to raise awareness of protection concerns in the community;
  • working with communities and relevant authorities to address specific protection concerns, such as organising escorts for learners going to and from classes.
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Gender-based violence

Gender-based violence particularly sexual violence, is a serious, life-threatening protection issue. It can affect men and boys, but gender-based violence most often targets women and girls. Education programmes should monitor and respond to issues of harassment and sexual exploitation. Parents, learners, teachers and other education personnel should agree on ways to reduce risks to children and youth on the way to and from and within the learning environment. These may include:

  • developing and publicly posting clear rules against sexual harassment, exploitation, abuse and other forms of gender-based violence;
  • including these rules in codes of conduct for teachers and other education personnel, who need to understand what behaviours are unacceptable;
  • increasing the number of adult women in the learning environment to protect and reassure female learners. Where there is not a balance between male and female teachers, women from the community can volunteer as classroom assistants to promote a more protective environment for children.

When gender-based violence takes place, confidential and safe reporting, complaint and response systems are important. These can be facilitated by national authorities or by an independent organisation knowledgeable about gender-based violence. Appropriate health, psychosocial, protection and judicial support should be available to survivors of gender-based violence in a well-coordinated referral system.

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Distance between learners and learning sites

The maximum distance between learners and their learning sites

should be de ned according to local and national standards. It is important to consider security, safety and accessibility concerns such as soldiers’ quarters, landmines and dense bush in the vicinity. Learners, parents and other community members should be consulted on the location of learning sites and potential dangers. Where distance to school is so far that it reduces access, subsidiary (or ‘satellite’ or ‘feeder’) classes at sites nearer to learners’ homes may be encouraged.

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Access routes

In order to ensure safe and secure access routes for all learners, teachers and education personnel, communities, including boys and girls of di erent age groups, should identify perceived threats and agree on measures to address them. For example, in areas where learners must walk to and from education facilities along poorly lit roads, safety can be improved by having adult escorts or by using reflectors or reflective tape on clothing and bags.

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Keeping education safe from attack

In some contexts, learners, teachers and education personnel are exposed to physical or psychosocial risks on their way to and from education facilities. Actions to reduce these risks include:

  • enriching the curriculum to include safety messages, psychosocial support and education on human rights, conflict resolution, peace-building and humanitarian law;
  • raising public awareness on the meaning and use of the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which prohibit attacks against civilians (including students and teachers) and education buildings in times of war;
  • capacity building for government and military judicial systems, armed forces and armed groups in the basic principles of humanitarian law and its application to the protection of education;
  • reinforcing buildings or perimeter walls and use of security guards (paid or community volunteers);
  • on-site housing for teachers;
  • relocation of learning sites and threatened students, teachers and other education personnel;
  • setting up home- and community-based schools.

Depending on the context and security concerns, communities or community education committees may take responsibility for the protection of schools. For example, they can provide escorts or identify trusted community or religious leaders to teach in and support schools. In civil conflicts, community members may help promote negotiations with both sides of the conflict to develop codes of conduct that make schools and learning sites safe sanctuaries or ‘zones of peace’.

Attacks on schools and hospitals are one of the six grave violations prohibited under UN Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005). If attacks occur, they should be reported through the UN-led Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism.

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Training on psychosocial support and well-being

Teachers and other education personnel should receive training on providing psychosocial support to learners through:

  • structured learning;
  • use of child-friendly methods;
  • play and recreation;
  • teaching life skills;
  • referrals.

It is important to address the well-being of teachers and other education personnel. This will contribute to learners’ well-being and successful completion of formal or non-formal education programmes.

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Non-violent classroom management

According to the Dakar Framework, education should be conducted ‘in ways that promote mutual understanding, peace and tolerance, and that help to prevent violence and conflict’. To meet this goal, teachers need support in positive classroom management. This means ensuring that a learning environment promotes mutual understanding, peace and tolerance and provides skills to prevent violence and conflict. Positive reinforcement and a solid system of positive discipline are the foundations for establishing such an environment. They should replace corporal punishment, verbal abuse, humiliation and intimidation. Intimidation includes mental stress, violence, abuse and discrimination. These points should be included in teacher codes of conduct and addressed systematically in teacher training and supervision activities.

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Community participation

Communities should take a leading role in creating, sustaining and protecting the learning environment. Representatives of all vulnerable groups should participate in programme design. This increases community ownership of support to education.

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Disaster risk reduction and management

Learners, teachers and other education personnel can be trained to support disaster prevention and management activities. These may include:

  • the development and utilisation of emergency preparedness plans;
  • practice of simulation drills for expected and recurring disasters;
  • school structural and non-structural safety measures, such as school evacuation plans in earthquake-prone areas.

Community or school safety committees may need support to develop and lead the implementation of school disaster management or safety plans. Support includes help with assessing and prioritising risks, implementing physical and environmental protection strategies and developing procedures and skills for response preparedness.

Emergency preparedness plans, including school evacuation plans, should be developed and shared in ways that are accessible to all, including people who are illiterate and persons with physical, cognitive and mental disabilities.

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Education facilities promote the safety and well-being of learners, teachers and other education personnel and are linked to health, nutrition, psychosocial and protection services.

Key Actions

Learning sites and structures are safe and accessible for all learners, teachers and other education personnel

See Guidance Notes:

Temporary and permanent learning environments are repaired, retro-fitted or replaced as needed with disaster-resilient design and construction

See Guidance Notes:

Learning spaces are marked by visible protective boundaries and clear signs.

Physical structures used for learning sites are appropriate for the situation and include adequate space for classes, administration, recreation and sanitation facilities

See Guidance Notes:

Class space and seating arrangements meet agreed ratios of space per learner and teacher in order to promote participatory methodologies and learner-centred approaches

See Guidance Notes:

Community members, including young people, participate in the construction and maintenance of the learning environment

See Guidance Notes:

Adequate quantities of safe water and appropriate sanitation facilities are provided for personal hygiene and protection, taking into account sex, age and people with disabilities

See Guidance Notes:

Skills-based health and hygiene education is promoted in the learning environment

See Guidance Notes:

School-based health and nutrition services are available to address hunger and other barriers to effective learning and development

See Guidance Notes:

Schools and learning spaces are linked to child protection, health, nutrition, social and psychosocial services

See Guidance Notes:

Guidance Notes
1
Location

Education facilities should be built, reconstructed or relocated to sites that promote equity and the physical safety of learners, teachers and other education personnel. It is important to consider whether the sites of education facilities before the emergency should be reused. Rebuilding physical structures in their previous locations may continue discrimination against certain groups within the community or may put learners at risk of natural disaster. Careful conflict and disaster risk assessments are essential. These should include consultations with representatives from national authorities and a wide range of community members, especially vulnerable groups. They can provide valuable information on where educational facilities can be built. Collaboration with other sectors (such as camp coordination and management, shelter and health) is essential to ensure that schools and education facilities are close to learners’ homes and to other services..

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Structure, design and construction

It is important to consider the following elements in the design and construction of temporary and permanent education facilities.

  • Safe site selection: the structural safety of damaged school buildings needs to be assessed by qualified professionals, and buildings prioritised for re-occupancy, repair, retro-fitting or replacement, based on need and cost.
  • Inclusive and disaster-resistant design and construction: international planning and building code standards for schools (or local codes when they are of a higher standard) should be applied to temporary and permanent construction. School facilities should be designed, constructed and maintained to be resilient in the face of known hazards and threats such as re, storms, earthquakes and landslides. Reconstruction efforts should ensure that going to school will not expose learners, teachers or other education personnel to avoidable risks; design and construction should ensure adequate lighting, cross-ventilation and heating (as appropriate) to promote a quality teaching and learning environment.
  • Whether the structure can be maintained by local authorities and the local community at an affordable cost: locally procured materials and labour should be used to build the structure wherever feasible. Steps should be taken to ensure that structures are cost-effective and that physical features (e.g. roofs, floors) are durable.
  • Available budget, possible current and long-term uses, and involvement of communities and education planners and managers.

Structures may be temporary, semi-permanent, permanent, extensions or mobile. The involvement of members of groups differently affected by the emergency in joint activities, such as construction and maintenance of schools, may support conflict mitigation.

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People with disabilities

The needs of people with physical and visual disabilities should be carefully considered in the design of education facilities. Entrances and exits need to accommodate people in wheelchairs or using other assisted-mobility devices. Classroom space and furniture, and water and sanitation facilities, should meet the needs of people with disabilities. When identifying sites and reconstructing education facilities, cooperation at local and national levels is recommended with organisations representing people with various types of disability, parents of children with disabilities and youth with disabilities.

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Design and maintenance of learning spaces

Education facilities should be designed giving careful thought to who uses the learning space, and how. Spaces need to be appropriate to the sex, age, physical ability and cultural considerations of all users. A locally realistic standard should be set for maximum class size. Enough space should be allowed, if possible, for additional classrooms if enrolment increases, to enable a progressive reduction in the use of multiple shifts. Entrances and exits need to allow students, teachers and other education personnel to exit safely in an emergency.

The building structure, including sanitation facilities, and furniture, including desks, chairs, blackboards, should be maintained regularly. Members of the community and the community education committee can contribute to the maintenance of the learning spaces with labour, time or materials.

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Sanitation facilities

Sanitation facilities should be available within or close to the learning environment. Collaboration with the water and sanitation sector is important in achieving this. Sanitation includes:

  • solid waste disposal facilities, such as containers and waste pits;
  • drainage facilities, such as soak pits and drainage channels;
  • adequate water for personal hygiene and to clean toilets.

Sanitation facilities should be accessible for persons with disabilities and should maintain privacy, dignity and safety. Toilet doors should lock from the inside. To prevent sexual harassment and abuse, separate toilets for boys/men and girls/women should be located in safe, convenient and easily accessible places. Sphere guidelines for school toilets call for one toilet for every 30 girls and one toilet for every 60 boys. If provision of separate toilets is not initially possible, arrangements can be made to avoid girls and boys using the toilets at the same time. If toilets are not located within the learning site, nearby facilities can be identified and children’s use of them monitored.

Sanitary materials and culturally appropriate clothing, if necessary, should be provided to female learners so that they can participate fully in learning.

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Safe water and hygiene promotion

Learning environments should have a safe water source and should provide soap. Hygiene practices, such as hand and face washing, should be incorporated as daily activities. Sphere guidelines for minimum water quantities in schools call for 3 litres of water per student per day for drinking and hand washing.

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School-based health and nutrition services

School-based health and nutrition programmes link education with resources in the health, nutrition and sanitation sectors. They address barriers to learning and promote healthy development. Programmes may include:

  • school feeding programmes to address hunger needs;
  • de-worming to treat parasitic infections;
  • communicable disease prevention programmes (such as for measles, diarrhoea, HIV and AIDS);
  • provision of micronutrient supplements (such as vitamin A, iron and iodine).

Programmes should follow recognised guidelines such as the World Food Programme’s guidelines on school feeding. Coordination with the health and nutrition sectors is important.

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Access to local services and referrals

Teachers and other education personnel can use referrals to local services to support and promote learners’ physical, psychosocial and emotional well-being. They should be trained to recognise signs of physical or psychosocial distress and other protection concerns, such as children who have been separated from their families. They should share information on threats to learners’ well-being with relevant partners from other service sectors.

To ensure that the referral system operates effectively, formal links with outside services should be established. Services may include counselling, psychosocial and legal services for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, and social services for suspected cases of abuse or neglect. Children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups may need help with family tracing and reunification.

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