Saturday, September 03, 2011

Highlights from a Study on Impact of Conflict and Displacement on Education in SriLanka

Ishita Dey
[Research Scholar, Department of Sociology, University of Delhi and Member, Calcutta Research Group]

J.R.A Williams(2010) in this extensive report on “The impact of conflict and displacement (2006-2010) in SriLanka” shows the various methods introduced during conflict and post conflict to improve educational standards. This report is one of the back ground papers commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011, The Hidden crisis: Armed Conflict and education”. The decade long conflict in SriLanka led to displacements of people from their houses. According to “Common Humanitarian Action Plan for Srilanka 2008” (UN: 2007), around 300,000 school-aged children were affected by the conflict in Northern, Eastern and bordering provinces. This was before the ceasefire agreement of 2002 was annulled in 2008. This led to a second wave of IDPs. So not only the school aged children were displaced but also in this period there was a shortage of qualified teachers in certain provinces. What is interesting and significant to note in this context is that the professionals attached to educational institutions in rebel- LTTE controlled areas received salary throughout conflict. Much more important is that the ceasefires between the two sides were respected during national exams.

The first “shelter” for most of the IDPs in SriLanka was school buildings, which were designated as transit camps. From these transit camps the IDPs were relocated to massive closed camps where local educational authorities took in charge of managing school and participation of community in school management was prohibited. Other than that during conflict the displaced children could be enrolled in “host” schools which could create Temporary Learning Spaces(TLS) for IDP children. The model of TLS has been successful along with catch-up programmes aimed at students taking national examinations. Both these programmes generated a key interest among the displaced.

In fact the author also indicates the way the humanitarian agencies made special efforts to distribute educational materials when they were not allowed access to camps in Vavuniya citing security reasons. The UN and NGO workers trained in INEE (2004) Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies, Chronic Crises and Early Reconstruction: A Commitment to Access, were not allowed to work with camp community. While war has come to an end; and reconstruction work has started in full swing, the problem of lack of educational institutions, lower levels of enrolments, drop-outs due to economic situation persists across SriLanka. For instance, the Northern Province Department of Education states that 115 (35.3%) out of the 326 existing schools in the return areas had resumed activities by 31 March 2010, with 22% (18,561) of the 82,800 student body recorded in 2008 enrolled ( Williams 2010: 6).

Post war agencies like Save the Children, UNICEF, Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and local NGOs continue to provide support to the improvement of educational standards through creation of educational material. Catch-up programmes have been most successful so far. In addition to that UNICEF introduced a programme in August 2009 “to provide an accelerated learning programme for displaced children which will lead to the eventual reintegration of these students into the government’s mainstream education system. This project involves the development of materials and training to cover two years of the curriculum in one-year programmes at each of levels 1-5 (the equivalent of Grades 1-9)”. (ibid :9)

“A ‘Home–School programme’ is being developed by the Ministry of Education (MoE) with support from UNICEF to “enable children to continue to follow the school curriculum and to attain the required level of learning achievement despite being unable to attend school on a daily basis”. The Home–School modules are designed to provide learning for children in Grades 1–5” (ibid).

The author recommends child-friendly schooling, vocational education, and national Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED) standards, as ways of improving the educational standards and effective ways of making education accessible to displaced children of school going age.

For the detailed report please visit
(Accessed on 28 August 2011)

We welcome your suggestions, comments and reviews on the report.

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