Supporting formal education

The responsibility for the provision of education to children rests primarily with the government of the state in which they live. In many contexts, however, the government has limited capacity to deliver a functional educational structure. In a few cases the state itself does not even exist, or is effectively denying education provision to certain groups of children. One approach in education in emergencies is support of efforts to maintain or rebuild school systems, whether led by governments or communities themselves. This can also mean building community ownership of education through the creation of school committees.

To read about supporting formal education in practice, click the picture below:

Burundi Education Project, FH

When should we provide support for formal education?

  • When government capacity to deliver education for all has been limited by the emergency
  • In displacement contexts where formal school systems are overwhelmed and displaced or refugee children are unable to access schools
  • Where physical school structures and buildings have been damaged and are not being immediately repaired


  • To prevent children from missing out on formal education
  • To support government in their ability to provide education for all
  • To support communities in their efforts to fill gaps in education provision during emergencies

Activities to support formal education

Where possible, it is important to build the capacity of the responsible authorities, as in the long term they will guide the education system. Activities may include:

  • Capacity-building for local, district and national education authorities
  • Teacher in-service workshops
  • Provision of textbooks and other classroom supplies
  • Development of or contributions to revisions in curriculum
  • School rehabilitation or reconstruction
  • Promotion of inclusive policies

Short term relief can enable formal education to continue in the early stages following an emergency:

  • Education supplies such as pens, notebooks and blackboards can increase capacity of existing schools
  • Provision of recreation supplies
  • Rapid teacher training focused on psychosocial support
  • Purchase of school furniture
  • School reconstruction, coupled with community participation

Community-based schools

Setting up full-time schools where children are unable to access formal education, whilst continuing to advocate for entrance into mainstream school, can help to make sure children do not suffer long gaps in their education due to protracted emergencies. School systems may break down or collapse completely during protracted periods of violence or war. Communities affected by emergencies often attempt to re-start the education process themselves, even in the most difficult circumstances.


  • Support for management structures
  • Provision of education and recreation supplies (or kits) and guidance on use
  • Training for teachers or community members taking on that role
  • Teacher incentives (absence of salaries)
  • Development of or contributions to revisions in curriculum

School committees

School committees – in some places called parent-teacher associations, in others community education committees, are an important way to build a community’s ownership of schooling and influence the education process for their children. They can play a significant role whether part of state education systems or community school efforts. The role of school committees can become so significant that working with these groups can be classified as a major project approach. School committees can be assisted by getting them started, providing training for leadership, or offering administrative supplies. One of their explicit aims should be to advocate for school attendance, involving adults in the community in promoting the importance of education.

  • Parents have strongest interest in ensuring education for children
  • A rotating community committee will build sense of responsibility for school
  • Gender balance is difficult to achieve, but is vital to work toward
  • Role should include a practical element: manage and collect funds, care for building, etc


  • Start up committees in locations where they are not in use
  • Train in management responsibilities and structures
  • Facilitate participatory planning Provide administrative supplies
  • Committees lead outreach to community to promote attendance

Advocacy for access

Basic advocacy efforts can go a long way toward returning children to the classroom. Parents of internally displaced children might not know their rights, while on the other hand local schools already at their full capacity may not be willing to honour those rights. Advocacy, coupled with support for schools through supply provision or assistance with needed repairs, can increase admission rates.

Administrative inflexibility can be the source of exclusion, for example where identification documents are required for admission, or where the school term has already begun. Look for practical solutions to problems of capacity, e.g. shifts, repairs, supplies.

Additional tools and resources

Information on this page is primarily drawn from

Additional tools and resources for supporting formal education are here

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