Founded in 1933, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a humanitarian aid organization working with populations victimized by oppression or violent conflict. The IRC's efforts begin at the outset of an emergency and continue through drawn-out crises or refugee contexts on to post-conflict reconstruction and development.
Currently at work in more than 20 countries and serving over 15 million people, the IRC seeks to help communities save lives, strengthen institutions and promote social cohesion. This work is done through:
Social services (health, water and sanitation, education, child and youth protection, protecting against gender-based violence)
Governance and rights (rule of law, civil society and community development, good governance)
The IRC has special expertise in working with conflict-affected children and youth. It has long been at the forefront of developing culturally relevant approaches to supporting the social, emotional and physical well-being of children. Access to quality, relevant education is an important part of supporting the overall well-being of children and youth in contexts of crisis, post-crisis and state fragility.
Education is one of the IRC's core competencies, and currently the IRC supports education programs for refugee and war-affected children, youth and adults in more than 20 countries. Major interventions in the IRC's education strategy include:
Formal primary and secondary schooling
Vocational education (formal and non-formal) and business skills
Accelerated learning programs
Alternative delivery, such as community-based schools and emergency non-formal education
Literacy, numeracy and adult education
Peace education, conflict resolution and life skills
Early childhood education and development
In education programming, the IRC focuses on several key approaches:
Teacher development and training
Community mobilization and capacity building to support education, such as the formation of community education committees and vocational school management committees
Youth development and leadership
Capacity building of local partners, such as government authorities and civil society curriculum development, especially supplementary curriculum to address the special needs of students and teachers affected by conflict
Teaching and learning materials
Education infrastructure support, such as rehabilitation and construction of schools or training institutions
Globally, the IRC's overall education program strategy is to support access to relevant, high-quality education for displaced and conflict-affected children, youth and adults. The strategy, based on good practices in education in emergencies, includes:
A flexible and innovative approach in program design and implementation, which allows full respect for contextual and cultural factors
Special attention to the cross-cutting issues of gender and child and youth protection and well-being
Ongoing evaluation of program effectiveness and incorporation of best practices and standards
The IRC recognizes the critical role education plays in the stabilization of a nation and the development of a skilled and competent human resource base. Equally important is the cognitive development and social and emotional well-being of children and youth through meaningful engagement in future-oriented, stimulating learning activities.
The IRC seeks to support governments' efforts to establish a quality educational system and often provides technical support for policy and program development. Likewise, the IRC provides direct assistance in the form of programs such as community-based schooling, teacher training, capacity-building for vocational training centers, community mobilization and the development of PTAs (Parent Teacher Associations). All of these extend the reach and the impact of a country’s ministry of education strategy.
The IRC recognizes the critical role that teachers play in the lives of children and youth affected by conflict and disaster. For the purposes of this toolkit, the term teacher refers to a diverse group of individuals facilitating development and protection activities in IRC's education interventions. Likewise, the term student refers to any child or young person receiving instruction in any of these education interventions, be they child, youth or adult. With this broader definition of teachers and students, Healing Classrooms can be easily adapted for use outside the traditional classroom.
The establishment of a well-trained and well-supported teaching force is a key element of the "peace dividend" of the post-crisis period. The IRC is also very aware of the challenges that resource-poor governments face in establishing and supporting such a teaching force, especially in meeting the demands for regular, decent salaries. Other supports that might be required to attract and retain quality teachers include:
Opportunities for professional development
The mobilization of a community to provide financial support/in-kind support, as well as moral support for teachers, may be considered as an approach to fill some of the gaps left by the government's limited capacity. But extensive teacher support may not be possible for communities who are themselves struggling to reestablish their lives and livelihoods.
To find out more about the IRC, visit www.theirc.org.
The IRC's response begins at the outset of an emergency and continues through extended crises or refugee situations on to rebuilding and development after the crisis.
The answer is all of the above! The IRC helps communities through social services including education, good governance, and economic development.