The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a worldwide humanitarian aid organization. The IRC's work begins at the outset of an emergency and continues through protracted crises to post-conflict reconstruction and development. IRC programming aims to:
Provide for individuals' basic needs
Promote social cohesion
The IRC's Healing Classrooms has been developed through our work in conflict-affected countries over the past 27 years. It recognizes both the reality of prior underinvestment in education in many of these countries and the devastating effects of war on children, youth, parents, teachers, and education systems and infrastructure. In the context of sudden onset and chronic crises, as well as contexts of post-crisis and state fragility, the Healing Classrooms approach is designed to develop and strengthen the role that schools and especially teachers play in promoting the psychosocial recovery and well-being of children and youth. It encourages an inclusive approach to education, in which all children and youth are welcomed – including girls, children of different ethnic origin and children with disabilities. It recognizes that crises and displacement heighten the risks of abuse and exploitation faced by children and youth, even within schools, and that training, ongoing support, and monitoring and referral systems are critical in making schools safe spaces. The approach particularly focuses on expanding and supporting the positive role that teachers, parents, government officials and community members play in these crises, in making and maintaining these "healing" learning spaces, in which all children and youth can recover, grow and develop. Healing Classrooms started with the recognition that in these contexts many, possibly the majority of, teachers may not have been formally trained as teachers, and may well have had only a few years of formal schooling themselves. Building on this learning, Healing Classrooms has expanded in recognition of the variety of players who have an impact on student well-being.
This eLearning Program is designed to provide Healing Classrooms-related learning opportunities to staff of IRC and its partners. A self and/or group study program, the eLearning Program enables staff to:
Access relevant, quality professional development opportunities and resources on an ongoing basis
Support their colleagues' learning of key concepts related to child protection, student well-being, quality teaching and learning
Design, implement and monitor quality programs
Begin the program by learning the basics:
About the IRC (The International Rescue Committee) – Helping people in crisis situations for nearly 75 years
About the Healing Classrooms (Healing Classrooms) – Recognizing the special role of teachers in crisis and post-crisis education
About the eLearning Program – Training for education, child protection, and youth and livelihoods programs and policy development
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.
The IRC's Healing Classrooms began in 2004 as a global organizational learning initiative focused on the broad theme of teacher development for student well-being. It was created in recognition of and response to the special role of teachers in crisis and post-crisis education. Through ongoing action research, Healing Classrooms has continued to generate new knowledge by identifying and documenting promising existing practices while supporting the development and piloting of new innovations within different IRC programs. As a result, Healing Classrooms can be applied to the roles of other key stakeholders in promoting student well-being and gender equity.
Assessments from the Healing Classrooms pilot projects in Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Guinea and Sierra Leone have revealed some key issues for those working with children and youth in contexts of crisis, post-crisis and state fragility. They relate to the following themes:
Teacher Identity, Motivation and Well-Being
Subsequent action research has enriched and expanded the content within each of these themes. For example, assessments and subsequent pilot projects have provided further insights into teachers' lives and their experiences of teaching in different crisis and post-crisis situations. Learning related to appropriate and effective ways of supporting teachers' professional development is being translated into program tools and documentation. Additionally, Healing Classrooms assessments and follow-up projects are providing new content for staff development.
In which the rights of children and youth are respected, promoted and realized
That is attuned to the psychosocial well-being of children, youth and teachers
That provides relevant activities and learning opportunities
That empowers students and teachers through participation and engagement
That offers safe, health-promoting and gender-responsive environments
That promotes a culture of peace, dialogue, participation and tolerance through both what and how teachers teach
That teaches children and youth the life skills to make informed decisions, communicate effectively and develop coping and self-management skills, helping them to lead productive lives
In which there are opportunities for enhancing teacher skills, commitment and status, with particular attention to teacher capacities to prevent and respond to violence in schools
That is supported by government authorities, parents and the community at large to ensure the safety and well-being of children and youth.
Throughout this program, "classroom," "school" and "learning environment" are used interchangeably to refer to the space where learning occurs. This can take the form of a formal school or training center with cement walls and ceiling; it could be less formal, such as a learning space under a tree or plastic sheeting; or it could be a semi-permanent learning space or training center.
Student well-being is a holistic vision of children and youth, based on an awareness of their many needs. The vision encompasses the physical, psychological, cognitive and social dimensions of the lives of children and youth. Again, the Healing Classrooms definition of the term student refers to any child or young person receiving instruction in any of these education interventions, be they child, youth or adult.
The IRC's Healing Classroom approaches are grounded in this broad-based view, with an emphasis on how learning, the learning environment and learning facilitators, such as teachers, can contribute to the well-being of children and youth.
From the pilot research, we have seen that a number of different elements related to the learning environment can positively affect student well-being. As a result this program was developed with an understanding that:
Learning spaces should be safe environments for children and youth, where they are not only protected from harm but also given the skills, knowledge, voice and capacity to protect themselves.
Being identified as a student in the community can contribute significantly to the well-being of children and youth affected by crises.
Going to school and learning well is highly important for children and youth.
Teachers play very important roles in the lives of these children and youth. Depending on the teachers’ actions and attitudes their influence can be either positive or negative.
School friends are very important to these children and youth in these contexts – and cause of both comfort and stress for them.
Providing youth with the skills and opportunities to support themselves and their families, participate in their civic and community affairs and make smooth life transitions reduces the feelings of hopelessness among conflict-affected youth.
Teachers play a key role in the lives of conflict-affected children and youth. Within Healing Classrooms, the term teacher refers to a diverse group of individuals facilitating development and protection activities in IRC's education interventions. This may include primary school teachers, child-friendly spaces facilitators, vocational trainers or a variety of other educators and facilitators in the full range of education interventions. Teacher identity, motivation and well-being directly impact student well-being. Healing Classrooms teacher-related issues include:
Teachers in contexts of crisis, post-crisis and state fragility have particular identities, experiences, perspectives and priorities.
Understanding and building on teachers' experiences can ensure that training and ongoing support and professional development are meaningful and relevant.
Teachers are motivated and discouraged by different factors. Understanding and building on these diverse motivations promotes quality teaching.
Community and government support to teachers' well-being is a critical factor to achieving quality teaching and learning.
The relationships between men, women, boys and girls usually reflect societal attitudes and expectations. Gender dynamics impact all aspects of community life. Within Healing Classrooms, gender issues related to students and teachers include:
Understanding how the relationships between gender and power in the community and in the school/learning space are critical in promoting gender equality in and through education.
The reality that girls' and women's access to education is often more limited in crisis situations. Girls' education needs to be oriented to "strategic protection." This approach involves gaining information and skills that enable girls and women to better protect themselves, to stay safe from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation, and to participate actively in their communities.
Action research can help field staff to better understand the contexts in which they work and the effects (intended and unintended) of their interventions. The goal of action research is to constantly improve the quality of these programs. These research methodologies are an extension of the type of reflective practice that is necessary for quality program development, implementation and evaluation.
Click here to learn more about the Healing Classrooms.
The eLearning Program is a self-contained CD-ROM curriculum. It covers the key concepts of the IRC's Healing Classrooms and relates them to programming and policy approaches in the field of education in crisis, post crisis and contexts of state fragility.
The Healing Classrooms eLearning Program was developed with the support of the Pearson Foundation. For more information, please visit www.pearsonfoundation.org.
The eLearning Program contains this introductory module – "The Basics" – plus three modules along with relevant documents and resources accessible to eLearners on CD-ROM. It includes a variety of reference materials, example tools and learning activities, most of which you can access and print directly. The sections are:
The Basics: An overview of the International Rescue Committee, the IRC's Healing Classrooms and all about the Healing Classrooms' eLearning Program.
Student Well-Being: Background information and concepts on student well-being; activities focused on program strategy development; examples of program strategies that have been piloted in initial Healing Classrooms projects.
Teacher Identity, Motivation and Well-Being: Background information and concepts on teacher identity, motivation and well-being. Included are activities focused on program strategy development and examples of program strategies piloted in the initial Healing Classrooms projects. This section also contains a Workshop Guide that provides a workshop outline for use with teachers, communities and ministry staff.
Gender Dynamics in Teaching and Learning: Background information and concepts on gender dynamics; activities focused on program strategy development, as well as on monitoring and evaluating gender-related issues. This section also contains a Workshop Guide that provides a workshop outline for use with teachers, communities and ministry staff.
The program is designed for field-based staff of IRC and its partners, working in education, child protection or youth and livelihood programs. It's also for other IRC staff responsible for education, youth and protection programs. This eLearning Program is relevant to:
Officers, managers and coordinators of education, child protection or youth and livelihood programs
Teachers and other education facilitators
Trainers and master trainers
Monitoring and evaluation officers, managers and coordinators
Program or grants managers
Senior management such as deputy directors of programs and country directors
The Healing Classrooms eLearning Program provides a comprehensive but flexible program through which staff can access professional development and learning opportunities on their own time. Additionally, it was developed to:
Build the capacity of IRC staff and partners to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate effective programs that make a positive impact for the protection, learning and overall healthy development of children and youth affected by crisis.
Support the sharing of IRC Healing Classrooms findings. Through the eLearning Program these significant "promising practices" and lessons learned can be shared with other programs and, where appropriate, integrated into ongoing projects as well as new projects being developed.
Provide learning resources for IRC and partners' field offices that have limited relevant reference and resource material on hand and that often have difficulty downloading documents from the Internet.
Question: Should the program modules and sections be studied in sequence?
Answer: The modules are interconnected, but they can also be studied as standalone units. Learners can, for example, start at the beginning and work through successive modules (and sections) over an extended period of time, cross referencing and returning back to previous modules and sections to review and to apply new perspectives. Alternatively, learners may pick any one of the modules to work with as a specific unit of study.
Question: How long is a learning session?
Answer: The time required to complete each module will depend to a great extent on the number of activities and readings that are followed up on. The learner/facilitator should select these according to his/her/the group’s priorities. On average, though, it is estimated that each module will require at least 2 to 4 hours of study time.
Question: What about the learning activities?
Answer: The activities and exercises suggested in the different modules can be worked through by an individual or as a group activity. Certain activities/exercises may be selected for group attention with others left for individual attention. See Tips for Facilitators .
Question: Are there any additional resources?
Answer: Yes.Supporting resource materials (such as additional readings, program tools, case study examples) are available in the Resource section, accessible through at the top right of this and all other pages in the program. Where resource materials should be consulted, you will see the message "Click here" and the name of the document to be accessed from the Resource section.
Question : Can I study alone?
Answer : Yes. An individual can study alone and/or the modules and sections can be read individually and discussed as a group or worked through as a group. Most of the activities are flexible, suitable for group and/or individual work.
Being part of a group can greatly enhance learning by sharing experiences and ideas. The success of a learning/training group is often linked to the leadership qualities and skill of the facilitator. Whenever possible, group facilitators should:
Supplement and contextualize the activities and reading materials – The facilitator will need to be familiar with the content of the entire section/program ahead of time, in order to select the most appropriate or priority learning activities, depending on the particular needs of the group. Additional, local materials can be selected to supplement and to contextualize, as desired by the facilitator, for example, ministry of education strategies and policies, education cluster materials.
Involve your learning group in the shaping of the learning program – If you engage your learners in making collective decisions about, for example, priority topics, speed of learning, number of readings and expected preparation and follow-up work, then the learners are likely to feel ownership of the program. They will want to see the program through to the end and to make the most of the learning experience.
Be creative to address possible language challenges – The program inevitably depends on a relatively high level of English comprehension. Texts within a section and the accompanying resource materials are of a technical nature and demand a good command of the language. However, without translating every document, a group learning process may be designed to ensure that all participants have grasped the content; for example, by having texts read and tools examined in English but then summarized and discussed in your local language.
IRC staff members are involved with varied programs in diverse contexts. They also have a wide variety of skills and experiences. Clearly, the needs of seasoned staff are very different from those who are new to the team. Long-time IRC staff members are familiar with IRC approaches but may need a focused learning experience on a particular topic. New staff members would benefit from a comprehensive package of learning and professional development that could be built into their induction and orientation process with IRC. Program flexibility takes into account:
Hectic schedules of IRC staff: Field staff are often so busy with the everyday realities of their work that they have no time to seek out additional learning materials. These realities call for a flexible, self-contained and self-paced learning package.
Diverse learning styles, paces and preferences: This program allows people to learn at their own pace. It also provides opportunities for staff to learn in different ways, such as a face-to-face, collective learning experience or individual study and review.
The Healing Classrooms eLearning Program is all about education, child protection and youth and livelihoods program and policy development in crisis and post-crisis situations, and in contexts of state fragility. This includes:
Education programs for refugee and internally displaced (IDP) communities, for returnee communities where people are making efforts to return to "normalcy" and to rebuild their lives, their community and society in the aftermath of a crisis.
Communities that have hosted refugees and/or IDPs, and are understandably challenged by the additional strain on resources, infrastructures, etc.
Contexts of ongoing, chronic state fragility, in which the government is unable or unwilling to provide basic services to the population. Although the situation may be relatively stable in such situations, the potential for crisis, and especially conflict, is very high.
Within the Healing Classrooms eLearning Program, the terms "education" and "child and youth protection" are understood very broadly. They apply to a wide variety of program types operating in the contexts described previously. For example:
Support for formal schooling
NGO-supported or community-based learning programs
Non-formal literacy classes
Life skills and other extra-curricular learning programs
Vocational training and livelihoods programs
Youth clubs and other activity-based programs
Child protection community capacity building programs