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Education and Cash and Voucher Assistance

The content on this webpage has been developed with the Global Education Cluster.

Introduction to the Education (in Emergencies) sector

Until recently, education was seen as part of longer-term development work rather than as a necessary response to emergencies. However, education’s life-sustaining and life-saving role has been recognized and the inclusion of education within humanitarian response is now considered critical.

Education is a fundamental human right for all people. Education is especially critical for children and youth affected by conflict, and yet it is often significantly disrupted in emergency situations, denying learners the transformative effects of quality education.

Credit: Prerana Marasini/Oxfam
Students of Shri Takure Primary School in Nawalpur, Sindhupalchowk studying in temporary shelters after the Nepal earthquake damaged their school buildings in 2015. Prerana Marasini/Oxfam

Education in emergencies (EiE) comprises learning opportunities for all ages. It encompasses early childhood development, primary, secondary, non-formal, technical, vocational, higher and adult education. In emergency situations through recovery, quality education provides physical, psychosocial and cognitive protection that can sustain and save lives. Schools and other learning spaces can act as an entry point for the provision of essential support beyond the education sector such as protection, nutrition, water and sanitation and health services.

Established in 2007, the Global Education Cluster (GEC) is a mechanism for formal coordination and collaboration on education in humanitarian crises, and derives its primary mandate, purpose and scope from the 2005 Inter-Agency Standing Committee Cluster Approach. The GEC brings together NGOs, UN agencies, academics, and other partners under the shared goal of ensuring predictable, well-coordinated and equitable provision of education for populations affected by humanitarian crises. The Education Cluster works to uphold education as a basic human right and core component of humanitarian response.

How is Cash and Voucher Assistance used in the Education (in Emergencies) sector?

CVA for EiE removes the economic barriers to education which prevent crisis affected children from accessing education, thereby leading to increased enrollment and attendance. CVA does this by providing critical assistance to families: helping them purchase the necessary supplies for school; covering school fees and transportation costs or even the opportunity cost of lost child labour. CVA for EiE has been shown to prevent drop-outs and lead to re-enrollment of children who have been out of school.

However, CVA alone will not be enough to bring these children to school if they are bullied and discriminated against because of their displacement status, if they do not have the required documentation to enroll in school, if parents do not consider education important, or if schools do not have sufficient capacity to receive them.

Such situations call for the integration of CVA with interventions aimed at reducing or eliminating these barriers which are not economic in nature. These interventions include:

  • communication and sensitization to fight bullying and discrimination and to inform families and communities about the value of education,
  • support to families to assemble documentation required to enroll in school,
  • advocacy with schools to modify such requirements for conflict-affected children,
  • and interventions aimed at increasing school capacity.

Coordination is key in achieving integration, from understanding needs to designing and delivering programmes in a holistic manner.

What are the main challenges to the scale up of quality CVA in the Education (in Emergencies) sector?

Until very recently, the use of CVA for EiE has been limited, mainly due to a lack of understanding of current practices. This gap in evidence was addressed to a significant extent through GEC’s Cash and Voucher Assistance for Education in Emergencies. Synthesis Report and Guidelines and the CALP Network’s Cash Transfer Programming in the Education and Child Protection Sectors: Literature Review and Evidence Maps (see below).

In order to increase the use of CVA for EiE, the following steps are needed:

  •  Increase collaboration between EiE specialists and CVA specialists, and increase understanding by EiE specialists of CVA technical aspects relevant to education;
  • Make available more resources to continue building the evidence base on CVA for EiE, adapt tools and processes used in the education sector and inter-sectorally, develop guidance and strengthen capacity building;
  • Adapt needs assessment tools to inform CVA programming integrated with other forms of EiE programming, so that necessary data are readily available, in particular on economic barriers faced by families and children in their access to education;
  • Strengthen response analysis both at sector level and inter-sectorally, to better take into account CVA from the start;
  • Improve understanding of targeting of CVA for EiE, of use of conditionalities, optimize practices of calculating the education component of the Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB);
  • Consistently encourage linkages of humanitarian CVA with government social safety nets to ensure better sustainability of humanitarian CVA outcomes.