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Books Saving lives? Critiquing the Conceptualisation of Education as Humanitarian Aid



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Teh, Henrietta 


In recent decades, the world has witnessed an increase in violent and protracted conflicts. Education in Emergencies (EiE) as a field has emerged since the 1990s in response to these rising conflicts and disasters together with the realisation that children living in these situations often spend years without access to schooling. As EiE has grown, it has successfully positioned education as a key aspect of humanitarian aid. This paper focuses upon literature on conflict emergencies, including refugee and displaced populations. Through a review of the historical perspectives and development of EiE, this critical paper unveils that despite the conceptualisation of EiE as aid, it is not apolitical. By analysing the literature by prominent scholars and practitioners in EiE, the paper allows us to bear witness to the success of the rise of EiE which has developed from the power dynamics of the humanitarian aid infrastructure, governed by Western agendas and financing. In addition, the short-term vision and packaged nature of education to create normalcy supported by a rights-based and protection rationale has prevented the international development and aid sector from addressing wider structural issues and inequalities. The technical notions of EiE are revealed to be often detached from realities of communities and fail to empower and create quality learning opportunities. The paper calls for the immediate need to provide quality education to children in conflict and displacement settings but urges EiE to address the tensions and power relations examined between technical solutions, political agendas and security interests that remain at the core of the field’s evolution.



education in emergencies, humanitarian aid, conflict, inequality and protection

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CERJ, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

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