Teachers Without Borders: update

Thought this might be a useful point at which to update progress on my ‘Teachers Without Borders’ campaign. It’s the Liberal Democrat proposal to make education to part of the humanitarian response to disasters and crises – and something that Save the Children have put at the forefront of their campaigning this year.

Affectionately now called the ‘Ed Cross’ – as it is to some extent an education version of the Red Cross – I have had a pretty good response from people emailing in via the website.

Basically there was a real welcome for the idea. There was some debate about whether it needed teachers and teaching skills as opposed to other sorts of skills. Some concerns were raised about the importance of having sustainable solutions – and just a short burst of teaching – and also not being colonial in our approach.

I have to say that the whole idea is to form part of the humanitarian response and is about filling the gap while local services are put (back) in place with local personnel. Many like the idea of this being an international force, where member states can supply volunteers to be deployed. Some suggestions were made that it would work best via the big five NGOs, who already coordinate their own humanitarian responses well when they need to spring into action. I’ve lobbied Hilary Benn (the minister) on this and got positive responses. Also pleasantly surprised by how many teachers said they would wish to go. All in all, a very good start and more consultation with NGOs to come.

Teachers Without Borders: would you change the name?

Am rung with the news that GB (not Great Britain – but he who would be PM) has announced £20 million for children’s education in war zones in Africa. So three cheers! I cannot help but notice that since the introduction of the Liberal Democrat campaign to set up an education version of the Red Cross Gordon has been a bit more visible on this issue.

Which reminds me – I am mulling over the name of our campaign. Perhaps we should call it the Ed Cross instead of Teachers without Borders? When I was looking for a catchy title for an International emergency education response team – an education version of the Red Cross in fact – someone suggested the Ed Cross, but I thought it might upset the Red Cross at the time. However, as our campaign progresses I have come round to thinking that Ed Cross expresses what we are trying to deliver much better than Teachers without Borders. What do you think?

Anyway – back to Gordon’s £20 million for African war zones given to Unicef. Save the Children – who are leading the campaign to get the government to accept education as part of first humanitarian response – identified that out of 80 million children not in education in the developing world nearly 40 million are in war or conflict-affected zones. That means Gordon’s beneficence – whilst very welcome – is delivering about 50p per war zone child without education – albeit that his money is earmarked for Africa only whilst the 40 million children I refer to are across the whole developing world. So – not looking a gift horse in the mouth – but there is much more still to do.

Focusing on education in conflict zones

Following up on my earlier blog posting on my Teachers Without Borders policy consultation, you can now read my newspaper column on the subject on my website.

As I wrote:

Focusing on education in a conflict zone is vital in order to establish a future for that region. War only teaches war. Children need not only the therapeutic medicine of learning itself but also – as they emerge from the carnage – children need to be given the skills and capacity to become anything from farmers to pharmacists.

Moreover, the relationship between education and community and political participation is well established. Participation in education contributes to community action and national political life. Teachers can also help children to develop new skills and knowledge necessary for survival and coping in a post-conflict environment, including landmine awareness and safety, negotiation and problem solving, and information about HIV/AIDS and other health issues.

You can read the full newspaper column on my website.

The missing ingredient in international aid

I’ve been thinking – dangerous for a politician! Out of all the briefings I’ve had since becoming the Lib Dem Shadow Secretary of State for International Development about all the injustices and challenges of the developing world, the one that jumped out at me was the plight of children – orphaned, displaced and traumatized, sometimes for generations.

When war wrecks a child’s life – be it the murder of their families, loss of their home, displacement or injury – they are left vulnerable and fragile. Where natural disaster, war or protracted conflict rages the world rushes in with medicine, food, water and shelter – obviously. But there is something more that is needed – even at that first point. It is education.

So instead education often stops – and this stores up huge problems for the future. So I’ve just launched a new website http://www.teacherswithoutborders.info to consult on some ideas around this problem. Do take a look and send in your views – thanks!