Chad: rethinking education in emergencies; Interventions to break the vicious cycle of underdevelopment and humanitarian crisis
Chad is a landlocked country in Central Africa bordered by Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic (CAR) to the south, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger to the west. The country is hit by several humanitarian crises caused by conflicts in its neighboring countries.
Sudanese refugees from Darfur are living in eastern regions of Chad since the beginning of the Darfur conflict in 2003. As the crisis continues for more than a decade, the Chadian government has made efforts to integrate refugee children in the national school curriculum. Despite the efforts, schools in the refugee camps still face many challenges due to the lack of resources in the context where the local population and the government are struggling with problems of their own.
Since 2013, more than 140,000 refugees and Chadian returnees from the Central African Republic (CAR) fled violence in CAR and have settled in refugee camps, returnee sites and in local villages in the south of Chad. Continuous instability and occasional outbreaks of violence in northwestern CAR created additional influx of more than 6,000 CAR refugees since 2016. There is little chance that the displaced population will return to their homes in the near future. Classrooms are overcrowded and teachers and students attend classes without any adequate teaching and learning materials. Presence of refugees and returnees from CAR is putting a huge strain on the host communities who were already living under fragile conditions before the crisis.
In the Lake Chad Basin, instability caused by violent Boko Haram attacks displaced thousands of Nigerians. Military operations in response to the attacks further forced the local population to flee their homes and become IDPs. The crisis severely affected Chad’s Lac region by creating massive population movements. But even before the crisis, the region was known for harsh living conditions and the absence of infrastructure and basic social services including education.
Completion rate of primary education in the region is only 7.6%, the lowest in the country. Lack of access to education and high illiteracy rates prepared the ground for recruitment of new extremists and amplified the effects of the crisis.
Structural weaknesses and underdevelopment such as extreme poverty, weak governance, gender disparities, and the lack of infrastructure and basic social services significantly worsen the impacts of the crises. The dynamics create a vicious circle of further deterioration of livelihoods of the local population and severe vulnerabilities of the affected population. The complex nature of the problem is especially visible in the education sector. Following the sharp fall of oil prices, main source of the government revenues, the government suspended payment of subsidies for community teachers. Claiming payment of subsidy arrears, community teachers are on strike for more than two years which led to the shutdown of more than 20% of primary schools located in crisis zones in 2015-2016. In the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, civil servant teachers also went on strike against new government measures cutting bonus payouts and called for payment of salary arrears. As a result, public schools in the crisis zones remained closed for the first four months of the school year preventing both displaced and host community children from accessing education and causing a major setback to emergency education activities planned for these children.
Analyses show that the situation in Chad should be addressed as part of a broader effort to overcome the traditional divide between humanitarian and development interventions. Actions should optimize available resources to respond to the immediate and long-term needs of the affected population.