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Guidance Note – Environment and the Education sector, RMRP 2021


This guidance note has been developed for the RMRP 2021. Guidance is limited to the context of the region and this emergency. The note is not intended to cover all education-related interventions or all human mobility emergencies anywhere in the world. Where education interventions overlap with those of other sectors, guidance for those sectors should also be reviewed.

Environmental factors can be causes or drivers of humanitarian needs for people on the move and host communities. The environment can be affected by the education sector response to those needs. Those impacts can be mitigated, and the education sector response can also be an entry point for low-cost and simple ways to improve environmental management. It is important to consider four ways in which environment relates to the sector:

  • How environmental situations affect humanitarian needs related to education;

  • How the activities of the education sector can generate environmental impacts if not carefully designed;

  • Environment and environmental management may offer opportunities for education actors to achieve their goals;

  • How the education sector can generate environmental benefits and enhancements through activities that the sector would generally develop anyway, and how these benefits can also contribute to sustainable development and integration.

How environment affects education:

Environmental factors affect children’s enjoyment of the right to an education in emergencies in many ways. One of the main issues relates to the environmental determinants of health, which may increase absenteeism either because children spend more days unwell, or because the school environment is not healthy (e.g. due to air pollution, water quality / quantity, environmental hygiene and the presence of disease vectors and waste, or similar). Poorly located or poorly designed educational facilities can exacerbate these environmental factors and undermine children’s learning: Failure to address environmental issues may result in schools becoming transmission points for disease or pose risks to children and education personnel by being physically unsafe. Additionally, it might lead to schools becoming unusable or requiring rehabilitation too soon.

Environmental factors may affect children’s access to education through protection issues. In areas where there is a higher risk of either illicit environmental economies or modern slavery related to environmental economies such as charcoal, mining, illicit crop production, sugar production and seed nurseries, children may lose access to education due to child labour, smuggling or trafficking.

Environmental impacts of the education sector response:

School environment: Education in emergencies actors may need to address issues related to the school environment, possibly to add new/temporary classrooms to expand schools, add or expand school kitchens. To that end, the environmental footprint of school construction should be considered, to avoid construction waste becoming a site for vector propagation or an accident risk. Consult USAID sector environmental guidelines for primary and secondary schools and ensure than an environmental management plan is developed before expanding or modifying school facilities. Sustainably sourced construction materials should be a condition of tenders, regular removal of construction wastes, regular elimination of stagnant water and any food waste, installation of mosquito-repellent plants (e.g. limonsillo) to protect workers and students, and ensure the implementation of water and energy systems to reduce consumption. Develop a waste management plan for schools , noting that under pandemic circumstances, local advice may be to treat all waste as potentially infectious. Under those circumstances, consult the health sector guidance note on management of healthcare waste and best available technology for disposal of potentially contaminated waste . Incineration is generally not recommended.
Where installing or rehabilitating WASH facilities in schools, consult the WASH sector guidance note.