Last month we did an Educational Deployment Feasibility Visit to Kurdistan, in order to look at the situation on the ground. Before even considering the positioning of a team of teachers to a place like Kurdistan, it is absolutely essential to look at the feasibility of whether a team of teachers could actually function effectively on a day to day basis in that context. This means looking at the infrastructure, security, politics, logistics and practicalities of everything from the running of an educational centre to whether teachers could live, work and travel to and from the centre.
As it happens, we are often contacted about extremely needy locations around the world, locations which often seem to have large numbers of children unable to access education. But when we look into the feasibility of deploying a team of teachers to some of those locations, it sometimes emerges that there are issues of contextual strife, or poor transport infrastructure and even humanitarian problems which would make it difficult to deliver education. In those types of situations, no matter how enthusiastic and committed teachers might be, they would struggle to provide a consistent and effective education and so the overall impact and value of any educational programme would be seriously degraded.
It is really important for us to focus on ‘feasibility’ before committing to a project otherwise, we could end up wasting resources in an ultimately unsuccessful location when the resources could have been used far more successfully in a different location.
After Christmas, we carried out further feasibility assessment in Greece and came to the conclusion that the situation was becoming so chaotic that it was no longer feasible to work there. Hundreds of millions of Euros are being given to officials to provide Formal Education and so there is a constant uncertainty about if or when a specific group of pupils is going to be moved from a camp, or placed into Formal schools. With that level of uncertainty, it is impossible to plan educational programmes. We could do day-to-day entertainment or activities, but not educational programmes. We have therefore decided to pause operations in Greece and we will re-assess the feasibility later in the year.
Our February visit to Kurdistan has indicated that it is feasible to deploy a teaching team to Kurdistan. Once we have established the basic feasibility, we now turn to look at the concrete practicalities of what a deployment would look like. This means looking at everything from where teachers might actually teach, to where teachers might live, and how they could move between the two locations. We need to be confident that day to day routines could run efficiently, safely and cost-effectively and that teachers can have easy access to IT and communications equipment.
With this in mind, we will be doing a second visit to Kurdistan in the near future and this visit will be an "Educational Deployment Practicality Visit". As well as the day-to-day practicalities, this visit will also involve re-confirming documentation, permits and authorisations. At this point in time, we have still made no final decision about the scale of the potential deployment, as that depends totally upon what funding we can secure.
Once we have done our second visit, the third and final pre-deployment stage is the Educational Deployment Preparation Visit where we will put in place the factors we need for a deployment. This will involve the signing of contracts, the committing to leases for accommodation or transport and the ordering of equipment or materials for when the main deployment is due to start. If possible, at this final pre-stage we also like to start a small programme on the ground with local teachers preparing classroom assistants.
When a team of teachers arrives to start working with children, it makes educational programmes run so much more smoothly if we have classroom assistants to work with each teacher. Teachers will invariably work through the medium of English. If each teacher has a classroom assistant who has local language skills, then this greatly enhances the ability of the teacher to hit the ground running with classes who may have little or limited English.
As we came into March we had completed one of the three pre-deployment visits. The other two visits will take place in coming weeks if the circumstances of a deployment continue to look favourable and feasible.
In mid-March, we also attended the Education and Skills Forum in Dubai. This is a large event with many educational organisations and policy makers present. It was a good opportunity for us to talk to other professionals about the kinds of approaches and practices which are working well in Emergency Education contexts around the world. As we build up our own experience and insights we are increasingly finding that we are being asked to share ideas, as often as we ourselves are looking for ideas from others.