Access and Learning Environment


Click on the Access and Learning Environment Domain and review the Standards and Key Actions.

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Think about these Standards and Key Actions as you answer the questions in this section.

Access and Learning Environment Standard 1: Equal Access

All individuals have access to quality and relevant education opportunities.

Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

  • No individual or social group is denied access to education and learning opportunities because of discrimination (see guidance note 1).
  • Learning structures and sites are accessible to all (see guidance note 1).
  • Barriers to enrolment, such as lack of documents or other requirements, are removed (see guidance notes 2 and 4).
  • A range of flexible, formal and non-formal education opportunities is progressively provided to the affected population to fulfil their education needs (see guidance notes 3-5).
  • Through sensitisation and training, local communities become increasingly involved in ensuring the rights of all children, youth and adults to quality and relevant education (see guidance notes 6-7).
  • Sufficient resources are available and ensure continuity, equity and quality of education activities (see guidance note 8).
  • Learners have the opportunity to enter or re-enter the formal education system as soon as possible after the disruption caused by the emergency (see guidance note 9).
  • The education programme in refugee contexts is recognised by the relevant local education authorities and the country of origin.
  • Education services for disaster-affected populations do not negatively impact host populations.

Access and Learning Environment Standard 2: Protection and Well-being

Learning environments are secure and safe, and promote the protection and the psychosocial well-being of learners, teachers and other education personnel.

Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

  • The learning environment is free from sources of harm to learners, teachers and other education personnel (see guidance notes 1 and 3-4).
  • Teachers and other education personnel acquire the skills and knowledge needed to create a supportive learning environment and to promote learners’ psychosocial well-being (see guidance notes 2-3, and 8-9).
  • Schools, temporary learning spaces and child-friendly spaces are close to the populations they serve (see guidance notes 5-6).
  • Access routes to the learning environment are safe, secure and accessible for all (see guidance notes 5-7).
  • Learning environments are free from military occupation and attack (see guidance notes 1, 3 and 6-7).
  • The community contributes to decisions about the location of the learning environment, and about systems and policies to ensure that learners, teachers and other education personnel are safe and secure (see guidance notes 1 and 10).
  • Safe learning environments are maintained through disaster risk reduction and management activities (see guidance note 11).

Access and Learning Environment Standard 3: Facilities and Services

Education facilities promote the safety and well-being of learners, teachers and other education personnel and are linked to health, nutrition, psychosocial and protection services.

Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

  • Learning sites and structures are safe and accessible for all learners, teachers and other education personnel (see guidance notes 1-4).
  • Temporary and permanent learning environments are repaired, retro-fitted or replaced as needed with disaster-resilient design and construction (see guidance notes 2 and 4).
  • Learning spaces are marked by visible protective boundaries and clear signs.
  • Physical structures used for learning sites are appropriate for the situation and include adequate space for classes, administration, recreation and sanitation facilities (see guidance notes 2 and 4).
  • Class space and seating arrangements meet agreed ratios of space per learner and teacher in order to promote participatory methodologies and learner-centred approaches (see guidance note 4).
  • Community members, including young people, participate in the construction and maintenance of the learning environment (see guidance notes 1-3).
  • Adequate quantities of safe water and appropriate sanitation facilities are provided for personal hygiene and protection, taking into account sex, age and people with disabilities (see guidance notes 3 and 5-6).
  • Skills-based health and hygiene education is promoted in the learning environment (see guidance note 6).
  • School-based health and nutrition services are available to address hunger and other barriers to effective learning and development (see guidance note 7).
  • Schools and learning spaces are linked to child protection, health, nutrition, social and psychosocial services (see guidance note 8).

For tools to help you with the implementation of these standards, go to the INEE Toolkit.

Question 1

The INEE Minimum Standards Handbook emphasises that “all individuals should have access to quality and relevant education opportunities.” (Access and Learning Environment Standard 1: Equal Access). This is often not the case for all children.

What are the main risks in the Chadian refugee camps for the groups listed in the following questions? Watch a video segment or look at the photos for each group. Select all that apply and then click for the answer.

Question 1a

Two girls each carrying bundles of branches on their heads

© August 14, 2007 / UNHCR / H. Caux


What are the main risks in the Chadian refugee camps for the girls? Select all that apply and then click for the answer.

Watch the video clip below.

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Answer: All of the above

Girls with little or no access to education services can be at risk of early marriage or at risk of being in exploitative labour conditions. By being out of school, girls are denied their right to education. Many girls, especially older ones, in the Chadian refugee camps have to take care of younger siblings, assist with household chores (e.g., cooking, cleaning, collecting water and firewood) or work outside the camp as domestic servants to earn money for their families. Girls can also be at risk of being raped when going outside the camp and into the “wadi” or bushes to collect firewood. Girls working outside the home are at risk of sexual and physical abuse by the families they work for. Oftentimes, girls do not get food or pay for their work.

Many adult refugees feel that educating girls is not as important as educating boys. When a girl starts to menstruate, she is considered an adult and is expected to take on the responsibilities of a grown-up woman. At age 12-13, families often try to get their daughters married. This poses an additional barrier for girls to both enter school and then continue schooling. Nevertheless, United Nations, Ministry of Education and international non-governmental organisations continue to make great efforts to increase girls’ access to educational opportunities.

Question 1b

A disabled child sitting in the shade by a tent

(c) 2006, Sweta Shah

Disabled Children

What are the main risks for disabled children in the Chadian refugee camps? Select all that apply and then click for the answer.

Answer: A, E, F, G, H

Disabled children in many of the Chadian refugee camps do not have access to educational opportunities. Physically handicapped children have difficulty getting to school. There are no materials in Braille for blind children and teachers do not receive training in sign language to communicate well with deaf children. Furthermore, teachers receive little, if any, training to support disabled children. Lastly, discrimination also poses challenges for disabled children’s ability to access education.

The young person from Touloum refugee camp in 2006, pictured above, was physically and mentally disabled and was tied up all day. At the time the photo was taken, he did not attend school because of discrimination by his parents and the community and the challenges of getting him to school. There were other disabled children in Touloum refugee camp in 2006 in similar situations.

Question 1c

Adolescents and youth

What are the main risks for adolescents and youth in the Chadian refugee camps? Read the quote and watch the video clip. Select all that apply and then click for the answer.

“Refugee leaders from Djabal refugee camp called for the establishment of secondary schools. There are currently only 2 secondary schools in the 12 UNHCR refugee camps in Eastern Chad.”

Quoted in Rehrl, Annette. “Refugees from Darfur call for improved educational facilities in eastern Chad”, 29 January 2010, UNHCR.

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Two adolescent boys

© 2007 David Buchbinder/Human Rights Watch

Answer: A, B, C, D, E

The video states that there was no secondary school in Djabal refugee camp. Since the making of the video, however, a secondary school was built but Djabal refugee camp still remains the only refugee camp in eastern Chad with a secondary school. The other UNHCR-run refugee camps still have no secondary schools. Secondary education is often not prioritised. As a result, many adolescents remain idle and therefore at risk for the worst forms of child labour, including being recruited by armed forces and armed groups. Many adolescents and youth work outside of the camps in Chadian families as domestic labourers. This is especially true for girls. Heninger and McKenna in their investigation of the Chadian refugee camps found young people expressing interest in continuing their schooling. However, there were no secondary educational services available to them. Furthermore, there were no accelerated learning or flexible learning programmes that would enable adolescents who may have never gone to school or dropped out many years ago to access education.

In 2007, there was clear evidence of the recruitment of young people in the refugee camps by Chadian and Sudanese armed forces and groups. Later that year, UNICEF and the Chadian government signed an agreement to identify and demobilise children in the Chadian military (UNICEF, 2007). By February 2010, nearly 800 child soldiers had been demobilised and supported to reintegrate back into their communities (UNICEF, 2010).


  1. Heninger, Lori and McKenna, Megan. “Don’t Forget Us”: The Education and Gender-Based Violence Protection Needs of Adolescent Girls from Darfur in Chad, Women’s Refugee Commission, July 2005.
  2. UNICEF. “Fact Sheet: Children Associated with Armed Groups and Forces Central Africa, 2010.
  3. UNICEF. “UNICEF and Chad sign agreement to demobilize child soldiers”, May 2007.

Question 1d

Young children (0-5 years)

A young boy

© 2006, Sweta Shah

What are the main risks for young children in the Chadian refugee camps? Select all that apply and then click for the answer.

Answer: E

Learning begins at birth when children build the foundation of learning for their whole lives. However, the early years (0-5) are often neglected in emergencies because it is thought that parents take care of their small children. Unfortunately, in emergencies, families could be separated, injured or traumatised and may not be able to take care of their children as they did before.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes provide support to children by providing stimulating, age-appropriate educational and psychosocial activities. These programmes provide services for children between 0-8 years. However, the most vulnerable children and those at greatest risk because of the fewer opportunities available to them are children between 0-5 years. After 5 years of age, many children are able to enter schools.

ECD allows learning in the early years that is crucial for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. ECD activities require close collaboration between agencies working in the education, child protection, nutrition, health and water/sanitation sectors to ensure a holistic response to meeting the children’s needs.

Early Childhood Development (ECD)

Early Childhood Development (ECD): the process through which young children, aged 0-8 years, develop their optimal physical health, mental alertness, emotional confidence, social competence and readiness to learn. These processes are supported by social and financial policies and comprehensive programming that integrate health, nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene, education and child protection services. All children and families benefit from high-quality programmes, but disadvantaged groups benefit the most.

ECD programmes promote young children’s well-being and development by providing support to both children and their parents. In addition to facilitating play activities that stimulate young children’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being and development, ECD programmes provide education to parents before and after a baby’s birth on child development, nutrition and health.

Question 1e

Children from host communities (Chadian children)

Many children in a group photo

© 2006, Sweta Shah

What are the main risks for host community children living near the Chadian refugee camps? Select all that apply and then click for the answer.

Answer: D, H

In refugee situations, it is important to provide support not only to refugees, but also to host communities, especially when the host community is poor and lacks many basic services. If services are not provided to refugees and host communities, it can cause resentment and pose risks to the refugees.

Due to the complexity of the conflict in Chad, many of the host communities have been themselves internally displaced. In the case of Darfuri refugees in Chad, the host communities are of some of the same ethnic groups as the refugees and are also poor. Eastern Chad has very few schools and education opportunities for children. Some areas have already seen tensions between the refugees and the host communities because of the uneven provision of services. This may result in physical fights where people could be injured or killed. There have been these types of cases in Touloum and Iridimi camps. Furthermore, there have been cases where Chadian villagers have stolen materials such as livestock from refugees.

Question 2

What strategies could be used in Chad to increase access to education for girls, disabled children, adolescents/youth, young children, and host community children? Write your answer in the box below and click to see feedback.


A woman on a donkey, holding a child

© 2005, Sweta Shah


There are many things that can be done to increase girls’ access to education. Some of these strategies include having flexibility in the class times for those who need to care for siblings, do household chores or work. By providing flexibility, girls could still study at some point in the day even if it is outside of regular school hours. Another strategy would be to raise caregivers’ (i.e. parents, relatives, community members) awareness about the benefits of educating girls and providing them with incentives. If monetary, food or child care incentives are provided, it could remove some of girls’ main obstacles to going to school as she would not need to earn a living, collect or cook food for the family or take care of younger siblings.

Further, distribution times for food and other items could be set so it is not during school hours. For this, education staff would need to work with the camp coordination and management team. Lastly, ensuring sufficient female teachers could provide an additional push for parents to send their daughters to school. For cultural or religious reasons, some parents may not feel comfortable sending their daughters to school with male teachers for fear of abuse. The chance of abuse from female teachers would be lower; they would better understand girls’ needs and could be excellent role models for them.

Additional Resources

  1. Kirk, Jackie. The Impact of Women Teachers on Girls’ Education - Advocacy Brief. Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok, 2006.
  2. INEE Pocket Guide to Gender

Disabled children

A disabled boy

© 2006, Sweta Shah


Taking into account the desert environment, some strategies for increasing physically handicapped children’s access to education can include the provision of tricycles that children can ride with their hands rather than legs, providing wheel barrows where these children could be pushed to school by family or community members (perhaps a child protection committee) or the use of a donkey or camel.

Learning could also be brought to children in their tents through various ways. The school curriculum could be developed into a set of modules that children can study on their own. This would be useful not only for disabled children, but also for other children who have challenges accessing education such as girls. This could be coupled with special tutoring from teachers. The classroom lessons could be recorded and broadcasted through a local radio station or recorded and given to the child who is not attending school. This would also need to be coupled with tutoring or some kind of face-to-face assistance from a teacher.

Provision of learning materials in Braille would help blind children, but in a refugee camp setting where normal learning materials are lacking, this strategy would be unrealistic. However, rather than having children read a passage in class to themselves, the students and teachers could take turns reading. The teacher could develop small study groups for the children in the class so the blind child could have another classmate who is not blind read to him/her.

For deaf children, the teacher could make sure there are many visuals that a deaf child could see or that the teacher and children know sign language. Learning sign language for the teacher may be difficult when they have to learn so many other things to teach the majority of students. The deaf child and his/her parent, caregiver or another community member could go through a sign language course so the caregiver could sit in class with the child and help him/her communicate with the teacher and classmates. However, the caregiver would need to be compensated in monetary or non-monetary terms because they would most likely be giving something up in order to provide this support.

Arming teachers with tools to support disabled children’s learning is very important. For example, teacher training could include sessions on classroom techniques for inclusive education.

Additional Resources

  1. INEE Pocket Guide to Inclusive Education
  2. INEE Toolkit: Disability and Inclusive Education Tools and Resources

Adolescents and youth

A group of boys

© August 12, 2007 / UNHCR / H. Caux


Adolescents and youth are regularly overlooked in emergency education programmes. Some strategies to ensure adolescent and youth’s access to education would be to start secondary schools and flexible-timing non-formal education (e.g., English, French, Arabic language classes, life skills classes). Furthermore, adolescents and youth could also benefit from accelerated learning programmes. These programmes often condense six years of elementary education into three years. The Sudan Ministry of Education, for example, has an accelerated learning progamme that could be adapted and used in the Chadian refugee camps.

Programmes that include technical and vocational education and training (TVET), apprenticeships and job opportunities are also very important for the adolescent and youth age group because many may have never been to school or may have been out of school for many years. Many teenagers who have not completed elementary school prefer not to sit in classrooms with younger children. While the training for employment skills is usually the centre of such programmes, it is important that there is a holistic approach to ensure impact. This approach should include a thorough market analysis of the whole country and neighbouring countries; career counselling so that the young person can enter the most appropriate TVET or apprenticeship (based on the market and their existing skills and knowledge); assistance after the training in order to obtain employment; and life skills (i.e. problem solving, presenting oneself, arriving on time). Additionally, this strategy should include functional literacy and numeracy, which would focus on language related to their trade or sector. Because of the complexity of these types of programmes, they are very costly and difficult to implement well in many contexts and especially in emergencies and take a number of years to see results. However, implementing agencies can start on a smaller scale to enable strengthening the strategy, try to achieve some results and then scale up to include more young people. In the absence of such programmes, youth who have completed secondary school could receive training and serve as paid teachers or teacher assistants for primary classes or child friendly spaces.

Additional Resources

  1. INEE Minimum Standards Toolkit: Adolescents and Youth
  2. Bidwell, Kelly et al., Market Assessment Toolkit for Vocational Training Providers and Youth: Linking Vocational Training Programs to Market Opportunities, Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children and School for International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, October 2008.

Young children

© World Food Programme

© 2006, Sweta Shah


In practice, there are some educational activities for younger children in the Chadian refugee camps’ child friendly spaces. Activities within these centres range from drawing activities, free and structured play, songs and games about simple health and hygiene messages such as washing hands, activities promoting gross and fine motor skills, emotional and cognitive development. UNICEF provides the majority of support for this area, including the provision of Early Childhood Development (ECD) kits. The quality of centres for young children in Chad ranges. Some centres have good facilitators who engage the children and help them learn something whereas in other centres, facilitators are idle or absent. The children in these situations are therefore idle, do not show up and learn very little. Many centres are overcrowded with insufficient number of teachers and facilitators.

However, there are some strategies that could increase children’s access and attendance such as ensuring facilitators are trained and compensated. Other strategies could include providing additional learning and play materials. These materials do not have to be brought from the outside, but could be made with locally available materials. The photo above shows locally made musical instruments for children to use in ECD centres. Children can also, for example, make mud figurines to play with, a ball from paper, swings from wood and other toys.

Additional Resources

  1. UNESCO, “Early Childhood Development”, in Guidebook for Planning Education in Emergencies and Reconstruction, Ch. 13, Paris, 2006.
  2. UNICEF, ECD Kit: Handbook for Caregivers.

Host community children (Chadian children)

© Sabina Handschin


For agencies such as UNHCR, supporting the Chadian community is outside of their mandate so UNICEF has taken the lead in providing support to the Chadian communities. In the initial years of this refugee situation, the majority of services were provided to refugees only, but agencies have slowly extended their reach and improved the education situation for host community children as well. While this process has started, much more needs to be done.

One strategy for improving the education of the host community children would be to have parallel education programmes inside and outside the camps. If people see that services are almost the same, this could decrease the tensions and animosity between the two groups. If educational support to the host community is provided, this could strengthen the existing Chadian education system. However, the challenge is that there are insufficient funds to have parallel programmes. In such cases, one strategy to ensure more children have access to education is to include Chadian children in refugee education opportunities or refugees into Chadian establishments. This could be done for both formal and non-formal education programmes. Coordination between agencies is important. For example, UNHCR, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education have started discussions on how to increase access to all children in eastern Chad and how to strengthen the Chadian education system.

Question 3

© 2005, Sweta Shah

© 2005, Sweta Shah

© 2005, Sweta Shah

According to the photos, water points in this camp are located away from learning spaces. One of the key actions in the Access and Learning Environment Standard 3: Facilities and Services states that “[a]dequate quantities of safe water and appropriate sanitation facilities are provided for personal hygiene and protection, taking into account sex, age and people with disabilities.” What could be done in this situation?


As seen from the photos, all water taps are located in one location. There is one tent visible in one of the photos, but that is not a school or learning space. One photo is of a child friendly space and the photo clearly shows that there are no water taps nearby. Children and adults have to go to those taps and fill buckets and take them back to their schools and learning spaces in order to get water. The photo of the UNICEF-supported child friendly space shows no water around the tent.

Some strategies that could remedy this problem could be for education staff to work with water/sanitation and camp management staff to see if additional water taps could be established next to the schools and other learning sites. If this is not possible because there are insufficient funds, staff or water sources, a large barrel of water could be placed next to learning sites. This has been done in some camps in Chad. Large barrels of water were placed next to schools and child friendly spaces. Each day or every few days, these barrels were cleaned and filled up by the teachers, facilitators, children, parents, relatives and other caregivers in the community.

Question 4

In addition to water, the Access and Learning Environment Standard 3: Facilities and Services also states that children’s nutritional and sanitation needs should be met through educational spaces (i.e. schools, child friendly spaces). This was often not the case in the refugee camps. What strategies could be used to ensure this?


In addition to water, it is important to have gender-segregated toilets near the schools and learning sites. This would ensure that children do not have to walk far to use the toilet or go to the bush where they could be at risk of physical and sexual abuse. Having specific toilets for males and females can also increase girls’ attendance rates because they would have greater privacy, especially during menstruation. Girls would not have to worry about the risk of sexual abuse if there were toilets for girls only. If both girls and boys share the toilets, the risk of abuse could increase. It is important to collaborate with agencies working on water/sanitation issues and camp coordination and management to ensure the establishment of male and female toilets near all types of educational spaces. A water source and soap should also be available next to the toilets so children can wash their hands after using the toilet, thus applying what they may have learned about personal hygiene.

Lack of nutritious food can affect children’s cognitive ability to concentrate and do well in school. If food is not provided at the school, children may need to work or support their family in cultivating food instead of going to school. If the World Food Programme or another agency provides food at the schools and other learning sites, this can remove that obstacle to children’s access and attendance. The school could hire local women in the camp, paid for by the community or programme, to cook food for the children. Furthermore, the school’s parent-teacher association or a child club could establish a school garden where the food grown both feeds students, but could also be sold to the rest of the community to generate revenue for the school to pay the cooks, or to purchase additional teaching and learning materials.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) placed a supplemental feeding centre at a MSF-run camp in a tent next to Child Friendly Spaces that were providing non-formal education, protection and psychosocial services for children not in school. This especially allowed infants and their mothers to be fed in a safe environment and for mothers to breastfeed their infants and gain some knowledge about maternal and child nutrition. In similar situations, the education sector could work with the food and nutrition sector, the community and government to get food for the children in other learning spaces.

Additional Resources

  1. UNESCO, Guidelines to Develop and Implement School Feeding Programmes that Improve Education, 2004.
  2. INEE Good Practice Guide: School Feeding.
  3. Sphere Project, The Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards for Disaster Response, 2004, chapters on Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, Food Security, Nutrition and Food Aid.

Question 5

A group of children during a lesson outdoors, sat on the ground beside a tree.

© Sweta Shah

What are the risks in the learning environments shown in the photos and quote below? What could be done to make these learning environments safer?

“In Darfur, school was inside. We had chairs and desks. In Sudan, we first had breakfast. Here there are no books or uniforms. It is totally different.”

Ilham, 15, Touloum Camp, Chad, quoted in Heninger, Lori and McKenna, Megan, “Don’t Forget Us”: The Education and Gender-Based Violence Protection Needs of Adolescent Girls from Darfur in Chad, Women’s Refugee Commission, July 2005, p.13.

A group of children during a lesson outdoors, sat on the ground.

© Save the Children

A group of children during a lesson outdoors, sat on the ground beside a tree.

© Save the Children



There are many risks in the learning environments shown in the photos. All of the photos show classes being held outside in the sand rather than in a classroom. The sun is strong in Chad and temperatures often reach 50 degrees Celsius. Every year, there are severe sandstorms and heavy rains. Having some cover (e.g., school building, tent) could protect children from the various harsh outdoor elements of Chad.

Furthermore, the INEE Minimum Standards indicate the need for adequate quantities of safe drinking water and water for personal hygiene as well as gender-specific sanitation facilities near learning sites. These photos indicate that these are also not present. There is also a lack of desks/chairs and mats, which would make the learning environment more comfortable.

What can be done?

In a refugee situation like the one in Chad, it can often take time to obtain sufficient resources to establish the minimum level of quality educational services. Despite this challenge, it is important to start some educational activities until additional resources come in and the quality of the service can be improved.

In the photos shown above, actual classrooms could be built or established, even if it is in tents or local materials (e.g., hay, sticks, straw, mud made from sand), community buildings or other structures that could protect the children from the harsh desert conditions of Chad.

Learning structures should be established close to water points and toilets. This requires collaboration with other sectors such as water/sanitation and camp management. When there is a lack of furniture such as desks/chairs, tarpaulin and mats made out of local materials (e.g., skin of animals) could be placed on the floor for children to sit on.

Additional Resources

  1. INEE Guidance Notes on Safer School Construction
  2. Heninger, Lori and McKenna, Megan, “Don’t Forget Us”: The Education and Gender-Based Violence Protection Needs of Adolescent Girls from Darfur in Chad, Women’s Refugee Commission, July 2005, p.13