91 000 children’s learning and wellbeing affected by Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe

Tuesday 7 May 2019


As schools open for the second term across Zimbabwe, at least 91 000 children’s learning and wellbeing was affected by Cyclone Idai, according to the Education Cluster’s Rapid Joint Education Needs Assessment Report released on 6 May. The assessment was conducted by Education Cluster partners who include Save the Children, Plan International, Care, World Vision International and UNICEF.  

According to the report, Cyclone Idai caused damage to schools in all seven of the affected districts, and the worst impacts were experienced in the six districts of Chimanimani, Chipinge, Buhera, Mutare, Bikita and Zaka. The education needs assessment was conducted in 60 cyclone affected schools in the 6 most affected districts, with 41 of them being primary schools and 19 being secondary schools. 

The Education Cluster’s Education needs assessment sought to determine the main impacts of Cyclone Idai on schools, teachers and learners, with a focus on children’s access to education and the availability of safe learning spaces. In addition, it sought to identify the key needs and priority interventions for the Education in Emergencies response, as well as developing a joint understanding of the needs and priorities within the Education Cluster, in order to deliver a coordinated response.

Findings from the report indicate that a total of 139 schools across 6 districts were impacted by Cyclone Idai, representing a significant risk to the learning and wellbeing of 90,847 school-aged girls and boys. As schools across the cyclone-affected districts open their doors for the start of the second school term on 7 May 2019, many have a shortage of teaching and learning materials, damaged or destroyed school infrastructure, a reduction in staffing, low attendance rates, and teachers and learners who require a range of support. Whilst the vast majority of schools remain broadly functional, the quality and safety of the learning environment, and overall capacity to meet the needs of girls and boys, is reduced as a result of the emergency. 

Damage and destruction to school infrastructure is widely reported, with 57% of schools reporting one or more items of infrastructure having been completely destroyed as a result of the cyclone, and the same percentage reporting one or more items of infrastructure having been damaged, states the report. WASH in schools is a critical priority, with 2 out of 3 schools reporting loss of sanitation facilities as a result of the emergency, and 1 in 3 reporting a loss of water supply. School heads overwhelmingly prioritise repairs to damaged school infrastructure, with 52 out of 60 schools identifying this form of support as a top priority. 

According to the report, almost half of schools closed for a number of days, leaving children without access to learning, in the immediate aftermath of the emergency. Whilst the majority of schools reopened ahead of the school holidays, 1 in 3 reported that less than 25% of children were attending school. For 2 in 5 affected schools – children’s attendance is significantly below what it was pre-crisis. This demonstrates the impact that the emergency has had on children’s access to learning, highlighting the barriers that children are facing in accessing school. This reduced access to learning is particularly critical given the psychosocial support, normalcy, protection and routine that safe learning spaces can provide during an emergency.

More than half of schools (32/60) reported that staffing levels were affected by the emergency, and an audit is needed to ensure that teachers are in place to meet the needs of learners. Teachers also require a range of support. Psychosocial Support for teachers emerged as the most requested form of support for teachers, with 63% identifying PSS as a priority, followed by the provision of teaching materials. 

Given the widespread damage to essential school infrastructure and the reality that rehabilitating or replacing/rebuilding such infrastructure is likely to require significant resourcing beyond the means of the humanitarian response, and in a much longer timeframe, short-term emergency solutions are needed to ensure that schools remain functional and safe for learning, including Temporary Learning Spaces and temporary latrines. 

Whilst Chimanimani and Chipinge emerge as the worst affected districts in terms of the scale and scope of damage to school infrastructure and teaching and learning materials, the proportion of schools closing early and durations schools remained closed as a result of the emergency, and leaners’ attendance, all 60 assessed schools were impacted by the cyclone in multiple ways. It is important that all affected schools in all affected districts receive the support needed to meet the needs of all children, and ensure that learning continues to take place in safe spaces during the second school term and beyond. The most vulnerable children, among them girls, children living with disabilities, Unaccompanied and Separated Children, and children from very poor households will require specific attention and, where needed, targeted support. 

While it is important that schools are able to reopen and for the provision of normal teaching and learning to resume as soon as possible, it is critical that the safety of learning spaces, and the safety and wellbeing of learners is teachers is the first priority. As schools in affected districts reopen their doors for the second school term on 7 May, the Education Cluster calls on humanitarian actors, donors, and government and non-governmental agencies to redouble efforts to restore safe learning spaces, and ensure continued access to learning for cyclone-affected girls and boys. This requires emergency solutions including temporary infrastructure, PSS for teachers and learners, and the provision of teaching and learning material. 

In the long-term however, safeguarding the wellbeing and learning of children in the face of climate change and recurrent emergencies, requires a joint effort to promote Early Recovery and to Build Back Better, including high quality and resilient rehabilitation and reconstruction, Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) at national, district, community and school level, and increased resourcing to the education sector. 

The report includes recommendations for all actors providing humanitarian assistance, the government of Zimbabwe as well as donors. For all actors providing humanitarian assistance, the report recommends implementation of emergency interventions needed to ensure schools remain open, learning spaces safe, and school environments conducive to learning. Priorities include for this include the establishment of Temporary Learning Spaces, the provision of temporary latrines and handwashing facilities, repairs to classrooms and other essential infrastructure, provision of PSS to teachers and learners and provision of teaching and learning materials.

The report also recommends that all support to schools be based on the principles of Early Recovery and Building Back Better. Whilst this longer-term perspective requiring the support of development partners and donors, the Education Cluster recommends that wherever possible, emergency interventions in the short to medium term, include the building blocks for safeguarding the wellbeing and learning of children in the face of climate change and recurrent emergencies, including: Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) training for teachers and learners (including child participation), Emergency Preparedness Plans, Capacity building of local organisations on Education in Emergencies and DRR, community mobilisations and capacity building, and high quality and disaster-resilient repairs/rehabilitation of infrastructure.

For the Government, the Education Cluster report recommends the leadership of all relevant line ministries to promote Early Recovery and Building Back Better, in order to safeguard the learning and wellbeing of children  in the face of climate change and recurrent disasters. This includes high quality and resilient rehabilitation and reconstruction of schools including modifications to infrastructure designs to ensure they are resilient to future emergencies (prioritising latrines given the widespread damage to permanent latrine blocks), close supervision of rehabilitation and reconstruction works to ensure they meet standards. In addition, this includes strengthening of Emergency Preparedness as part of Education Sector Plans, and integration of Disaster Risk Reduction at all levels, including roll out of the DRR curriculum, as well as prepositioning of emergency school supplies at Provincial and District levels, including TLS and school kits. 

According to the report, it will be vital to monitor learner attendance, school functionality, resourcing and staffing throughout the second term, in order to determine key gaps and support needs, since schools reopening does not signal full recovery in cyclone-affected districts. Supervision, guidance and support is needed to ensure that new community-resourced repairs and construction meets national standards. Adequate resourcing of schools, District School Inspectors’ offices, and the national education system is needed, in order to ensure that the burden of schools’ recovery does not fall on parents and community members from poor and food insecure households in cyclone-affected districts.

The report calls on donors to provide the necessary financial support to provide a comprehensive Education in Emergencies response to all cyclone-affected schools, in addition to promoting Early Recovery and Building Back Better through the funding of DRR, preparedness and capacity building programming. In addition, donors must advocate for education as a critical component of the humanitarian response, which provides children with access to education in safe learning spaces, and teachers with the support necessary to deliver learning for girls and boys.

To read the full report, please go to the Resources section or click the following link: https://zimbabwe.savethechildren.net/resources