Dakar, July, 31st, 2017 (UNICEF). An innovative radio education programme has begun in the Lake Chad basin as part of a comprehensive effort to support the 1.3 million children who have been displaced by the violence of the conflict with Boko Haram. The radio education programmes offer an alternative platform for the 200,000 children in crisis affected areas who are unable to access schools in the Far North of Cameroon and in the Diffa region of Niger.
“This crisis has unique challenges, so we are developing unique solutions,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “With many hundreds of schools still closed, and children exposed to numerous risks, we developed a radio education regional prototype that will keep children in a positive education routine. This is the first step, and the Governments have pro-actively engaged to make this available for children in this crisis.”
Education has been at the center of the conflict since it began in 2009. Boko Haram has sought to ban education and has targeted teachers and schools in attacks. The EU supported Education in Emergencies initiative has equipped UNICEF to enhance a protective environment for children in schools and communities affected by the crisis. This has included expanding education programs to areas where schools remain closed either because they have been destroyed or because of fear of further attacks. The radio programs have the potential to reach children in areas that remain inaccessible for humanitarian assistance and other out-of-school children.
With support from the EU, UNICEF and the Governments of Cameroon and Niger have developed a radio education program for children impacted by the conflict. The 144 episodes of educational programming on literacy and numeracy, life-saving and other child protection messages will be broadcast in both French and the local languages of Kanouri, Fulfulde and Hausa. The broadcasts are supported by community outreach efforts to ensure adults allow children to listen to existing radios and facilitate guided listening. UNICEF and the Governments are engaging radio listening groups in communities to help children get the most out of the broadcasts.
"Radio education helps us reach the children who are out of school as a result of the conflict," said Yvan Hildebrand, ECHO’s head of office in Cameroon. "We've worked with UNICEF to develop a high quality interim solution that will help hundreds of thousands children engage in an educational routine. We are very proud of the positive role the EU is playing in this crisis and I am sure that all Europeans can see the value of this investment in children."
Beyond radio programming, Education in Emergencies will reach 159,000 children with a range of support including child protection services and risk informed learning programs adapted for the needs of children living in crisis affected areas in Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria.
“This radio platform has potential for even larger numbers of out-of-school children in Niger, Cameroon and in the region,” said Poirier. “Being on air with a program ‘validated’ by the Government is the first important step for the continuation of learning in emergencies and the protection of children who are not in school. In the very near future, we hope that children who learn by radio will also receive a certification and pass the school year.”
Despite the achievements of this project, the needs of children in the Lake Chad basin remain dire. Ongoing conflict and security concerns have hampered the humanitarian response. UNICEF has called for USD$38.5 million to meet the education needs of children in the crisis and this appeal has received USD$19.6 million, just 50 per cent of the amount required.