Children on the Edge brings an essential child-focussed approach to children displaced by conflict.
Since the breakdown of a ceasefire between Burma’s central government and ethnic Kachin rebels in June 2011, sporadic fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people in northern Burma. Children in the internally displaced camps have suffered trauma from the violence they have witnessed, many have been separated from their parents and nearly all have inability to access basic services and resources, such as food and education.
A recent article by the Irrawaddy has highlighted that although various aid groups are getting through to the IDP camps near Laiza to deliver resources, that the educational needs of the children are not being fully met. During one of the Irrawaddy’s recent visits to a camp, they described how ‘a UN truck arrived at the camp, unloading school textbooks, mosquito nets and solar panels…Some children eyed the textbooks with interest, but few here find camp life to be conducive to furthering their education”.
Children on the Edge focus on 12 outlying, higher altitude settlements, which are not currently being reached by the larger organisations. After a full consultation with local groups and a thorough needs assessment, we have partnered with local organisations, the Kachin Development Group and the Kachin Women’s Association to develop a three year program that supports the physical and psychosocial needs of 1,440 children, through 12 Learning Centres.
This work is carefully planned in order to, not only provide educational materials, but to implement an Early Childhood Development curriculum, together with teacher training. Its approach recognises how unlikely it is that these children will automatically slot back the learning styles they were familiar with in their own homes. It also takes into account that a purely academic focus is inadequate for children who have lived in a war zone for an extended period of time. Components are specifically designed for children who have experienced trauma.
John Littleton, our Asia Regional Manager describes how crucial a child-friendly approach is in these circumstances: “The effects of neglect in these formative years can be cumulative and lasting. Young children who experience extreme stress are at greater risk of developing cognitive, behavioural or emotional difficulties”.
The Centres are safe places with a trusted adult presence, where children aged 3-6 can access early childhood education and creative play. The aim is to allow these children to simply enjoy being children, in a vibrant place, for a few hours a day and provide them the opportunity to mature into healthy, stable young people.
Find out more about our work in Kachin State.