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20 April 2017

Education in emergencies

From classroom teaching to education reform in areas of international conflict, Lucienne Heyworth (Cohort 2010) is helping to improve educational outcomes all over the world.

The daughter of two teachers, Teach For Australia Alumna Lucienne Heyworth grew up witnessing the transformative power of teaching.

Having learned of Teach First while living in England, Lucienne was excited to see that Teach For Australia was about to launch when she returned home in 2009.

“I heard incredible stories about the work of sister programs globally. I was excited to be a part of a group of smart, committed and likeminded people who felt similarly passionate about the need to address educational disadvantage in Australia,” she said.

Starting her journey with Teach For Australia in 2010, Lucienne has spent the last six years tackling educational disadvantage all over the world.

As an inaugural Teach For Australia Associate, Lucienne was placed at Victoria University Secondary College in Melbourne as a humanities teacher.

She believes the Leadership Development Program changed her life by giving her confidence and a funnel for her energy and commitment to changing education.

“Teach For Australia provided insight into the way that committing to something, and speaking passionately and intelligently with others about it, can help to change a broader conversation,” she said.

As an Associate, Lucienne had the opportunity to participate in the Teach For All global workshop in Mumbai, India. The experience enabled her to engage in a broader discussion of educational disadvantage and seeded her desire to reform education on a larger scale.

“It was through the Teach For All experience that I realised the gravity of what we were doing – one student, school, city and country at a time,”

“We were really part of a global movement that was seeking to fundamentally change the way education was considered, approached, funded and respected,” she said.

After completing the Leadership Development Program, Lucienne took on a policy role in the Victorian Government.

“I was lucky to be a part of a small team assembled to negotiate the Victorian position on the Federal Government’s Gonski school funding reform proposals,” she said.

Throughout 2013, she continued to work on education reform domestically, establishing new frameworks for the professional development of teachers across Victoria.

Seeking to internationalise her experience, the next few years would see Lucienne working for a number of humanitarian and education organisations across the world, many relating to the Syrian crisis.

In December 2013 Lucienne moved to Amman, Jordan to work with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Discovering the role on the Australian Volunteers International website, she had the opportunity to work on a number of education reform programs supporting teacher development and school empowerment.

“Each program aimed at supporting the professionalisation of UNRWA teachers and school principals across its five fields (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and Gaza) through professional development and curriculum content, workshops, observations and ongoing support,”

Reflecting on her experience at home in Australia and overseas, Lucienne has found that educational disadvantage and the challenges associated with it can be very similar across countries and cultures despite the different contextual factors.

“The fight to support the value of education and the role of teachers and was just as necessary in UNRWA schools as it was in Australia or elsewhere in the world,”

“Specifically, I worked on providing a new professional development curriculum to teachers of grades 7-12 in Arabic, English, Maths and Science,”

“I saw the need to continue considering ways that training and support for teaching practice can be delivered even in the hardest circumstances,” she said.

In 2014, the scope of Lucienne’s work changed when a conflict between Gaza and Israel erupted.

The conflict was incredibly challenging for UNRWA staff, heightening the realities of providing education during conflict and protracted displacement.

“I was asked to create education in emergency curriculum materials for teachers who would be conducting classes in open spaces and makeshift accommodation during the conflict,” she said.

“This opened my eyes to the incredible struggle of many teachers and students in conflict zones, who struggle to provide access and meaningful educational experiences with little to no resources,” she said.

The following year, Lucienne received a Rotary Peace Fellowship and moved to Sweden to undertake a Masters in Peace and Conflict Resolution.

The Rotary Peace Fellowship would see Lucienne return to Amman in 2016 to work with Caritas Switzerland, supporting Caritas Jordan to provide education, counselling and humanitarian assistance to people in need.

“I took a role in managing the development and implementation of a ‘Cash for Work’ livelihoods program for some months, which was focused on supporting vulnerable Jordanians and Syrian Refugees,” said Lucienne.

“The aim is to provide meaningful participation and vocational opportunities that enable refugee families access to meaningful livelihoods,”

While there, Lucienne also had the opportunity to work with the Syria Response Office at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). The NRC provides humanitarian assistance and support to thousands of Syrians inside the country, in both besieged and hard to reach areas.

“At NRC I supported work in a number of their humanitarian response programs across the education, protection, shelter, wash, and information and legal counselling and advice areas,”

“I again worked on the development of curriculum materials for Education in Emergency packs to be used in response to the recent Mosul offensive in Iraq, but also in providing to displaced Syrian’s across the country and as they move toward Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan,” said Lucienne.

Lucienne feels incredibly fortunate to have been able to contribute to education and youth issues in varied contexts and countries across the world.

“Being able to step into the lives of young people through roles as a teacher or contributing to education programming is a privilege and responsibility,”

“Quality education is a goal of most countries, whilst equity and access similarly remains a challenge to most,”

“Contributing to the creation of educational opportunities for children and young people in conflict zones, transitory circumstances and under protracted displacement has only reinforced for me the importance of collective efforts to ensure that young people are given opportunities to reach their potential,” said Lucienne.

Lucienne will complete her Masters in Peace and Conflict Resolution this year.

She is currently writing a thesis that empirically investigates the sometimes-complicated role that education can have on post conflict societies.

When she finishes her degree, she hopes to return to Amman to continue supporting the work of non-government organisations in responding to the ongoing Syrian conflict.

“I hope to work directly in the Education in Emergencies sector into the future, but also to return to Melbourne and contribute to addressing educational disadvantage and youth vulnerability in Australia in policy or programmatic work,” she said.


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