El Salvador Rapid Education and Risk Analysis: Gang Violence and Education Access

“Teachers are between a rock and a hard place about who should provide security—the police or the gangs themselves.”

—School teacher


Piloting the Rapid Education and Risk Analysis guide: El Salvador

In March 2016, I traveled to El Salvador as part of team looking at the impacts of violence and insecurity on education. Although I was aware of the high levels of violence in this country, I was shocked to learn the extent to which the daily lives of students and teachers were affected by violence.

Teachers, principals, and international partners alike referred to the drop-out “crisis” in El Salvador – the disappearing students – as a result of gang violence. I heard stories of students who were forced to flee their communities, and in some cases, the country, or hide in their homes instead of attending school.

I learned all of this by joining a team of experts conducting a pilot Rapid Education and Risk Analysis (RERA) for USAID/El Salvador. The USAID RERA Guide is a new resource for delivering a fast and “good enough” situation analysis to capture general information about how education systems, learners and their communities interact with a dynamic, multiple-risk environment, and how those risks interact. The findings from the RERA conducted in El Salvador and RERAs conducted elsewhere will inform USAID education programming in conflict and crisis environments.

In El Salvador, the RERA provided new, surprising insights into the interaction between communities, schools and violence. We found that schools with strong ties to the community reported a safer environment, steadier enrollment and better relationships between students and teachers than schools that closed themselves off and “bunkerized” in response to security threats. However, in El Salvador, it was critical to understand who was considered a member of the community and how schools built ties with these community members. In some cases, building strong ties meant dialoguing directly or indirectly with gang members.

We heard stories of gang members who, either as parents or in other capacities, valued education for their children or were interested in seeing their school function. In one school, teachers reported how gang leaders reprimanded unruly students who were disrupting the studies of their own children in the school. A teacher recalled how a mother, the daughter of the local gang leader, asked her to treat and discipline her child the same as the other students.

This finding and others were especially significant given the strained relationship between the citizen and the state in the midst of the violence epidemic. In some of the communities we visited, we found that despite challenges, the schools continue to serve as local interfaces between citizen and state, providing an opportunity to build trust and repair the social fabric.

Interested in learning more about RERA?

USAID ECCN is developing and piloting the new Rapid Education and Risk Analysis Guide to ensure USAID’s education programs are risk-informed, conflict sensitive, and responsive to the complex environments in which we work.  The RERA integrates key elements of conflict analysis, disaster risk analysis, and resilience analysis with a rapid education sector analysis. It provides guidance for national-level mapping, stakeholder consultation, and analysis processes carried out over two to three weeks.  By developing, piloting, and disseminating a flexible, relatively rapid tool, USAID and USAID ECCN aim to enable collaboration, learning, and adaptability at various points in the program cycle.

For more information, please download the current RERA guide, which includes guidance on planning, data collection, analysis, reporting, and application, as well as a suite of tools. USAID ECCN will conduct a second pilot of the RERA Guide and will release the RERA Guide 2.0 in early 2017. To receive the latest updates on the RERA Guide, reports and webcasts on future RERAs, and information about USAID ECCN’s other work, become a member of the network today!

Ashley Henderson is a member of USAID Education’s Crisis and Conflict Team.

Do you have experience with contextual risk analysis in education programming or questions about how these analyses can be implemented? Join the conversation in the comment section below. 

Posted in Design, Implement, Research and Evaluate for Better EiCC Programs

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