Dealing with Documentation Issues in Times of Crisis

In times of international crisis such as war, economic or humanitarian hardships, or natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and tsunamis, a student is not always able to provide the standard educational documents.  We recommend that institutions try to be flexible when dealing with exceptional cases. However, we do understand that schools need to practice flexibility without damaging credibility. The final decision for what documents are acceptable is still up to your institution.

Our top 3 guidelines for dealing with unusual situations are:

1.  Trust, but verify. 

When applying an alternative process, the reason for the exception to standard processes should be verified.  

  • If the student claims to be a refugee, require proof of status.  
  • If the school is closed, confirm it no longer exists.

Keep in mind that just because there is a crisis situation occurring, that does not mean that every school is shut down.  Despite Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria, the University of Maiduguri has remained open. 

2. Be willing to work with alternative documents. 

The standard documents may not be accessible or available.  This might mean they are not in the student’s possession, or they may no longer exist. 

There may be resources that can assist you in determining if alternate documents are acceptable, such as:

3. Maintain records. 

Thoroughly document the case and any exceptions to your policy.  Include justification statements and cite evidence and communication. Make the records accessible to your co-workers.

This will help when you have a similar situation in the future.  We also recommend sharing with your colleagues how you handle situations.  In times of crisis, circumstances change quickly and information can be limited.

Melissa Ganiere is a Research & Knowledge Management Evaluator and has been with ECE since 2006.  She specializes in education from Sub-saharan Africa and South East Asia.



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