“Education is a great force for peace but it can also be a force for war.”
Children and education systems are often on the front line of violent conflict. The 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education (launch date: 1 March), examines the damaging consequences of conflict for the goals. EduInfo spoke to its editor, Kevin Watkins.
Why does the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report focus on conflict?
Conflict deprives millions of children of an education that could lift them out of poverty. It is a massive obstacle to EFA, particularly in the 35 countries which have experienced it over the decade to 2008, most of which are low-income and lower-middle income countries.
Education is a great force for peace but we also know that it can be a force for war. Education systems can inflame tensions and bigotry. After conflict, it’s important to make sure that curricula and textbooks take note of grievances that could fan the flames of conflict again.
What kind of impact does conflict have on education?
Conflict has a devastating effect on education systems. Poor countries affected by conflict have the lowest literacy rates, the greatest gender divide and 42% of the world’s out-of-school children.
Schools and schoolchildren and teachers are often deliberately targeted and not just “caught in the crossfire”. This is the” hidden crisis” of the title.
Two-thirds of people displaced by conflict are aged under 18 and face huge obstacles to education. Finally, conflict harms education by wrecking economies, increasing poverty and diverting public money away from education and into military spending.
What can governments and donors do?
Governments need to protect schoolchildren on the front line. They need to protect schools from the violence and abuses that are harming education. And where governments are unable – or unwilling –to act, the international community should step in.
Also, after conflict, governments can act quickly to rebuild education – such as removing school fees, building new classrooms, recruiting and training teachers and developing proper management systems for the long term.
Donors give only 2% of emergency humanitarian aid to education. They need to spread risks and reduce costs so that children affected by conflict have a better chance of getting to school.
What is the role of the international community and the UN system?
The international community needs to end the culture of impunity around rape and other sexual abuse, which are causing huge harm to education. The report calls for the creation of an International Commission on Rape and Sexual Violence, backed up by the International Criminal Court. Stronger global efforts are also needed to support the role of education in building peace – through the UN Peacebuilding Fund, as well as agencies including UNESCO.