Nine reasons to provide education during and after conflicts and disasters

  •  In 2000, at Dakar, the global community committed itself to achieving education for ALL, including those affected by conflict and disaster: conflict, natural calamities and instability…”
  • Quality education is a fundamental human right, as laid down by International Law. These laws do not distinguish between conflict or disaster-affected populations and those not affected. Additionally, international humanitarian law stipulates that education must be provided to populations affected by war (the Geneva ConventionConvention relating to the Status of Refugees).
  • Education is a fundamental tool for protection of conflict- and disaster-affected children and youth from harm and exploitation. This is a crucial part of UNESCO’s advocacy message. Under appropriate conditions of security, provision of education can help protect children and youth from recruitment into fighting forces, forced labour, prostitution, criminal activities and drug abuse. In post-conflict settings, education contributes to the reintegration into society of former soldiers and other children and youth associated with fighting forces.
  • By giving hope for the future and providing order, structure and a sense of normalcy, education can help to mitigate the psychosocial effects of conflict, disaster and displacement. Structured play activities and schooling have been shown to ease the shock and trauma of children and youth who have witnessed or participated in horrific acts of violence, or who have lived through the destruction of natural disasters and the loss of loved ones and homes.   
  • Conflict- and disaster-affected communities place strong emphasis on education, often even giving it priority over more material needs. Affected communities request and expect provision of education for their children.  
  • Schooling and non-formal education programmes enable the communication of essential life-saving messages. Such messages may include landmine awareness, education for human rights, peace and conflict resolution, prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, basic health and hygiene, HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention, education for natural disaster risk reduction and education for sustainable development. Children and young people can, in turn, be important channels for transmitting those same messages to their families and to the wider community. UNESCO has strong technical expertise and years of experience working on these themes.
  • Provision of education during displacement can help to overcome gender disparities. Paradoxically, in some post-conflict and post-disaster situations, girls may have the opportunity of access to schooling more regularly than they did before the crisis. 
  • Provision of education in PCPD situations promotes economic and social reintegration and reconstruction. For example, when linked to market needs for reconstruction, skills training can contribute to restoring a sense of normality, facilitating revival and promotion of livelihoods and alleviating poverty. UNESCO has a specific role in making available its expertise in educational planning and management and capacity building to facilitate reintegration and reconstruction. 
  • The joint efforts of national governments and the international community to respond to conflict and disasters may provide an opportunity to build back education systems to better standards than before the disaster or conflict. Reform of system management, curricula and learning methods to new standards often becomes possible during recovery and reconstruction, providing an opportunity to increase educational access, retention, quality and equity. UNESCO’s early support to governments and national and local education providers in PCPD situations can play a critical role in helping them to capitalize on this potential to build back better.
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