The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) released the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report on Monday that gives some discouraging news about the children that are living in our war torn nations.
In a press release issued March 1, 2011, UNESCO states that armed conflict is robbing 28 million children of education.
Living in a conflict area puts millions of children at risk of sexual violence, human rights abuses and targeted attacks on schools. These armed conflicts are not only destroying the educational infrastructure but the social structure that sustains the school and educational system. Teachers often flee the country during war time.
Violent conflicts reinforces inequities that are already rooted in a country, wars push those on the edges further out, depriving them of the needed basic resources and a tool to help them overcome disparities – and a resource that is almost always overlooked for refugees is education.
Education fuels literacy. Not being able to read or write deprives a country of knowledge.
UNESCO reported that 35 countries were in armed conflict from 1999 to 2008. During these armed conflicts, civilians and communities are seen as legitimate targets. Girls’ schools were a primary target of the Taliban, attacks injured 95 girls. 220 schools were destroyed in Northern Yemen from 2009-2010. In countries where rape is used as a weapon of war, girls are trapped at home, unable to attend school for fear of being attacked while they head to school or at school.
Young boys are being diverted from school towards becoming soldiers. In conflict areas, 60% of the population is under the age of 25. These youth are not getting the skills they need to overcome poverty, unemployment and despair. This social and economic despair can led to revolution but to children being sucked into the armies of dictators promising them money and security. Lack of education led many of these youth to become Sierra Leone’s child soldiers.
Evidence shows that lack of education can fuel conflict. Low literacy rates can deny people access to sustainable employment, income and resources. This lack of education fuels a vicious cycle, deprivation brings about conflict and conflict brings about deprivation.
Public funding for school is being diverted towards military expenses. Many of the poorest countries spend significantly more on arms than on basic education. Twenty-one countries spend more on the military than on basic education; if they were to cut military spending by just 10%, they could put 9.5 million more children in school
UNESCO statistic states that 21 countries spend more money on maintaining their military forces than education. If they spent just 10% less they all would be able to provide 9.5 million children with an education.
Education that is currently being provided must be inclusive, acknowledge the language and culture of indigenous peoples, and promote tolerance. Without these elements, children lack the skills they need to transform their communities and their countries. UNESCO calls for $500 – $1 billion dollars channeled for peace building education through the UN and UNICEF. UNESCO estimates that in order to rebuild education in these countries another 1.9 million teachers will be needed by 2015.
Knowledge is locked within the confines of oppressive leaders and what is provided is based on what the oppressors want others to know.
The shift towards creating long lasting peace and change may be through education. The UNESCO report quotes a young man from Dadaab, Kenya,
“If we can’t get a secondary education and can’t get a job, where will we go? Al-Shabaab has people recruiting here. They are offering money. Some boys who haven’t been able to continue their education have already left the camp to go back to Mogadishu and fight”
In honor and respect of this young refugee, it’s imperative that we see the connection between lack of education and the lack of resources. These are the very things we as U.S. citizens have witnessed here on our own soil.
Humanitarian aid for education is only 2%. UNESCO is calling for an increase of humanitarian aid to countries in conflict to $2 billion dollars annually.
We bear witness to the facts that their lives are in constant danger, their emotional well-being is fragile, and their futures are uncertain. But we’re not just talking about basic survival, we’re referring to thriving.
When our children thrive so will our families, communities, nations and ultimately the world.
— Makenna Berry