On Conflict, Education and the Importance of Data

Access and Inclusion November 02, 2015

When you think about conflict and education, what comes to mind? If you are like most people reading this article, the answer is likely to be armed conflicts such as war, bombings and direct attacks on education institutions that destroy buildings or kill educators and students. The reality of conflict’s effect on education is more nuanced and infinitely more complex. This week in Doha, Education Above All Foundation (EAA) via the Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC) programme, will bring together policy-makers, education experts and NGOs at the 2015 WISE Summit to explore one of the most relevant and pressing factors leading to people losing their opportunity to enter or continue essential educational programmes – conflict.

From gangs in Latin America to schools being used to be used as polling stations during elections, which makes them targets, direct attacks and indirect damage all serve to undermine the safety of schools, educators and students. Beyond the threat of violence, education becomes vulnerable during periods of migration and internal displacement – issues that today are affecting more people than ever in our lifetime.

Unfortunately, the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the world’s governments this September at the UN General Assembly don’t address conflict at all. We have much work to do to ensure that conflict and violence get the due attention they deserve by stakeholders across the development and education spheres. Otherwise, all of our progress in securing education opportunities could be for nothing if conflict interferes.

One critical, and often overlooked, element is the availability of data on education under attack. We must improve our data on education in conflict as attacks are happening, not long after the shells have dropped or the children abducted. The most recent maps compiled by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) go back to the 2009-2012 period. Since then, the world has experienced an unprecedented (in modern times) spread of conflict that is driving people from their homes, their countries, their livelihoods and schools. Incidents in Peshawar, Garissa and Chibok have all happened since 2012, to name but a few of the higher profile places where education and conflict have come into contact with devastating consequences.

We’re all witness to the transformation that has taken place around the world the past few years via television and other media bringing events far away to our immediate attention. There is tremendous pressure on policy-makers and NGOs intervene in ways that work to protect education. Without data we are stumbling in the dark – not knowing exactly where to act or able to know whether what we are doing is having the intended effect. This state of affairs should make us all pause with a feeling of discomfort. In a world where meteorologists can use data to predict storms and save lives, why can’t we have access to data on education in conflict that would equally save lives and protect a valuable human right?

EAA will continue to devote energy to this timely and important matter, working towards answers that advance the cause of quality education for everyone, with no one left behind. By examining the difficult situations we hope to get stakeholders to think differently about conflict, and how policy change can drive new opportunities for protecting educational institutions and those who work and study in them.

Watch the WISE 2015 EAA Planery Session replay.