This article 1 of 4 in our special focus on education’s impact on development and why the new development goals must go further to ensure that all children have access to quality basic and secondary education. This special focus is co-produced by Global Partnership for Education.
When epidemics, civil wars, government breakdowns and natural disasters plague already-fragile nations, it’s all the more important that children stay in school.
Schools can protect children amid the turmoil and threats that loom beyond the school walls. It puts them under the watchful and guiding eyes of teachers who can attend to their learning and mental well-being. Going to school means normalcy for children, offering a daily routine, and it helps them become more resilient to the hardships they face. In the long-term, education provides children in fragile countries with the skills to overcome poverty and health challenges. Education is ultimately the pathway through which they can be prepared to contribute to the growth and stability of their communities and their countries.
With education, children are also less likely to join the violence and unrest consuming the world around them. As a father in the Democratic Republic of Congo told interviewers for a 2014 report, “Hear It From The Children, by Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the European Commission on education in conflict areas, “When I look back at my childhood and think of my friends, many of the ones who did not study are now with the armed groups, or have become a victim of the conflict, or have no way to make a living – but those who studied are the ones who think clearly, use their resources well and find bits of work more easily.”
A priority for the Global Partnership for Education
Ensuring that fragile and conflict-affected states are supported and have the capacity to develop and implement their education plans is one of the Global Partnership for Education’s strategic objectives. It’s a vast challenge, considering that 80% of the 41 million children out of school in the 59 GPE partner countries live in conflict-affected or fragile settings. And children in these countries are nearly three times as likely to be out of primary school than in other low-income countries.
It’s a challenge that the Global Partnership is uniquely equipped to address. Coordinating and working closely with the countries and local partners, the Global Partnership provides accelerated, predictable and flexible financial and technical support to keep education intact in conflict-affected and fragile countries.
In recent years, the Global Partnership has increased its engagement in fragile countries, currently supporting 28 countries considered fragile or affected by conflict. This year alone, we spent almost half our grant allocations in fragile countries. Our support is having a positive impact: in 2012, 68% of children completed primary school in GPE supported fragile and conflict-affected countries, compared with only 55% in 2000.
Calling the world to action
The growing number of severe humanitarian crises affecting education in fragile and conflict-affect countries requires permanent and increased attention. The International Network on Education in Emergencies (INEE) asked our partners at the Global Partnership’s Replenishment Pledging Conference in June to endorse a call to action to ensure children have access to a quality education despite humanitarian emergencies and conflict situations.
The call to action noted that lack of support for education in emergencies has a negative impact on the effectiveness of the overall humanitarian response. We have to elevate education in emergencies so that it receives equal status with other priorities and integrate education as a primary component in all humanitarian action plans.
Education plans must not be “emergency blind”
Too often education sector plans and budgets are “emergency blind,” setting aside too little funding for disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness, leaving countries and communities strapped to keep children in school when crisis arises. The Global Partnership is addressing this challenge with developing country partners and working to integrate emergency prevention, preparedness, response and recovery in education sector plans and budgets.
As recent crises in countries such as Somalia, South Sudan and the Central African Republic suggest, the challenge of getting millions of children in conflict areas into school is staggering and unlikely to abate anytime soon.
Even more reason to step up our commitment to the 28 million children who would otherwise lose out on precious years of education that they’ll never get back. The fate of these children and that of their countries is at stake.