We must increase investment in children’s education in states affected by conflict, such as Syria and Mali. That’s the message I’ll be taking to our partner USAID’s Education Summit this week. The Summit will bring together experts in education to share best practice around USAID’s three goals: literacy in the early years, education in conflict situations and giving young people the skills for economic success.
Twenty eight million of the world’s 61 million out-of-school primary-school aged children live in conflict-affected poor countries1. In 2010 only 79% of young people in conflict-affected poor countries2 were literate, compared with 93% in other poor countries. In Mali, our assessments have found that the most vulnerable children – the youngest, adolescent girls and those with disabilities - are not accessing education in areas affected by internal conflict. We’ve found that the usual barriers to education the children face are exacerbated, and the most vulnerable tend to be excluded from education interventions. And yet school provides safety and a normal routine, as well as learning, for children whose lives have been turned upside down.
Our experience during the Mali conflict also shows that it’s possible to take very practical steps to make sure that even the most vulnerable children benefit from education opportunities. Plan works with the government to make sure children and communities are involved in planning education support during the conflict. This ‘bottom up’ approach has provided locally-led solutions to getting children back into school, and has created new early play and learning opportunities for the very youngest.
For a developing country in crisis, having an educated population is vital for economic growth. But humanitarian funding worldwide for education tends to be just 1-2% of the total. And no sector has a smaller share of humanitarian appeals funded: just 38% of aid requests for education are met, which is around half the average for all sectors3. At the Summit, I’ll be raising my hand for increasing donor funding for education in conflict and emergencies. Will you?
1UNESCO (2011) EFA Global Monitoring Report The Hidden Crisis: Armed conflict and education p.132
2UNESCO (2011) EFA Global Monitoring Report The Hidden Crisis: Armed conflict and education p.132