Wikimedia Commons; Children in Conflict

Lack of Funding Prevents Education for Children in Conflict and Disaster Zones

According to the United Nations News Centre, approximately 9.2 million children in conflict and disaster zones will miss out on getting an education “unless the international community” provides an additional $820 million.

This concept with figures arose during the start of the G20 summit, by UNICEF. Originally, UNICEF requested $932 million for education programs in major conflict and disaster zones, globally. Sadly, the agency received less than $115 million, over $800 million off from their goal.

“Without education, children grow up without the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to the peace and the development of their countries and economies, aggravating an already desperate situation for millions of children,” said Muzoon Almellehan, UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador, while representing UNICEF at the summit.

Emergencies can halt a child’s education for years, if not for good. This means children miss out on vital learning when they are in very traumatic situations.

Where’s the Problem Right Now?

According to UNESCO, the sub-Saharan Africa region remains the region with the highest out-of-school rates for all age groups (4-18). Out of the 61 million out-of-school children of primary school age, 33 million, or more than half, live in sub-Saharan Africa.

More than approximately 40% of these out-of-school children of primary school age have never attended school, and will likely never enter a classroom setting.

In Africa, children affected by droughts are less likely to complete primary school; similar impacts have been found in Asia and Latin America.

As of currently, Yemen and the Central African Republic have the greatest need for this funding, “due to the funding gap being above 70 percent.” Currently in Syria and Iraq, there are also an abundance of children missing out on educational opportunities.

In 2016 approximately 5.4 million children were still in need of education within Syria, and more than one million Syrian child refugees were living in neighboring countries without any form of schooling.

“When I fled Syria in 2013, I was terrified I would never be able to return to school. But when I arrived in Jordan and realized there was a school in the camp, I was relieved and hopeful,” said a Syrian child from experience with education, at the G20 Summit. “School gives children like me a lifeline and the chance of a peaceful and positive future.”

A survey from UNICEF claims this lack of schooling is one of the leading factors to why families in these countries flee their homes to look for a better life.

When the Conflict is Larger Than We Think

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is a leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues.

According to ODI, “75 million children aged 3 to 18 live in countries facing war and violence and need educational support.”

TheirWorld, a global children’s charity, notes that as of this year, one out of four of the world’s school-age children live in countries affected by ongoing emergency situations such as conflict, natural disasters, and health crises.

According to an official statement from the children’s charity, “conflict alone is one of the biggest barriers to education, keeping more than 36 million children out of school during 2015.”

And in 2015, 75 million children and youth had their education disrupted, received poor-quality education or left schooling all together.

And as of currently, according to The Education Commission, less than 10 percent of schools are connected to the Internet across many of these countries.

UNICEF claims that for children who have experienced war, displacement, or other major travesties, education can be a life-saving tool.

TheirWorld also notes that without a proper education, childhoods may “be lost to child labour, child marriage, recruitment by armed groups or other life-threatening activities”.

The Benefits of Education In Disaster, Conflict Zones

The benefits that come with education for children in these environments are growing as we speak. According to the novel Doing Well Out of War by Paul Collier, each year that there are educational systems in the area, the risk of conflict is reduced by around 20%.

UNESCO claims that 171 million people could leave poverty if all students in low-income countries completed schooling with basic reading skills. This could equate to a 12% cut in global poverty.

Increased education levels can directly give individuals the necessary skills to increase their income level when they eventually enter the job market.

“Each extra year of schooling a child receives increases that student’s earnings by up to 10 percent,” according to UNESCO. A lack of educational opportunity can potentially damage the person’s access to employment once the conflict ends.

Also was an increase in education, a country’s population may be able to gain learn technical skills creating employment opportunities in agriculture, construction, technologies and transportation.

“Education promotes and fuels productivity gains that boost economic growth within countries,” as reported by the United States Agency for International Development. “Increasing the average level of education in a country by one year can increase the annual gross domestic product of that nation by half a percentage point.”

Education Classes for Disaster Zones

For areas where disasters are common, education can play a major role in preparing for these emergency situations and major conflicts to hit. According to The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public-policy organization, in Japan, “the tactical use of education to prepare children and their families for natural disasters and mitigate the impacts once devastation has struck is an example for which the rest of the world strives.”

These “safe school sites” in Japan are hand picked through multiple risk assessments to ensure that schools are “disaster-proofed and multi-hazard resilient.”

Brooking notes that not only students are involved in learned about disaster risk; parents, teachers, and sometimes entire communities are involved. For example, in Maiko High School in Hyogo Prefecture, classes such as “Environment and Disaster” teach students about disaster mitigation, because it deals with both the natural and the social environment.

The Benefit for Girls

Doing Well Out of War states that one additional year of school “reduces the probability of becoming a mother by 7.3% for women who have completed at least primary education”. Women with post-primary education in these disaster zones are five times more likely to be educated on the topic of HIV and AIDS.

ODI notes that girls are almost two-and-a-half times more likely to be out of school if they live in conflict-affected countries. Young women, on the other hand, are 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than young women not affected by conflict zones.

Over the last 40 years, approximately four million child deaths have been prevented due to an increase in female education according to a study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation posted in The Lancet journal.

Today, the number of people living in these disaster or conflict zones are at an all-time high and migration from conflict, climate change, and economic problems are on an upward trend. Quality education is one of, if not the most critical factor, in determining a child’s future success.

Last year, education in conflict and disaster zones received 2.7% of humanitarian aid, when 4% was requested. In the past five years, funding requests for education in emergencies have increased by 21%, according to the Global Education Monitoring Report.

Jessica Filippone

Jessica Filippone

Jess is a senior at Emerson College, studying journalism with a primary focus in news management. She is also an anchor and on air personality for 88.9 WERS FM Boston. When she isn't writing or doing her radio thing, you can find her on the beach with a New York Times Best Seller.