* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.Children and parents affected by conflict say education is their number one priority after violence has died down
Children, parents and community leaders affected by armed conflict say education is a number one priority after they have reached safety or violence has died down, says a new study by NRC and Save the Children, financed under the EU Children of Peace initiative.
“Worldwide, millions of children affected by armed conflict are being denied the opportunity to go to school. During armed fighting, children and young people are exposed to serious violations. They risk being recruited into armed groups or join them voluntarily when they see this as the only option available; they are exposed, sometimes recurrently, to severe forms of violence, including sexual violence, as well as to early marriage; or they are deprived of a childhood when the situation forces them into adult roles in order to survive and cope.
The new study published today presents the voices of over 250 children, parents, teachers and community representatives who were severely affected by conflict and who are living in Masisi, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or who sought shelter in Dollo Ado camp, Ethiopia. Their message is clear: education is a number one priority. 30% of participants chose education first over and above other basic services such as health, food, water and shelter. In addition, in DRC, where education services are too often not protected during armed fighting, parents almost unanimously (98%) said that education must come first.
Participants in the study spoke about how education can protect children and save and transform their present and future. A child in Ethiopia said “it helps make the community strong”. A teacher in DRC highlighted how “without education, there will be no peace.”
Yet alarmingly, in stark contrast to what those affected by conflict in Dollo Ado and Masisi had to say, only 1.9% of humanitarian appeals funding was allocated to education in 2013, leaving a substantial shortfall.
“The international community has repeatedly promised to ensure education for children affected by war and other emergencies. Still education is the most underfunded sector in humanitarian responses, affecting already vulnerable children. It is time for us to show these children that we keep our promises”, says Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland.
“In every humanitarian crisis children are telling us loud and clear “we want to continue going to school”. The humanitarian community must make sure that protecting and restoring education for those children is a priority in every response,” says Humanitarian Director of Save the Children Michael von Bertele.
The EU Children of Peace initiative funds humanitarian projects for children in conflict regions, providing them with access to schools where they can learn in a safe environment, as well as with psychological support to heal their traumatic war experiences.
THE REPORT FINDS:
It is never too early to intervene with education, but it is often too late. Everyone consulted spoke of the immediate and life-saving protection education offers
The contribution education makes to the lives of these children, their families and communities on a daily basis is remarkable. It brings communities together and helps children to solve problems in non-violent ways
Education helps protect children, builds their and their community’s resilience, facilitates children’s chances of recovery after violent events, and contributes to stability and economic progress
Education gives hope for the future. Through gaining skills and stability, children and young people can aspire to brighter, more prosperous futures
SAVE THE CHILDREN AND NRC CALL ON DONORS, POLICY-MAKERS AND WORLD LEADERS TO:
Listen to communities affected by conflict and ensure education is included from the outset of an emergency
Take urgent steps to guarantee children who are displaced in conflict affected regions have compulsory access to free, good quality education
Adopt measures to ensure education is protected from attack
Cover the funding gap by increasing the current levels of humanitarian funding to education and progressively work towards reaching a minimum of 4% of global humanitarian funding.