There are 260 million children across the world who do not have access to education. With economic instability, refugees and internally displaced people in crisis and extreme global weather patterns emerging, there is a huge need to keep the disruptions to children’s education to a minimum during this critical time in their development. The international community has recognised for many years the importance of education as a tool to fight poverty, increase economic prosperity and most importantly giving children the best possible opportunity of a bright future.
Education goals have been prominent on the United Nations agenda for many years and despite recent goals not being fully achieved, progress has been made. By 2015 the outcome of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were apparent and saw primary education enrolment jump from 83% in 2000, to 91%. The UN launched the Sustainable Development Goals – seventeen goals to end poverty, inequality and create sustainability globally – as the follow up to the MDGs. Goal number 4 for Quality Education, hopes that all children will have access to “complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes” by 2030. This is an even more ambitious goal to achieve in 15 years than its predecessor, and only time will tell how close we can come to achieving it.
With the goal of access to education for all children in mind by 2030, a new monitoring report released in September by UNESCO, suggests that we are far from being on the path to meeting this target. The report states that there has been no progress on the goal because of lack of funding. Funding for education is not distributed proportionately to where the most children are out of school, which is in Sub-Saharan Africa. Because of the refugee crisis, funds are going to emergency services to help with refugees and internally displaced people. The refugee crisis is very much in need of funding in its own right and the issue is that the funds are being taken from one vulnerable group to fund another. In fact, funding towards education has dropped globally by 4% since 2010 for various reasons. There would need to be an extra £30 billion a year diverted to education to be able to meet the 2030 target, without which the goal will not be able to be achievable until 2042.
The reason this report and this area of funding are so important, is the relationship between education and conflict. Education can be an important tool in combating violence and discrimination against particular groups and should be used to prevent future conflict from arising.
The UNESCO report, “The Influence of Education on Conflict and Peace Building” (2010) looks at ways education can play a positive role in creating peace if used the right way. The report lays out 3 main points for the important relationship between education and conflict:
- It maintains that education is a fundamental right of every person and there should always be access to it, even during very difficult situations. Keeping children in school is an important means of ensuring children are kept safe during conflict and protecting them from abusive situations.
- Once a child has left formal education, they do not usually have the opportunity to return. As well as education being a crucial need for human development and eliminating poverty, when educational opportunities are taken away during a conflict, not only does the individual lose out on an important part of their development, the whole society will suffer as a result of so many individuals unable to participate in social capital (which is an individual’s ability to produce goods for the common good and being entrepreneurial). This leads to limitation on rebuilding post-conflict as people are unable to contribute.
- The report warns that there can be a fine line between education being a help or a hindrance for peace-building efforts. Policies and practices need to be looked at carefully, as education in the wrong hands can exacerbate the problem and potentially be used for the indoctrination of children and young people.
Other important points in the report are that education is a way to keep stability and routine for children during these fundamental developmental years. Education during conflict is also important as a means of educating people on how to respond to conflict non-violently and is also used in the truth and reconciliation processes to intervene and direct people to a more peaceful path. Looking towards the future of peacebuilding and conflict resolution education may be the way out of this cycle of violence.