Across many of the world’s poorest countries, armed conflict continues to destroy not just school infrastructure, but also the hopes and ambitions of a whole generation of children.
Given that armed conflicts vary in duration, intensity and localization, educational systems are affected in different ways. The 2010 UNESCO report The Hidden Crisis (paraphrased here) points to the significant negative impact of conflict on the proportion of the population with formal education, the average years of education attained, and the literacy rate.
This legacy of conflict is visible at the national and subnational level in household survey data for 19 out of the 25 conflict affected countries that UNESCO analyzed. The trends for most countries demonstrate that cohorts that were of school-going age during a time of conflict have lower educational attainment that persists over time, indicating that these children generally do not resume their education after a conflict. These lost years of schooling reflect the legacy of the conflict and its repercussions.
Conflict affects education in many ways:
Death or displacement of teachers and students. Example: more than two-thirds of teachers in primary and secondary schools were killed or displaced as a result of the Rwandan genocide.
Destruction and damage to schools and educational infrastructure. Examples: as a result of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 50% of its schools required reconstruction and rehabilitation; 58% of primary schools in Mozambique were destroyed or closed as a result of its long civil war; 85% in Iraq.
Schools are often explicit targets during periods of armed conflict. Educational facilities were attacked in at least 31 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America in the three years leading up to 2010. Example: there were 670 attacks on schools in Afghanistan in 2008. For more information, please go to PEIC website.
Conflict prevents the opening of schools and increases teacher absenteeism.
Conflict threatens children’s security while travelling to school and attending class. Girls may be kept from school by their parents in fear of violence against female students.
Conflict increases likelihood for child involvement in the military, the workforce or marriage.
Conflict exacerbates existing marginalization in society.