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Mental health in conflict and education

Growing up in Pakistan I had always been aware of the violence being carried out all around us. Despite that the APS attack in Peshawar in 2014 came as a shock to me. At the time I used to live in Lahore and despite not being a victim of the attack I felt afraid of going to school, it didn’t feel like a safe space to me anymore. Considering how an attack that I wasn’t even a victim of impacted me has always made me wonder about the trauma carried by children who are direct victims of attacks carried out on schools. I believe that mental health of students is an important aspect which must not be overlooked when looking at the field of education and conflict. It is a given that conflict has a negative impact on education taking into account aspects such as access to education and availability of schools. However, at an individual level, regardless of if conflict is in the form of direct attacks on schools or a larger conflict that children are impacted by, it has negative consequences for the ability of students to benefit from education. In my belief, conflict can impact one’s mental health in the form of anxiety, trauma and fear and these things further deteriorate one’s ability to concentrate on learning or even attending school. Although over the years in Pakistan the importance of mental health has grown especially in urban areas among certain a strata of society, however it still remains a largely ignored aspect. In conflict-ridden areas, policy solutions revolving around education must focus on the aspect of mental health, strategies such as counselling or art therapy for example can be incorporated in school programs led by trained professionals, to help students overcome the burden of conflict they carry and the negative impact it can have on their attainment of education. Making mental health a part of education development in conflict-ridden areas is among other things an important aspect in ensuring education for all, which is indeed a basic human right.

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