How to avoid creating a new generation of ignorance and hate

July 31, 2015
Children displaced as a result of Boko Haram attacks in the northeast region of Nigeria, attend class at Maikohi secondary school inside a IDP camp in Yola

Children displaced as a result of Boko Haram attacks in the northeast region of Nigeria, in class at Maikohi secondary school inside a camp for internally displaced persons in Yola, Adamawa State January 13, 2015. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

One serious cost of the continuing civil war in Syria and the devastating earthquake in Nepal is that a generation of children is growing up without an education.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian children are living in refugee camps with no access to schools or whose classrooms were destroyed by the fighting. Nepalese children, meanwhile, are still waiting for earthquake-damaged schools to be repaired.

This is why the creation of an international Commission on Financing of Global Education Opportunities at the recent Oslo Summit on Education for Development was so timely. The summit discussions emphasized the need to fund education, particularly for the estimated 65 million children age 3 to 15 living in dire circumstances worldwide.

A view shows a burnt and looted classroom at the Doronj Sown secondary school after renewed conflict in Bor, Jonglei state

A burnt and looted classroom at the Doronj Sown secondary school after renewed conflict in Bor, Jonglei state, South Sudan, December 11, 2014. REUTERS/Jok Solomon

The new commission is designed to galvanize larger investments. It will look into a range of financing sources, including official development assistance, innovative financing or partnerships and private-sector funding. It must submit its findings to the United Nations secretary-general in September 2016.

The commission announcement coincided with the release of the final Millennium Development Goals report, which tracks progress on eight time-sensitive goals set by world leaders in 2000. These have already helped lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty.

Unfortunately, the report also shows that fragile countries such as Syria and Nepal typically have the highest poverty rates. They are also among the hardest to make progress in when it comes to providing children with their basic right to education.

Only 30 of the world’s 51 fragile countries, according to recent data, have met one or more of the Millennium Development Goals’ targets. These seek to lift people out of poverty by getting children into school, improving healthcare and reducing inequality. Only another nine of the 51 are on track to do so.

Girls listen to a teacher in an improvised school on the grounds of a monastery sheltering IDPs in the district of Boy Rabe

Girls listen to a teacher in an improvised school on the grounds of a monastery sheltering internally displaced persons in the district of Boy Rabe, in the capital Bangui, February 4, 2014. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

The education goal helped reduce the number of children not in primary school from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2015. But progress has not been equal around the globe.

Data shows more than half the children left behind live in countries torn apart by conflict or natural disaster. Amid conflict, the percentage of children not in school jumped from 30 percent in 1999 to 36 percent in 2012. These figures do not even include the Syrian crisis, where enrollment rates for children between 6 and 18 years old fell by 34 percent in 2013 alone.

This is a tragedy.

When I travel to fragile countries around the globe and ask children what they want in life, they all talk about getting an education. They want to go to school so they can become teachers, doctors or scientists. They want the chance to make a difference to their communities.

But only a tiny portion of humanitarian aid budgets — roughly 2 percent — is now spent on education. For too many of these children, education must remain a dream. Which is why we need to support this global educational plan.

Education is crucial in creating the basis for conflict resolution and rebuilding societies. Yet it’s essential to get children back into school for a host of other reasons. Youngsters not in school, for example, are at a higher risk of exploitation. Girls are more at risk of child marriage or sex slavery; boys are more likely to become child soldiers.

Statistics show that the longer a child stays out of school, the less likely he or she is to return to the classroom. So aid to get children back into school becomes as vital and imperative as food and shelter.

Nepalese children, affected by the April 25 earthquake, attend a class provided by an international aid organisation inside a primary school in Sankhu, on the outskirts of Kathmandu

Nepalese children in a class provided by an international aid organization inside a primary school in Sankhu, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

An education gives a child a gateway out of poverty. It can provide a sense of normality and help build a more stable and prosperous world. Consider the links between education and health. If all women had access to secondary education, an estimated 3 million children’s lives would be saved.

Though the Millennium Development Goals end this December, the work is to be continued and expanded through the Sustainable Development Goals. Its 17 new goals, focused on ending extreme poverty by 2030, draw on lessons learned over the past 15 years. Set to be adopted by world leaders in September, they build on progress to help the most disadvantaged people around the world.

We know from the Millennium Development Goals, for example, that 33 million of the 55 million children not in school live in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than half of them are girls. The Sustainable Development Goals will continue the fight to get children into primary school, while pressing for access to secondary education.

Fragile countries face enormous challenges. For example, earthquakes destroyed thousands of schools in Nepal, the Ebola crisis kept millions of children away from classrooms in Africa and hurricanes over the past three years brought $150 million in damages to schools in the Philippines.

So there has to be more funding. Recent estimates suggest that $74 a child a year in a fragile country could close the financial gap for pre-primary, primary and lower-secondary education.

Governments confronting these terrible situations are already stretched to capacity. They need a coordinated global response to provide more robust financial and administrative support so they can move beyond daily struggles of survival and provide functioning education systems.

If we are serious about ensuring all children get an education in the future sustainable- development agenda, we must acknowledge these challenges and put realistic, well-financed guidelines in place.

We must make sure that, 15 years from now, these children will have experienced their right to education — the key to obtaining the opportunities life has to offer. This is an indispensable milestone on the path to home-grown sustainable development.

3 comments

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Ignorance and hate are part of Islam. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself why a fatwa, issued by the world’s top muslim clerics, is still active on a Seattle cartoonist (Molly Norris), but there has not been a fatwa put out on Boko Haram or ISIS for supposedly “distorting Islam.” Their actions are louder than words.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

And education is the primary way to counter ignorance and hate – get’em while they’re young.

BTW – the principle religion in Nepal is Buddhism. Not too many fatwa’s coming from the monks lately….

Posted by TheWhiteLine | Report as abusive

Yes, and Nepal represents about 0.00005% of the world’s violent deaths.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive