Armed conflict is robbing 28 million children of an education by exposing them to widespread rape and other sexual violence, targeted attacks on schools and other human rights abuses, UNESCO’s 2011 Global Monitoring Report warns.
The report, The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education, cautions that the world is not on track to achieve by 2015 the six Education for All goals that over 160 countries signed up to in 2000. Although there has been progress in many areas, most of the goals will be missed by a wide margin – especially in regions riven by conflict.
“Armed conflict remains a major roadblock to human development in many parts of the world, yet its impact on education is widely neglected,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “This groundbreaking report documents the scale of this hidden crisis, identifies its root causes and offers solid proposals for change.”
The report is endorsed by four Nobel Peace Prize laureates: Oscar Arias Sánchez (Costa Rica), Shirin Ebadi (Islamic Republic of Iran), José Ramos-Horta (Timor-Leste) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (South Africa)
Introducing the report, Archbishop Tutu says: “It documents in stark detail the sheer brutality of the violence against some of the world’s most vulnerable people, including its schoolchildren, and it challenges world leaders of all countries, rich and poor, to act decisively.”
The report warns that education failures are fuelling conflict:
- The ‘youth bulge’: In many conflict-affected countries, over 60% of the population is aged under 25, but education systems are not providing youth with the skills they need to escape poverty, unemployment and the economic despair that often contributes to violent conflict.
- The wrong type of education: Education has the potential to act as a force for peace — but too often schools can be used to reinforce the social divisions, intolerance and prejudices that lead to war.
- Failures to build peace. Education needs to be integrated into wider strategies to encourage tolerance, mutual respect and the ability to live peacefully with others. Between US$500 million and US$1 billion should be channelled to education through the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, with UNESCO and UNICEF playing a more central role.
The report outlines the considerable progress that has been made in education since 2000 but warns that:
- The number of children out of school stood at 67 million in 2008, and is falling too slowly to meet the Education for All target by 2015.
- Many children drop out of school before completing a full primary cycle. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 10 million children drop out of primary school every year.
- About 17% of the world’s adults – 796 million people – still lack basic literacy skills. Nearly two-thirds are women.
- Another 1.9 million teachers will be needed by 2015 to achieve universal primary education, more than half of them in sub-Saharan Africa.