“I hope there is a ceasefire, and I dream of a future where I can go back to my school,” said the young woman. Mariam with sadness from the Gaza Strip. Added to his testimony are the words of Kenan, who, at just 10 years old, says, What I miss is my school. My only dream now is that this war ends and that the world sends us bread. Riots and rights violations caused by armed conflicts, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises have a strong effect on education, creating serious consequences: closed, destroyed schools, without enough teachers, without appropriate materials, and without security.
Why it’s important to invest in education
Education is a fundamental pillar to maintain structure, stability, and hope for the future of children and adolescents who have experienced these types of conflicts and humanitarian crises. In addition, education in emergency situations directly saves the lives of thousands of boys and girls because it offers them protection against exploitation and violence, supports their psychosocial well-being, and protects their cognitive development.
This week, we celebrate World Education Day. UNICEF focuses on the importance of education in emergency situations, not only to respond to the humanitarian and psychosocial needs of affected children but also because it is the best way to contribute to the future development of the economic and human resources of those countries in crisis.
UNICEF works to defend the right to education for all men and women and claims its importance, especially in emergency situations and humanitarian crises.
The impact of crises on education
Children and adolescents are the most vulnerable during humanitarian crises and emergencies. They see their rights violated, among them the right to education. In many cases, an entire generation is deprived of the knowledge and opportunities that an education can provide.
In fact, there are 224 million school-age boys and girls living in contexts affected by humanitarian crises. It is also estimated that among all of them, 78.2 million are outside the school system. This situation has a double negative effect: on the one hand, it greatly hinders the thinking and personal development of these men and women, and on the other hand, it puts them at greater risk of suffering violence.
Schools are particularly vulnerable to emergency situations. These are often used as troop quarters, refugee housing, or areas dedicated to other emergency services. Moreover, they are common military objectives in armed conflicts.
all over the world, Incidents of military use in schools and universities more than doubled in 2020 and 2021, compared to 2018 and 2019, with a total of approximately 5,000 attacks, with 9,000 students and teachers kidnapped, arrested, injured, or killed in 85 countries.
Greater impact on girls and teenagers
Women and girls are specific targets of educational attacks because of their gender. They are also the population at greatest risk of experiencing sexual violence in the school environment and on school routes.
In addition, in humanitarian crises, girls, adolescents, and women are also often entrusted with the responsibility of caring for dependent people around the family, who represent one of the greatest limitations they face in continuing their studies.
Girls living in contexts affected by conflict and crisis have an almost 90% higher chance of not attending high school than their counterparts in countries not affected by the conflict. It is estimated that, by 2030, one in five women in the context of the crisis will be illiterate.
The right to education must be a priority
Lack of investment in education in crisis contexts can contribute to the continuation of conflicts and alienate the aspirations of sustainable world peace. Inequality in education creates a sense of injustice and exacerbates the disadvantages of vulnerable groups, ultimately fueling conflict.
Education is a powerful instrument for social change, promoting equity, prosperity, and peace development. However, poor, abusive, or manipulative management of education can exacerbate conflict through oppression, unequal opportunities and outcomes, or the promotion of hatred and violence.
Considering the complexity of the current crises and their average duration of nine years, it is important that the educational needs of those children and adolescents affected by the crises receive a response that supports their future. Transforming education changes the lives of boys and girls, protects them in crisis situations, and gives them hope and opportunities for the future.