Conflict and Education

One of the tragedies of conflicts in Africa is the way in which it so often destroys the right to education – and in so doing increases the likelihood of chronic vulnerability and poverty, creates or perpetuates social divisions, contributes to increased inequality and impedes development.

The scale of the devastating effect of conflict on education is too little recognized. As people are displaced from their homes and their land, they are forced to flee to distant towns, to camps for internally displaced or to neighbouring countries, where they may spend years in refugee camps. They may be kept alive through the emergency provision of food and water, but the rights of children to education are too often ignored. With only 1-2% of humanitarian aid spent on keeping displaced children in school, a child’s right to education has become one of the first casualties of war.

When conflict rips communities and countries apart, it is not just those in the frontline who suffer. As public expenditure is diverted to arms purchases and paying for larger armies and militias, so spending on education across the nation is squeezed. The diversion of spending is made worse because external donors also review their budget priorities and staffing levels in countries where insecurity is pervasive. In such circumstances, spending on education may be reduced, compounding the cuts in national spending. The consequence is that a country’s entire education system is weakened. Access is constrained and quality is eroded, even for children who live far from the front line.

"Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.” Kofi Annan