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Save the Children: Armed conflict creating crisis in education for 43 million children

©Save the Children
WASHINGTON, DC, USA, 12 September 2006 — More than 43 million children living in countries wracked by war and armed conflict are being left without the chance to go to school, according to a new report published today by Save the Children. 

The report is part of Save the Children’s five-year Rewrite the Future education initiative, which seeks to help millions of children in conflict-affected areas gain access to and reap the current and future benefits of a quality education.

Over 40 countries are launching the campaign today. Among Rewrite the Future’s international supporters are Archbishop Desmond Tutu and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, Jan Egeland.

In Washington, D.C., Members of Congress including Reps. Nita Lowey of New York, Diane Watson of California and Donald Payne of New Jersey joined Save the Children at a press briefing on Capitol Hill to speak about the important role that education can play in the lives of children in conflict-affected areas. Following the press briefing, Save the Children officials met with Ellen Sauerbrey, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, and officials of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“Today the majority of victims from war are civilians, not soldiers and those left destitute are mostly children,” said Charlie MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children, based in Westport, Connecticut. “The world cannot stand by, leaving these children without education and without hope or opportunity, in some cases for generations.”

“With the launch of Rewrite the Future, Save the Children will challenge the world to ensure that 43 million children in conflict-affected areas have access to quality education and the opportunity to rewrite their own future for the better” MacCormack continued.

School can provide a safe place in an otherwise dangerous world, imparting skills to help children protect themselves and recover from the psychological impact of war and violence. Education offers a route out of conflict and poverty. In addition, research shows that primary education significantly contributes to individual productivity and national economic development. However, the report found that children living in these countries receive the least amount of assistance for education — only 2 percent of humanitarian funding — because major international donors find it too difficult to deliver aid to them.


© Susan Warner/Save the Children
Mercy Acayo Aremo, born in Sudan and currently a student in Maryland, says education is critical for every child, especially for children in areas of conflict. She participated in Save the Children’s launch of Rewrite the Future at the U.S. Capitol.

Education can and should be part of all humanitarian responses —  including those in conflict situations, the report concluded. Early investment in education protects children from the most damaging aspects of conflict and plays a significant role in building peace, restoring countries to a positive development path and breaking the cycle of violence. 

The new report outlines the consequences of armed conflict on education in 30 countries, 18 of which face ongoing violence. In many cases, schools have been destroyed or commandeered by armed forces; teachers have been killed or forced to flee because they are government employees or community leaders; and children have been recruited and forced to participate in the violence. 

The report reveals that:

  1. In 2003, more than half of armed conflicts had children under 15 as combatants. 
  2. More than 5 million primary-school-age children (6 – 11 years) are out of school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and more than 6 million 12- to 17-year-olds have never been to school.
  3. In Nepal, between January and August 2005, more than 11,800 students were abducted from rural schools for indoctrination or forced recruitment into the militia.
  4. In Afghanistan, most qualified teachers fled the conflict. Now fewer than 15 percent of teachers hold professional qualifications.

“Children all over the world are eager to get an education,” said MacCormack. “For Rewrite the Future, Save the Children Alliance members across the globe will work together on an unprecedented scale — speaking out for children who have no voice and working in conflict zones to ensure that children do not miss out on a quality education. Save the Children has decades of practical field experience providing quality education to children in conflict and post-conflict situations.”

Save the Children is calling for:

  1. The international community to fill the funding gap by providing an extra $5.8 billion in aid to fund education in conflict-affected fragile states.
  2. The international community to ensure that adequate systems are in place to deliver aid to conflict- affected countries.
  3. Education to be part of the humanitarian response in every emergency.
  4. All national governments to ensure that military or armed militia members who are violent toward teachers and students are prosecuted.

Over the next five years, Save the Children will work to ensure that 3 million out-of-school children in conflict-affected countries enter school by 2010 and, at the same time, improve the quality of education for 5 million additional children.

Save the Children provides programs across the developing world to improve educational opportunities for children, helping to build schools, train teachers and provide essential materials such as books and pens. Save the Children is working worldwide to persuade national governments and international donors and institutions to significantly increase their funding for education and prioritize education for the more than 43 million children affected by armed conflict.

Jan Egeland, United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said: “It is a moral outrage how the world is treating these children. The international community cannot leave vulnerable children, already living with the consequences of armed conflict, without the hope of a decent future. Children cannot wait for conflict to end before we give them the opportunity to go to school.”


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