Bombs do not raze to the ground only the visible structure of a nation, houses, blocks of flats, stations, they also kill entire generations’ chance to grow, especially when these conflicts take place in the areas Pope Francis defined as “the suburbs of world”; about a quarter of the world’s children of school age – 462 million – live in countries affected by crisis. About 1 in 6 children in the age group from kindergarten to upper secondary school (3-18 years) live in contexts of humanitarian crisis and are in desperate need for education support.
True humanitarian, social, and cultural development emergencies, which at present begin to be at the heart of international debate, even if it does not receive proper attention yet. Fragile and conflict-affected countries have seen its uneducated population grow exponentially. Nonetheless, education in contexts of humanitarian crisis and other critical situations continues to receive only a small portion of the overall humanitarian budget. Currently, there are 75 million children in 35 countries who do not go to school. Moreover, less than 2 percent of the funding for humanitarian aid is destined to education in emergency contexts.
In times of conflict and crisis, social and economic infrastructures are destroyed. Hence, the provision of basic services such as education becomes difficult, fragmented, or simply nonexistent. Children drop out of school, and are more vulnerable and at risk of violence, forced labor, and trafficking.
According to UNICEF, Syrian children under the age of five know nothing but war, because 3.7 million of them – that is, one-third of the country’s child population – were born after the beginning of the conflict. Over 306,000 children were born as refugees in neighboring countries. The total number of Syrian children affected by the consequences of war inside the country or in states where they have taken refuge, is about 8.4 million, over 80% of the child population. A lost generation.
Something is happening, he said. In fact, it was discussed in Istanbul, during the World Humanitarian Summit, the first world summit held to address the global humanitarian emergencies of our century. For two days in late May, 9 thousand delegates met there, among whom there were the representatives of 173 governments and NGOs.
As part of education in emergency situations and conflict, UNICEF has launched its own initiative called “Education cannot wait”; many countries have committed financially to reach $150 million. The recovery of education systems in these areas can provide a visible sign of return to normalcy.
Limited access to education is one of the safest modes of transmission of poverty from one generation to another. Education – remember this – is a fundamental human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every girl and every boy should have the right to quality education, so they can have more opportunities in life, such as job opportunities, better health, and also the opportunity to participate in the political process.
One of the most disturbing incidents dates back to last February, when at least 50 deaths were caused by air raids on two schools and five hospitals (including the one suffered by Doctors Without Borders) in northern Syria. Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply concerned by the news of missiles attacks on at least five medical facilities and two schools in Aleppo and Idlib, in which nearly 50 civilians, including children, were killed.”
The UN agency for children called for concrete decisions to protect children and keep them safe at least in schools and hospitals. According to the latest data from the theaters of war, 4 schools or hospitals suffer attacks or are used by armed forces or groups every day.
One of the organizations engaged on this front is “The Global Partnership for Education”, whose motto is “Reaching global goals through local action”. “Quality education for everyone – GPE says – is the foundation of a prosperous, peaceful, and equitable world, which is ready for the future.” A few days ago, the Board of Directors of the GPE has approved a budget of $147 million to improve education for millions of children and young people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, and in four island States in the Caribbean Sea, which are Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These grants will support and help the implementation of plans in the educational sector both on a national and regional levels, which provide a blueprint for educational strengthening in these countries in the following years.
It seems a lot and, considering the fact that it is a non-governmental initiative, it is. But it will be nothing but a drop in the bucket until the powerful of the world decide not only to take charge of the structural crisis, but also to avoid fueling conflicts, the only authentic strategy for a lasting peace.