The future is now: education in conflict-affected states

Today Save the Children launched the latest in their series of reports on education in conflict-affected states, which are produced as part of the Rewrite the Future campaign. The foreword for ‘The future is now’ is provided by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female African head of state, who comments:

I had just been elected President of Liberia when Rewrite the Future was launched in 2006, and was faced with the daunting challenge of healing a country emerging from 14 years of brutal civil war.

I knew from the start that – in order to recover and build peace – we needed to invest in education. A generation of children had never had the chance to go to school, and the quality of education had deteriorated because most teachers had left the country. Restoring the education system thus became a key priority of our development agenda.

As a woman, and the first elected female Head of State in Africa, I know how important a good-quality education is and I am all too aware of the particular barriers facing girls. That is why I have been such a keen supporter of Save the Children’s Rewrite the Future campaign, and its focus on the poorest and most marginalised children.

Rebuilding a country after years of conflict takes widespread and far-reaching reforms. Four years on, we are still a long way from achieving access to a good-quality education for all children in Liberia. But it remains our goal, and we are making progress.

That is why education continues to be a priority for my government, and why I welcome this report – both the lessons learned and its recommendations for the future. Without investing in education – particularly for the poorest children and those caught up in conflict – generations of children will continue to live in poverty and we will be subjecting future generations to an unjust and insecure world.

We are striving to prevent this in Liberia.

The report brings us up to date with the latest from the fight to give the 39 million out-of-school children living in conflict-affected states – over half of all the world’s out-of-school children – a chance to get an education. It demonstrates that it is indeed possible to provide education even in the most fragile of situations. In the four years of the Rewrite the Future campaign, Save the Children has enabled 1.4 million more children in conflict-affected states to go to school, and has helped to improve the quality of education for 10 million kids.

Despite this, huge barriers remain: the poor quality of educational provision in many conflict-affected states discourages parents from sending their children to school; violent attacks on schools in conflict zones are increasing; and there is still an overwhelming lack of financing. Humanitarian aid still puts far too little priority on education, despite the central role that education plays in post-conflict development as explained by President Johnson Sirleaf, and most donors still prefer to fund countries with good track records despite welcome commitments to support needy fragile countries from the Netherlands and the UK.

In the report’s recommendations Save the Children urge governments, donors and other NGOs to:

  1. Increase educational opportunity for the poorest and most disadvantaged children in Conflict-Affected Fragile States.
  2. Focus on teachers and teaching quality.
  3. Increase the relevance and purposefulness of education.
  4. Protect education from attack.
  5. Address the increasing threat of emergencies.
  6. Increase the financing of education in CAFS.

The failure to focus aid to education on those countries with the biggest needs is an issue that RESULTS has been working on for many years – for an example see our recent action on reform of the Fast Track Initiative to ensure it can support education in conflict-affected states. We welcome this report, and join the call to donors around the world to prioritise the education emergency in conflict-affected states to prevent whole generations losing out on the chance to improve their lives.

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