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Thursday 3 March 2011

Report Decries Poor Funding for Education in Humanitarian Responses

Of the total number of primary school age children in the world who are not enrolled in school, over 40 per cent live in countries affected by conflict, according to UNESCO’s 2011 Global Monitoring Report.

By Henry Neondo

Armed conflicts is robbing millions of African children an education by exposing them to widespread rape and other sexual violence, targeted attacks on schools and other human rights abuses, UNESCO’s 2011 education for all (EFA) global monitoring report, released Tuesday warns. But the report also castigates humanitarian responses to the crises for failing to look into the education within armed conflict.

The report, The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education, was simultaneously launched in Nairobi, London, Santiago, Dakar, New York and cautions that despite progress, the world is not on track to achieve by 2015 the six education for all goals that over 160 countries signed up to in 2000 and conflict is one of the major reasons.

Of the total number of primary school age children in the world who are not enrolled in school, over 40 per cent live in countries affected by conflict, according to UNESCO’s 2011 Global Monitoring Report.

“The significant growth of tension, conflict and war, both within nations and between nations and people is a cause of great concern”, said Prof Sam Ongeri, Kenya’s minister for education while launching the report in Nairobi.

Kenya is host to some of the largest refugee populations in the continent, who face major barriers to education.

Over 250, 000 Somalis are based in Dadaab camps in the north of Kenya. The camps have been established for as long as 20 years, meaning that many children have only experienced life there.

Pauline Rose, one of the authors of the Global Monitoring Report on Education for All says, due to funding shortfall and short-term planning cycles of the international humanitarian agencies, children are crammed into classes intended for less than a third of their numbers and are taught by untrained teachers.

“Many children do not make it to school at all. While accurate information on funds spent on education is difficult to find, on our estimate, just USD10 is spent on education of a school-aged child living in UNHCR-supported refugee camps”, she said.

The humanitarian aid system is failing these children, she adds and calls for a major overhauling aid to education in conflict-affected countries. Education accounts for just 2 per cent of humanitarian aid and only a small fraction of requests for humanitarian aid for education are met.

Speaking of the challenges in Kenya faced by the growing refugee populations, many of who have been living in camps for years, Mohamed Elmi, Minister of State for Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands said, Dadaab suffers from overcrowded classrooms, insufficient trained teachers and too few opportunities for secondary-age students.

Children and schools are on the front line of conflicts, with classrooms, teachers and pupils seen as legitimate targets. “The report shows us that what we should put our minds to now as a matter of urgency is protecting education from the ravages of war”, said UNESCO Assistant Director General for Africa, Ms Lalla Aicha Ben Barka.

Rape and other sexual violence have been widely used as a war tactic in many countries including Chad, the DR Congo, Liberia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Insecurity and fear associated with sexual violence keep young girls in particular out of school. Of the rapes reported in the DR Congo, one third involves children.

In conflict-affected parts of the DR Congo, there were 9000 reported cases of rape in 2009 alone, one third of which involved children.

The report calls for an end to the culture of impunity surrounding sexual violence, with stronger monitoring of human rights violations affecting education, a more rigorous application of existing international law and the creation of an international commission on rape and sexual violence backed by the international criminal court.

Many of the poorest countries spend significantly more on arms than on basic education. 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa spend more on the military than on primary schooling; if they were to cut their military budgets by just 10 per cent, they could put 2.7 million more children in school. Chad, which has some of the world’s worst education indicators, spends four times as much on arms as on primary schools,

Military spending is also diverting the resources of aid donor countries. It would take just six days of military spending by rich countries to close the USD 16 billion education for all external financing gap.

Donors’ security agendas have led them to focus on a small group of countries while neglecting many of the world’s poorest countries.

Aid for basic education has increased more than fivefold in Afghanistan over the past five years but it has stagnated or risen more slowly in countries such as Chad, and the Central African Republic and declined in Cote d’ Ivoire.

Away from war zones however, Ms Lalla Aicha Ben Barka said there have been remarkable progress in education in the past decade. From 1998 to 2008, 52 million children enrolled in primary school and more children are transiting to secondary and tertiary levels of education.

She said sub-Saharan Africa has increased enrolment rations by almost one third , despite a large increase in the school-age population. For example, she said, Tanzania reduced the number of children out of school by almost 3 million and it now has a real prospect of achieving universal primary education by 2015.

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