Dying to go school
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Dying to go school. Education as a humanitarian imperative: barriers presented by the humanitarian system to enabling access and completion of education in conflict affected locations Mark Waddington, CEO, War Child. Education is a means of survival.

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Dying to go school

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Dying to go school

Dying to go school

Education as a humanitarian imperative:

barriers presented by the humanitarian system to enabling access and completion of education in conflict affected locations

Mark Waddington, CEO, War Child

Education is a means of survival

Education is a means of survival

  • In conflict affected locations primary education is often of poor quality, regularly disrupted and is rarely completed

  • Consequently, many children are not able to reach a sustainable level of literacy

  • This has a direct impact on infant mortality because a child born to an illiterate mother is 50% more likely to die before their 5th birthday than a child born to a literate mother (3)

  • In DRC one in five children die before their fifth birthday (4)

Street boys in eastern DRC where War Child supports women to develop income generating initiatives so they can afford the school fees for their children

Education is a means of protection

Education is a means of protection

  • Enabling access to education is an opportunity to provide safe spaces which narrow the window of risk faced by children

  • Education also provides information which enables children to protect themselves

  • Education can provide psycho-social support which in a conflict setting can prevent children from involvement in high risk behaviours such as early sex, drugs, and crime

Education is a means of addressing poverty

Education is a means of addressing poverty

  • Studies show that one year of education can raise the living wage of men and women by an average of 10%(5)

  • And because children who have gone to school are more likely to send their own children to school education helps to address the inter-generational transmission of poverty (6)

Education can help prevent conflict

Education can help prevent conflict

  • Education can make a significant contribution to economic growth over time (7)

  • Paul Collier’s research (8) suggests that a conflict affected country which achieves 1% growth pa is 1% less likely to lapse into conflict

  • So enabling sustained access to and completion of education can actually make a significant contribution to the prevention of conflict

Access to education is possible in conflict affected locations

Access to education is possible in conflict affected locations

  • War Child is successfully:

    • Supporting community run pre-school projects in Afghanistan

    • Working alongside the Ministry of Education in Iraq to rehabilitate schools and train teachers

    • Providing safe spaces for informal learning in Central African Republic

    • And working with local authorities to promote access to education in the challenging environment of Karamoja District in North East Uganda

Dying to go school

9 July 2010

“Deeply concerned over the inadequate level of funding for international education goals and that the education sector was among the most under-funded sectors in humanitarian consolidated and flash appeals ….. the message ….. was clear:  education in emergencies deserved attention at the level of other life-saving needs”

Sixty-fourth General Assembly


106th Meeting (PM)



Dying to go school

  • But if:

    • Education is a means of survival and protection

    • It contributes to economic growth as well as the factors which prevent conflict

    • There are ways of successfully delivering it in conflict affected locations

    • Donor states are signed up to a UN resolution that recognises education as a humanitarian imperative

  • Then why are conflict affected states still home to 42% (28 million) of all the world’s out of school primary aged children (9)

Masisi drc a case study

Masisi, DRC: a case study

Dying to go school

Lubero IDP camp, Masisi Centre

  • 83% of all IDPs living in camps in North Kivu are in Masisi District (10)

  • In Masisi Centre alone

    • Five camps were established in late 2006/early 2007 and are home to 9,053 children – this is 63.3% of the total population for these camps (Norwegian Refugee Council)

    • Six spontaneous camps have been established since, which are home to a further 9,855 children (estimated from NRC records)

  • Access to education in the established camps is very low – records are patchy but for Bihito we know that it is only 4% (NRC)

  • Educational provision in the spontaneous camps is lower

  • There is no pre-school provision in any of the camps

The state barrier

The state barrier

  • Government policies are focused on inputs and outputs rather than educational outcomes

  • Military expenditure is prioritised over expenditure on education

  • The draft budget for 2011 is $6.6bn (11) of which some 8% (12) is allocated to education which makes the state by far the largest investor in education. But a large proportion of this money is not reaching the schools and educators

  • Meanwhile, local authorities do not want to invest in education in IDP camps because of a fear of making them permanent

The donor barrier

The donor barrier

  • In North Kivu, despite 83% of all IDPs being located in Masisi District (13) the Pooled Fund is prioritising funding for other districts

  • Several donors have refused to be part of the Pooled Fund, such as Canada, leading to a fractured and uncoordinated approach to funding

  • The cluster leads on education, as well as OCHA, are not proposing an adequate budget for education to the CAP

  • Most donors still do not accept that education is a humanitarian imperative

Girl’s previously associated with armed groups with one of their babies in eastern DRC at a shelter supported by War Child

Education budgets proposed to the cap as of june 2011

Education budgets proposed to the CAP, as of June 2011


The un barrier

The UN barrier

  • UNICEF is the cluster lead on education but has prioritised non-food items over education instead of alongside it

  • UNHCR is the cluster lead on protection but do not prioritise education as an emergency need

  • In the meantime, governance within the UN system has to deal with institutionalised conflicts of interest that are managed in part by distributing resources across as many agencies as possible in a way that erodes responsiveness to needs on the ground

The ngo barrier

The NGO barrier

  • NGOs and other humanitarian actors rightly undertake assessments to identify gaps in provision of education, but do not always recognise these gaps as the symptoms of underlying causes

  • By shifting the spotlight off the state we as NGOs are, in part, making the lack of access to education OUR responsibility

  • Many NGO interventions are dependent on locally sourced institutional forms of funding in a humanitarian setting, so when that funding is withdrawn so too are NGO services

Informal education:

Congolese hip hop artist Didjak Munya discusses

HIV/AIDS and protection issues

with street children

Some cautions

Some cautions

  • Where there is a lack of planning to ensure that the learning environment is safe then it can also serve as:

    • A recruitment ground for armed groups

    • A basis for sexual violence - sex for grades is common in schools in many conflict affected countries

    • The means through which educators express their own feelings via corporal punishment and other forms of violence against children which lead to high drop out rates

    • A means of reinforcing extremist views that can contribute to conflict

Some recommendations

Some recommendations

  • Education needs to be sold as the life-saving right that it is! Education is a humanitarian imperative and this needs to be recognised throughout the humanitarian system

  • Policy frameworks need to focus more on education outcomes, rather than just on spending

  • Children are the experts on their own lives and are aware of the barriers to access and completion so their participation in determining these outcomes within our programming is crucial

  • A more significant proportion of government, donor and NGO funding must be allocated to education, targeting a minimum of 25% or more of the national budget in conflict affected countries, and this must be aligned to a greater commitment to coordination

  • Investment is needed in the governance architecture of education to strengthen the ability of education ministries to foster the conditions in which duty bearers are enabled and compelled to deliver education, and held accountable for it

  • Donors and NGOs need to invest more in their own capability to negotiate and successfully manage development partnerships with the governments and authorities within conflict affected countries

  • Compliance with Treaties, Conventions and Security Council Resolutions in a way that places greater focus on education needs to be integrated within bi-lateral and multi-lateral aid agreements, made a central part of diplomacy, and explicitly rewarded - targeted sanctions should be used in the event of non-compliance



  • Plan International, The State Of The World’s Girls, 2010

  • UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2011

  • UNESCO, Education and the Millennium Development Goals, 2010, (http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/ED/GMR/pdf/gmr2010/MDG2010_Facts_and_Figures_EN .pdf .

  • UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2011

  • http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/docs/Attacks_on_schools_brief_final_(2).pdf

  • Breaking Poverty Cycles – The Importance of Action in Childhood, CHIP Policy Briefing 8, by Caroline Harper, 2004

  • Education Quality and Economic Growth, 2007, World Bank

  • The Bottom Billion, Why The Poorest Countries Are Failing And What Can Be Done About It, 2007, Paul Collier

  • EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2011, The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education

  • http://www.dc4idp.org/htdocs

  • www.theafricareport.com

  • Verbal communication from UNICEF

  • http://www.dc4idp.org/htdocs

  • Donors Engagement: supporting education is fragile and conflict-affected states’, (UNESCO, 2009)

Dying to go school

Some words should never go together


If you want a copy of this presentation or to discuss any of the points raised in it please drop me a line at:

[email protected]

Child Soldier

War Child


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