Education in Areas of Conflict

Today, the number of people displaced by conflicts is at an all-time high. Children affected by conflict or crises can lose their homes, families, schools and so much more. Without an education, they can also lose the chance of a secure future.

These statistics from UNICEF highlight the scale of the problem:

  • 1 in 4 of the world’s out-of-school children live in crisis-affected countries;
  • In 35 crisis-affected countries, 75 million children between the ages of 3 to 18 are experiencing a disrupted education; and,
  • Over 17 million school-aged children in those countries are refugees, with only half attending primary school.

In addition to the trauma of fleeing their homes, displaced children who do manage to attend a school are often exposed to crowded classrooms, teacher absenteeism and poor quality learning materials.

In the short term, shelter and food are prioritised in conflict zones but education is also essential if the cycle of violence and poverty is to be tackled effectively. Despite this knowledge, it remains a significant challenge to improve access to quality education for those living in these areas. This challenge of education provision is further enhanced for internally displaced children, or child refugees who have fled their homes.

Education can reduce conflict

Violent conflicts are more likely to occur in nations or regions that don’t provide quality education for their populations. The Education Commission found that when educational inequality doubles the chances of conflict more than doubles.

Education diminishes the appeal of radical ideologies and extremist groups too. For example, the Institute for Strategic Studies (February 2017) revealed that a “lack of education is considered one of the major factors for joining Boko Haram.” Forty-one percent of those surveyed believed that people who had never attended school were more likely to join Boko Haram.

Peace and prosperity is often underpinned by the provision of quality education enabling better employment opportunities and financial circumstances. Education enables people  to break the cycle of poverty and drives economic growth and prosperity.

Hinting at the recent shift in education aid as a vital plank of foreign policy for many governments, French President Emmanuel Macron speaking at the UN General Assembly in September 2017 said: “This fight against terrorism is a military fight, a diplomatic fight but also an educational, cultural and moral fight.”

Providing quality education is proven to effectively reduce conflict, enhance stability and strengthen communities and nations.

What is Bridge doing?

Bridge believes that education underpins prosperous and stable communities.

We operate in several crisis-affected places, where we work to provide quality education to out-of-school children in many underserved and crisis impacted areas.

In all of these areas, the safety of our pupils and teachers is always a priority.

Kenya

In northern Kenya, recent growth in activity from the extremist group Al Shabaab has meant many government schools  being closed. Some children growing up in Al Shabaab territory can no longer access learning. Despite such violent activity, no Bridge schools have closed in areas where Al Shabaab are active. We continue to teach in these communities and maintain the continuity of children’s learning.

Nigeria

In November 2017, the Nigerian Stock Exchange partnered with Bridge and the Borno State Government to run a pilot school in northern Nigeria, an area where the extremist group Boko Haram are active. The partnership is committed to providing: “an inclusive, safe and positive teaching and learning environment.”

Uganda

Bridge works to provide quality education to displaced children and refugees, as well as those living in conflict zones. We are currently teaching 150 refugee children in northern Uganda that have fled conflict in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo; helping them integrate into their new community.

Pilot education programme for Syrian children in Lebanon

In 2016 Bridge ran an innovative pilot that brought quality education to Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon, using the same methods that produce positive learning gains in our other territories. The result of the pilot indicated measurable benefits, with those in a Bridge classroom averaging a 22% improvement on the end line English test.

The programme was enabled through the support of The Vitol Fund and McKinsey & Company, you can read more about the pilot on our blog, here.

Using education to Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) or serve internally displaced people (IDP) is a small but vital part of the work that Bridge does.