Last week two of the UK’s most eminent persons, Archbishop Rowan Williams and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown echoed Save the Children’s long standing call for education to be put at the heart of the humanitarian agenda.
The Archbishop and Gordon Brown, who is now the UN Special Envoy for Education, were speaking at an event hosted by Archbishop Williams at Lambeth Palace on education for children affected by armed conflict.
Of the 61 million children currently not accessing education, 40% live in fragile and conflict-affected states.
For these children, it’s not just the challenge of being able to access decent education – in many conflict situations they also face the trauma of attacks on their schools.
The conference subsequently identified priorities for the protection, prevention, monitoring and recovery from attacks on education, along with the need to close the global funding gap for education in conflict-affected states.
I was delighted to speak alongside the Archbishop and Mr Brown about the persistent challenge of providing education during and immediately after armed conflict.
I was also able to share examples of success from Save the Children’s own work, including our work in Afghanistan and South Sudan, which are both detailed in our recent report Breaking the Cycle of Crisis.
The role of faith communities
The discussion also reflected on the role of faith communities in education and child protection in situations of conflict and how these needed to be integrated into the wider humanitarian response.
In such contexts, faith groups are often at the frontline in continuing to deliver education services, even in the midst of conflict.
Because such faith groups remain present in communities before, during and after periods of armed conflict, they remain committed to providing education.
Many faith leaders already act as advocates for education within their communities and nationally.
Attacks on education are a tool of terror
Dr Williams reflected on the day’s inputs, saying:
“This is an issue which takes us to the heart of some of the most disturbing and shocking elements in international life because in recent years , perhaps more than ever, we have seen the disruption of children’s education not only as one of the side effects of conflict but quite often as a deliberate tool of terror.”
Education brings hope, positivity and creativity
In his concluding remarks, the Archbishop welcomed “the practical, robust and constructive recommendations” from the conference, which he believed “could help those who most need the hope, positivity, creativity and sense of agency that education can give.”
A range of recommendations proposed by speakers at the conference echoed Save the Children’s calls on the international community to prioritise the education of children affected by conflict and we’re looking forward to collaborating with participants in the conference in future efforts to help ensure all children have the opportunity to learn.