Archbishop: “We must locate education at the very heart of the humanitarian agenda”

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.

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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.

Priorities

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.

Successes

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.

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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.”

Listen here to the Archbishop’s opening remarks and concluding remarks from the conference.

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.