Report: War Is a Really Terrible Learning Environment

A new UNESCO report says that 28 million kids don't go to school because of armed conflict in their countries.

A report out today from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (also known as UNESCO) has some depressing data on the number of children worldwide who don't go to school—more than 67 million across the globe. And, what's especially disturbing is that 28 million of them don't go because of armed conflict.

According to the report, classrooms, teachers, and students are increasingly seen as legitimate targets.

In Afghanistan, at least 613 attacks on schools were recorded in 2009, up from 347 in 2008. Insurgents in northwestern Pakistan have made numerous attacks on girls’ schools including one in which 95 girls were injured. In Northern Yemen, 220 schools were destroyed, damaged or looted during fighting in 2009 and 2010 between government and rebel forces.


Similarly, the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2008 and 2009 left "350 children dead, 1,815 injured and 280 schools damaged. And, in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces, 63 students and 24 teachers and education personnel were killed or injured in 2008 and 2009."

Instead of being allowed to attend school, children are being used as soldiers in 24 countries. And, despite being declared war crimes after the Rwandan genocide, sexual violence against children is prevalent. As the report notes, "Sexual violence has a devastating impact on education: it impairs victims’ learning potential, creates a climate of fear that keeps girls at home and leads to family breakdown that deprives children of a nurturing environment."

What's the solution? The report calls for the world's nations to demand "tougher action against human rights violations, an overhaul of global aid priorities and more attention to education’s potential to foster peace."

It's clearly in the interest of democratized nations to do something. After all, in nations affected by violent conflict, over 60 percent of people are under the age of 25. Existing education systems aren't giving children and youth the knowledge and skills they need to escape the vicious cycle of poverty—meaning that unless we take action, we're just setting ourselves up for yet another generation embroiled in violence.

photo (cc) via Flickr user isafmedia

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