Summary: Lingering armed conflicts have kept 40 per cent of African children out of school, according to a global report released recently in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 2011 Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report, which focuses on crisis and their underlying causes, said the impact of armed conflicts on education had been widely neglected, becoming a “hidden crisis” which is “reinforcing poverty, undermining economic growth and holding back the progress of nations”. The report was presented at the 26-28 July Kinshasa Round Table on “Education, Peace and Development”, organised by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA).
It said an estimated 46 million African children “have never set foot in a classroom”; that 15 out of the 35 nations affected by armed conflict from 1999 to 2008 are in sub-Saharan Africa, and that physical trauma and stigmatization faced by children are “sources of profound and lasting disadvantage in education”.
The report quoted evidence from Sierra Leone as pointing to conflict-related post-traumatic stress disorder as “a frequent source of impaired learning and poor achievement in school.”
“Although the intensity, scale and geographic extent of the violence vary, protracted armed conflicts are common,” said the report, which was presented by Sherri Le Mottee, from the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergency (INEE).
Le Mottee explained that another common aspect is the fact that children and schools were on the front line of armed conflicts, with classrooms, teachers and pupils seen as legitimate targets.
For example, she said, most of Sierra Leone’s education infrastructure were destroyed in its civil war, with 60 percent of primary schools still requiring rehabilitation, while 60 schools were closed in 2009 in Mogadishu, Somalia, and at least ten were occupied by armed forces.
Somalia, together with Central African Republic, Chad and DRC, are said to be among the 24 countries in the world with records of the use of child soldiers and where the military recruitment of children from schools is common.
In 2007, for instance, the United Nations Mission in the DRC reported that hundreds of children were serving on the front line in North Kivu province, and that many were forcibly recruited from classrooms, leading to the schools’ closure in some cases.
Furthermore, rape and other acts of sexual violence were widely used as instruments of war in countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as during the genocide in Rwanda, the report said.
The Kinshasa conference was organised by ADEA’s Inter-Country Quality Node for Peace Education (ICQNPE), together with the Ministries of Education of Kenya and DRC and UNESCO’s Africa regional chapter (BREDA).
The Round Table focused on the role of education in promoting and consolidating peace and sustainable development.
Participants came from seven African countries in situations of conflict or fragility (Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Liberia, Kenya, Somalia and Zimbabwe) as well as from international institutions engaged in supporting peace education in Africa.