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Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

Multiple Faces of Education in Conflict and Fragile Contexts

© William Fernando Martínez

Conditions linked to conflict and fragility – including poor governance, violence, repression, corruption, inequality and exclusion – may affect accessibility, quality, relevance, equity and management of education provision in ways which can exacerbate economic, social or political instability.

Within a given context, education can help produce the benefits of inclusive and constructive integration of individuals and communities, socially, politically and economically.

However, depending on the nature of design and implementation, education also has the potential to perpetuate or entrench dynamics of fragility.

An understanding of these dynamics is critical to ensure that education, at a minimum, does no harm and, at its best, contributes to conflict prevention and long-term peace building.

Conflict and fragility: Potential barriers to education provision

Economic and financial impacts - limited investment and availability of economic resources can result to degradation of quality, a dramatic decrease or complete cessation of education provision and/or imbalanced investment at different levels or geographic areas of the education system.

Impact of violence - endemic violence, breakdown of rule of law, government repression and/or active presence of armed groups and/or state security forces introduce serious protection threats, leaving students, personnel and education facilities vulnerable to attacks, recruitment and abuse.

Social conditions - unequal access to education along religious, cultural, ethnic or linguistic lines is a common grievance contributing to and resulting from conflict and fragility, as are the irrelevance or exclusionary nature of curricula which privilege the history, culture, religion and language of one culture over another.

Education: Potential impacts on conflict-affected and fragile contexts

UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0062/Iyad El Baba ©
A girl looks through a hole in a wall in her school, in the Tal Al Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City that was shelled during a military incursion in the Gaza Strip. © UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0062/Iyad El Baba
Education’s potential to either mitigate or exacerbate conflict and fragility is a result of nuanced interfaces between education policies, planning, and programming and the drivers and dynamics of conflict and fragility.

Schools and classrooms can provide the space in which people of different origins can be brought together and taught how to live and work together peacefully.

However, the dynamics in fragile contexts can negatively impact the quality of what children and youth experience in the classroom and further entrench inequity, divisions, discrimination and structural violence along religious, cultural, ethnic or linguistic lines.

Education, therefore, is more than just a service delivery, and it must be recognized for the diversity of roles it plays in conflict-affected and fragile contexts. Simply ensuring that children and young adults receive basic education services does not automatically translate into policies, systems, and classrooms that will contribute to conflict prevention or peacebuilding.

Additionally, education’s capacity to build social capital and contribute to sustainable livelihoods, as well as economic and other forms of development, requires attention to the quality and relevance of educational opportunities.

A holistic perspective on the education system must be also ensured, including consideration given to secondary and higher education, as well as to alternative modes of delivery for children and youth who have missed educational opportunities.

Source report: Multiple Faces of Education in Conflict-affected and Fragile Contexts