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This research explored the hypothesis that ‘education should be an integral part of the first phase of humanitarian assistance’. A group of twenty-four participants were interviewed, comprised of education, health and also non-technical advisers in six international INGOs, the United Nations, representatives from five major donors and three global bodies, including the Global Education Cluster, the Inter Agency Network for Education in Emergencies and one education partnership body. Using a theoretical framework of governmentality, the findings demonstrated that while education is believed to be an important part of response, saving lives takes precedence over education in the early phase of humanitarian assistance. Through the rationality that justifies saving lives and the technologies that enables the system to do so, education becomes excluded, obscured, obstructed or delayed in humanitarian assistance, affecting its funding opportunities and reproducing the ‘truths’ that the focus of assistance must be on saving lives. The research concludes that without education, human beings are viewed as a biological entity and such rationality produces subjects, in this case children, who experience life with a bare existence.