Friday August 3, 2018
by Kate Roff
Conflict and crisis disrupt the education of more than 80 million children worldwide. But access to high school education in war zones could help diminish support for armed groups, according to a recent study by Mercy Corps.
A displaced Somali boy attends a class to learn alphabets and numbers at a makeshift school at the Badbado IDP camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, on June 25, 2018.MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB/AFP/Getty Images
Somalia has been engaged in a civil war
for almost 30 years, and with over 70 percent of its population under 30
years of age, youth and youth education appear to be the key to a
peaceful future in the country.
Now, a new study has revealed that increasing access to high school
education in war zones could help diminish support for armed groups. Research from the global organization Mercy Corps
showed that young people in conflict-affected areas of Somalia who have
access to secondary education are almost half as likely to support
violent groups than those not in school.
“We found in general that the provision of secondary education by
itself reduced the likelihood of young people supporting political
violence by roughly 48 percent,” said Mercy Corps senior researcher Beza
Tesfaye. The study also found that coupling education with civic
engagement opportunities meant that young people were nearly 65 percent
less likely to support violence.
More than 1,200 youth ages 15 to 24 years old were interviewed for
the study in Somalia’s South Central and Puntland regions. “We didn’t
want to bias the findings by focusing on areas that were safe, you know,
just staying in one part of the country, so it was challenging to be
able to go out especially to rural areas,” said Tesfaye. “We were able
to go out to a few communities that had previously been under the
control of Al-Shabaab a few years earlier.”
Mercy Corps’ report measured the impact of a Somali Youth Learners Initiative, a multi-year program funded USAID
that improved access and quality of education for more than 100,000
young people through construction and rehabilitation of schools and
improved teacher training. The program also created community-engagement
opportunities through student clubs and youth-led community-improvement
Crisis and conflict negatively affects the education of upwards of 80 million children worldwide, according to USAID.
“We also know that the longer they’re out of school the less likely
they are to go back,” said Nina Papadopoulos, team lead for Education in
Crisis and Conflict in USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment.
“So not only is school necessary for these kids’ continued
education,” said Papadopoulos, “but it also provides them with important
emotional, physical and cognitive protection while their world and
family are in chaos.”
The impact of education in conflict zones has also been noticed by
NGOs in South Sudan. We spoke with organizers at the Global Partnership
for Education who say they’ve witnessed first-hand what education can do
to diminish armed groups.
“School symbolizes hope for communities,” said GPE’s
country lead for South Sudan, Fazle Rabbani. “Parents want children to
go to school, when children are going to schools they want to stay in
that community and contribute to that community.”
Experts warn though that education itself is not enough to reduce
conflict, and that youth could become disenchanted if education
increases hopes only to be met with a lack of employment opportunities.
“Education is important but it’s not sufficient by itself, it also
needs to be coupled with real meaningful opportunities for youth to
engage both politically and economically,” Tesfaye said. “Youth have to
be at the center of these initiatives because they are not just the
beneficiaries, they’re also going to be the leaders and the key actors
in their communities.”