Education doesn’t save lives, so why should we care?


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The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education, the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, will be launched on March 1. Patricia Justino, a member of the report’s Conflict Advisory Group, looks at the long-term harm that results when conflict deprives children of education.

Education is one of the hidden costs of conflict and violence. Almost 750,000 people die as a result of armed conflict each year, and there are more than 20 million displaced people in the world. Violent conflict kills and injures people, destroys capital and infrastructure, damages the social fabric, endangers civil liberties, and creates health and famine crises. What is less known or talked about is how violent conflict denies million of children across the world their right to education.

A camp for internally displaced people in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Much of the long-term harm that conflict causes to education comes about through displacement. (Photo: Kevin Watkins)

The reasons are multiple. Armed violence often targets schools and teachers as symbols of community leadership or bastions of the type of social order that some armed factions want to see destroyed. Children are useful in armies as soldiers, as well as to perform a myriad of daily tasks from cooking and cleaning to sexual favours. Children need to work when members of their family die or are unable to make a living, and families remove children from school fearing for their lives and security.

Should we care about this loss of education? Several studies report that aid and reconstruction efforts are quick to re-establish basic education structures. What is missing in this argument is an adequate understanding of the profound long-term effects of educational losses among those exposed to conflict.

In particular, relatively minor shocks to educational access – even as small as one less year of schooling – can have long-lasting detrimental effects on the children that are out of school, as well as on the human capital of whole generations. These effects persist well after the conflict has ended, with long-term intergenerational consequences in terms of school achievement, health outcomes and future earnings.

Children who lose out on school earn less, have worse job opportunities and poorer health than those that stay in school. This not only affects their living standards, but also the opportunities available to their own children, creating cycles of hardship and deprivation that persist for decades after the end of the conflict. We observe these effects still among those that were at school age during World War II, as well as in children that have lived through modern conflicts in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

These long-term effects are difficult to measure and therefore easy to dismiss in post-conflict planning, which is traditionally concerned with the immediate recovery from war. But human capital – the stock of skills and knowledge we gain through education and experience – is the backbone of successful economic and social recovery. Ignoring these long-term consequences will endanger any attempts to rebuild peace, social justice and stability.

Patricia Justino, a fellow of the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, directs Microcon (A Micro Level Analysis of Violent Conflict), a research programme funded by the European Commission. She co-directs the Households in Conflict Network. Results mentioned in the blog are analysed and discussed in her background paper to the 2011 GMR, ‘How Does Violent Conflict Impact on Individual Educational Outcomes? The Evidence so Far.’




  1. Mais SI, l´education sauve des vies !
    Pouvez vous encourager des recherches sur l´etroite relation entre la “survie” des jeunes dans les perypheries des grandes villes (Bresil, Mexique, Egypte etc – les pays E-9 du EFA?.
    Exclus de l´ecole, par la suite victimes/complices de la violence, drogues, criminalite, etc … NOUS AURIONS CERTAINAMENT UM tableau impressionnant sur les rapports entre ces questions. Tableau completé par d´autres facteurs qui sauvent et preservent (ou pas) vie et qualite de vie – insertion sociale, politique et economique, acces a l´emploi des jeunes exclus – par comparaison a d´autres.

    Marcos GUERRA

  2. Buenos días:

    El artículo nos plasma la violencia de los conflictos armados y las consecuencias que recae en nuestros niños y niñas, ¿es posible todavía ver a nuestros niños y niñas sufrir esa pesadilla en sus vidas? ¿Qué están haciendo las grandes organizaciones, corporaciones, ONG, la sociedad militar y civil, los gobernantes, los políticos, autoridades que tienen el poder de cambiar estas realidades vista desde el punto de vista macro de la sociedad? y en nuestras sociedades que no estamos en conflicto armado, pero que vivimos en un conflicto de violencia social, donde las bombas lo disparan la mayoría de los medios de comunicación masiva; se suma a ello la crisis familiar que se ha convertido en la cuna de violencia que se da entre los mismos miembros de la familia, nuestros niños y niñas, adolescentes están sufriendo en silencio o se escapan de sus casas en búsqueda de un poquito de afecto y respeto;.estamos viviendo en un conflicto social. Tenemos que partir por tomar conciencia cada uno de nuestras funciones y responsabilidades como adultos que estamos para proteger a nuestro tesoro, que es la generación de niños y niñas del mundo.

    La educación actual en el Perú, le falta ponerle rostro humano en cada política que elabora y sobre todo a la mayoría del personal que labora en el sector de educación. ¿Dónde y cuándo se dejó de lado la vocación de servicio?, ¿qué está haciendo la institución educativa ante las realidades de nuestros niños, niñas y adolescentes?. Los viajes realizados en las regiones del PERÙ y los monitoreos realizados a las Instituciones Educativas como resultado que aún sigue la Institución Educativa trabajando en función a la mirada del director, y profesores y se deja de lado el interés superior del niños y niña, esto se corrobora en los diagnósticos que elabora las Instituciones Educativas; las escuelas están a espaldad de las realidades, necesidades, problemas y demandas de los estudiantes, de su contexto cultural ,lingüístico, social, etc. La escuela debe de iniciar su trabajo con la elaboración del diagnóstico del estudiante en sus diferentes necesidades humanas, jerarquizar los problemas álgidos y en base a ellos debe de elaborarse la Programación curricular pertinente que debe dar respuesta a esas realidades de los niños, niñas y adolescentes, que los aprendizajes le sirva para aplicarlo en su vida diaria , que no sólo quede en aprendizajes sino que trascienda más allá , una formación integral, en valores para hacer el cambio de la sociedad interplanetaria. La escuela que se da la mano con la familia y la comunidad local, nacional y mundial.
    Maestra Jackeline Faviola Condori Huamanì

  3. This is a consistent cycle that affects everyone and everything. It affects the global outcome of our economy and because it also affects the educational level of students it intervene with their mental growth and behavior amount other things which reflects on a countries standards for their people and its future.

  4. With this situation, you have to start from the ground up. This will take time and will be challenged. The more people are educated, the better chance they have at standing on their own two feet. Without the knowledge, they become slaves to themselves and others. History has shown this.

  5. I am very much touched by this article: Education Does Not Save Lives So Why Should We Care? I am originally from Nigeria and I was still young during the Nigeria-Biafra War. I was conscripted into the military as a very young 12 year old. The war lasted three years and I lost three years of schooling. The effect that the loss of education had on me will stay with me till my death. It is better not to remember it but somewhere deep in my mind I know that it hurts to see children who are missing years of education as a result of political conflicts. Most of these children are not as lucky as I am because today I am studying for a doctoral degree in education which of course I should have gotten some 3 years ago.

    It is disheartening to hear educated people all over the world discuss issues regarding loss of education by a vulnerable population and treat these issues with levity.

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