In countries emerging from conflict, getting children into school is the first and most critical challenge for international development agencies, governments and communities.
Yet for young people who have experienced war, child soldiers and others directly affected by conflict, education is an essential part of the recovery and healing process.
Long-term states of emergency
“Coming from a place where as a young child I’d lost everything that’s dear to me – family, home – having an education is absolutely important,” Ishmael Beah said during his recent podcast discussion with Nicholas Kristof and Dyan Mazurana. “It is something that no one can take from me, something that’s mine. It’s very empowering for me,” he added.
A soldier stands guard at a rally to launch the ‘Go to School’ campaign in Juba, capital of Southern Sudan.
“What we have to recognize is that these conflicts are going on for decades, and they can be in a state of emergency for years and years and years. And children have a right to education. I see it as absolutely essential,” said Dr. Mazurana. “As UNICEF or other agencies would provide water, health care and sanitation, absolutely emergency education has to be right in there as part of that foundation.”
“Frankly, from my perspective, one of the problems has been that the international community is sometimes willing to build schools or clinics, but it has much less stomach for actually trying to stop conflicts themselves,” said Mr. Kristof, referring to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.
Using education to promote relief
Mr. Beah, Mr. Kristof and Dr. Mazurana made their comments in the second segment of ‘Beyond School Books’, a series of discussions that are being recorded at the UN radio studios in New York and distributed online and through UNICEF Radio podcasts.
UNICEF has launched the series – hosted by Amy Costello, a former correspondent for Public Radio International – to help advance the discussion on the role of education in countries affected by conflict, natural disaster or emerging from crisis.
The discussions are part of renewed efforts by UNICEF and its partners to support education in emergencies and post-crisis transition countries. The predicament of children in these countries is the focus of an international collaboration using education to promote more efficient relief during and after emergencies – and to build back national systems better than before.
About this Podcast
A discussion about child soldiers and education in the context of humanitarian aid delivery to conflict and post-crisis countries, featuring these guests:
Ishmael Beah, youth activist and author of the best-seller, ‘A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier’; Nicholas Kristof, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and columnist for The New York Times; and Dyan Mazurana, Director of Gender, Youth and Community, Feinstein International Famine Center, Tufts University.