Gordon Brown: 'Education without Borders' is a must for kids in conflict zones
Failure to protect the right to education for children in conflict zones fuels violence by drawing children to terrorist groups. In South Sudan, girls are more likely to die in childbirth than make it through primary school. The World Bank and IMF spring meeting must address this.
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Since the peace agreement, aid for education has arrived in an uncoordinated trickle. The Global Partnership for Education, which operates under the financial auspices of the World Bank, has yet to put a program in place. Most bilateral donors are operating on a small scale. To make matters worse, there is now talk of cutting back on long-term development assistance and transferring aid into short-term humanitarian budgets.Skip to next paragraph
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This is the last thing that South Sudan needs – and there is an alternative. In a report I’ve just published, I set out the case for an “education catch-up” plan aimed at extending learning opportunities for 2.5 million children by the end of 2015. The cost: around $400 million annually over the next four years. Around half of this amount could be co-financed by the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education. The International Monetary Fund-World Bank spring meeting in Washington this weekend provides an opportunity to set the wheels in motion.
Some people will doubtless argue that getting all of South Sudan’s children into school in the current climate is “unrealistic” and that we should wait until the threat of war has receded.
But where is the “realism” in denying a whole generation of children the chance of an education that could transform their lives? And why waste an opportunity to build an education system that could spur growth, create jobs, and nurture the attitudes on which a peaceful future depends?
When it comes to education, there should be no borders – only rights. Organizations like the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) do not recognize borders in the provision of health care. Yet when it comes to education, the international community’s commitment to the rights of children is weakest in precisely those conflict-affected states where support is most urgently needed.
That is why I have been calling for the creation of a new type of initiative – Education Without Borders – that will work to support and deliver education for children trapped in conflict zones, and for those forced to flee their homes as displaced people and refugees.
We need to stop viewing education as part of the collateral damage that comes with conflict. We know that education gives children their best hope of escaping poverty. And we know that education – especially of young girls – can act as a catalyst for progress in other areas, such as nutrition, child survival, and combating infectious diseases. For children trapped in conflict, education can help to create a sense of normality and keep alive the hope of a better future.
Never again should the right of a child to education depend on boundaries set by geography or conflict.
These children need our help – and they need it now.
Gordon Brown is the former prime minister of Great Britain.
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