Watching the news can be disheartening, especially when the stories center on countries experiencing conflict. War no longer exists in a faraway field; it happens where civilians and their families live. How can these areas be lifted out of conflict?
Over half of the populations affected by conflict are under the age of 18–children. When conflicts begin, cultures, communities, education, and economies are drastically affected. Take the genocide in Cambodia, for example: about 2 million Cambodians died, many of whom were educators and doctors. This genocide dismantled Cambodia’s economy and negatively affected future generations of children.
UNICEF, a world advocate for children’s rights, suggests focusing on education programs. Education builds peaceful relationships among communities and, if designed well, actually acts as a preventative measure for future conflict. Education programs also level out gendered politics: when boys and girls are in school, girls and women are more likely to be included in peace-building agreements.
UNICEF leads the Learning for Peace program, which has five objective outcomes. They strove to include education in peace-building policies, supply conflict-sensitive education, and give communities tools to promote peace. Along these first outcomes, they aimed to increase access to conflict-sensitive education, and overall better the lives of the next generation. Fourteen countries participated in this project and the results showed much promise.
In Cote d’Ivoire, for example, Learning for Peace implemented a cool way to engage youth through music. Radio is a popular medium in Cote d’Ivoire, and much of the youth love making their own music. UNICEF developed the Youth Network Association to represent and educate over 5,000 youth in the country. Out of this came a four part radio documentary composed of stories from youth about living in times of conflict. UNICEF then partnered with Studio Mozaik, and continued to give youth the opportunity to learn through music and feature their own work on the radio.
Overall, results were incredible.
The first proposed outcome, the one that brings education into peace-building policies, showed 72% progress in three years. This meant that the Learning for Peace program influenced 97 national and sub-national policies. Access to conflict-sensitive education progressed by 76%, and institutional capacities progressed by 75%. UNICEF’s project remains on track, influencing developing countries with peaceful educational programming.
Education decreases child mortality rates, increases economic stability, and prevents future conflicts. It reduces inequalities around the world, leveling the playing field for the least privileged. Children born to literate mothers are 50% more likely to live until the age of five. What’s more, children who are able to stay in school and leave with basic reading skills, reduce extreme global poverty by up to 12%.
It is clear that the most effective way to use our international aid is when it targets peace-building education programming. That is why EbenGroup has the mission it does: give children the chance to get an education. This education will literally save a generation. Being in school will create vastly different worlds than the conflicted ones that exist today. By choosing to support education efforts around the world, we cultivate a new state of peace.