New figures: nearly 9 million children out of school from year’s worst humanitarian crises

Save the Children Australia, October 29, 2014

New figures reveal a shocking 8.7 million children have missed out on education because of the world’s worst humanitarian crises during the last 12 months alone.

The findings are published in a new report out today by Save the Children called, No Child Left Behind: Barriers to Education in the Asia Pacific Region. The report identifies conflict, disaster and displacement as some of the major barriers to education facing children, both in our region and due to crises like the Gaza/Israel conflict and Ebola in West Africa.

“It is a shocking tragedy that 8.7 million children have been forced to sacrifice their education in the face of this year’s horrifying conflicts and disasters,” said Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds.

“From attacks on schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan to widespread destruction in typhoon-hit Philippines, children are missing out not just on days of school but often weeks and even months. The combined impact of this loss could be felt for year to come and have devastating consequences for children’s development and the future prosperity of their countries,” added Mr Ronalds.

Of the three major barriers keeping children out of school – conflict, disaster and displacement – conflict is responsible for the lion’s share of children’s lack of education in developing countries: a child living in a fragile or conflict-affected developing country is nearly three times more likely to be out of school as a child living in another developing nation, finds Save the Children’s report.

Children in conflict zones often lose out on education as their schools are attacked from gunfire, bombs and shelling. While there exists international law to protect schools from attack, any school used for military purposes during conflict can lose their protected status and become a legitimate military objective – increasing the risk to children.

Australia can help drive change to protect these schools through a new initiative called the Lucens Guidelines, which aim to assist those planning and executing military operations to make appropriate decisions on the use and targeting of schools, helping reduce the risk to schoolchildren caught up in conflict.

Save the Children says the Australian government must use its position of international leadership as President of the UN Security Council in November to champion the Lucens Guidelines and help increase protection of children in conflict areas.

“The Lucens Guidelines provide a real opportunity to protect schools and schoolchildren in conflict zones, making sure that the classroom can once again be a safe haven of learning – not a battleground for warring parties,” said Mr Ronalds.

“As President of the UN Security Council, Australia is now in a position of world leadership. This must come with the concrete action expected of today’s world leaders. Australia must join the ranks of UN Chief Ban Ki-moon and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai in tackling this education crisis head on.”

The children’s aid agency is calling on the Australian government to champion education for children affected by conflict by:

  • Publicly declaring its support for the Lucens Guidelines, joining the 29 countries that have done so to date
  • Integrating the Guidelines into military policies, trainings and practice
  • Using its considerable diplomatic influence, including as President of the Security Council, to encourage other states to declare their support for the Guidelines

Note to editor:

Save the Children is launching a petition calling on the Australian Government to publicly declare its support for the Lucens Guidelines.