How a polarising global political crisis can affect education and student life
According to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack – which comprises United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations including Human Rights Watch – there has been a pattern of attacks on students, teachers, or schools in at least 27 countries throughout the world since 2013. These attacks have included killings, forced exile, and the destruction of educational buildings and resources. During armed conflict, government or opposition forces use schools and universities as military bases, barracks, observation posts, or for military training and to recruit children into their forces. Schools are utilized by warring groups in the majority of conflicts around the world today. When troops and weapons are present in schools, it can provoke an attack by opposing forces, putting both students and educators at danger of injury – or even death.
Worldwide, 250 million children live in places plagued by armed conflict, with one out of four of them not in school. The usage of schools by the military can impede children’s education and destroy school infrastructure. In an environment of violence and terror, school attendance and educational quality might decline, and schools might even close.
Schools should be safe spaces for children, even amid armed conflict. Safe schools not only provide children with an education, but also offer much-needed stability and routine during times of conflict, help ease the impact of war on children’s mental health, and provide a place to stay and be a child despite the discord all around. Schools can provide children with access to health information and allow them to gain the knowledge and skills to build a brighter future for their countries. Keeping schools open is advantageous to society at large because diminished education levels affect a country’s economic, political and social development. For example, studies have linked education to reduced poverty and better maternal and child health.
Lately, we have been hearing a lot about the war between Russia and Ukraine and its effects on the Ukrainian population. Russia’s war in Ukraine has lasted for more than two weeks now. A relentless bombardment of the country’s cities and towns has led to more than 500 civilian deaths, the destruction ofcivilian infrastructure and the forced migration of more than 2.5 million people in Ukraine, creating a new humanitarian crisis in Europe.
However, when reading the latest news concerning this conflict, one will find that there is nearly no information on how it is affecting students in Ukraine, leading to speculations and no concrete information about the impacts of the war on education. Therefore, after some research on how war affects students and education, here is what we can infer is currently happening to students in Ukraine.
According to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, attacks on kindergartens and schools have been a tragic reality for children in eastern Ukraine for the past eight years. More than 750 schools have been destroyed since the conflict began. Shells fired by separatists in the east hit and damaged a kindergarten in the region of Luhansk on Thursday, according to media sources and the Ukrainian authorities. The UN agency stated in a statement that attacks on schools have been disrupting access to education for thousands of students on both sides.
Furthermore, the agency said that children in eastern Ukraine live in one of the world’s most mine-affected areas. They live, play, and walk to and from school in places riddled with landmines, unexploded bombs, and other dangerous explosive leftovers of war. It is alarming that children should live in such conditions and be exposed to hazards on a daily basis and astonishing to think that these are normal living conditions to them. All children should be able to live in places where they can play freely without running the risk of getting harmed or killed, however, with wars occuring so frequently, this is becoming part of millions of children’s ordinary lives.
Moreover, the conflict has had a significant impact on the emotional well-being of an entire generation of children. According to recent data, education has become even riskier for children living in zones of conflict. In 2020, there were 235 confirmed attacks on schools, an increase of 17 per cent from the previous year.
The UN organization has been on the ground in eastern Ukraine since the crisis began, providing psychological assistance and mine risk education to over 180,000 children, youth, and caregivers. UNICEF is also assisting with the rehabilitation of damaged schools and kindergartens, as well as the distribution of essential classroom supplies such as educational kits, furniture sets and sports equipment. If you wish to help children who do not have access to education as a result of wars, donate to organizations such as War Child, Save the Children, and CARE. Additionally, inform others not only about them but about wars themselves and their effect on education. Most people do not think about education when they hear about wars, however, it is a major issue, so spreading awareness and contributing to help children who are unable to learn in times of war is essential. If we all make an effort to learn about this conflict and aid those in need, we will contribute to a better society and a better world to all.
Learn more about the Russia-Ukraine war: