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UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action

Beyond School Books – a podcast series on education in emergencies

Podcast #13: UN General Assembly thematic debate

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-1087/Noorani
A girl reads aloud in a tent classroom at Phool-e-Rangeena Government School in the north-western city of Herat, Afghanistan.

By Gabrielle Galanek

NEW YORK, USA, 16 April 2009 – The UN General Assembly last month hosted a thematic debate on access to education in crisis and post-crisis situations. Experts from the development community were on hand to press for outcomes benefiting children who are suffering in emergencies that deny them their right to an education.

Despite a deepening global economic crisis, member states were urged to increase both attention and aid to education in countries that have been hit by natural disasters or conflict.

"It will, in fact, ultimately benefit the economy of donor countries to also help support the economies of developing countries – both in general and in terms of education," said UNESCO Assistant Director General for Education Nicholas Burnett.

"If a child doesn't go to school, or doesn't learn while in school because of a temporary cut-off in funds, that loss unfortunately tends to be permanent," he added.

Financing gap persists

Nearly 60 million children are out of school in countries and territories affected by conflict. Over half of them are girls.

Even with recent positive developments made possible by funding from donors such as the Dutch, British, Canadian, Swedish and Norwegian Governments, there is still a huge financing gap for education in emergencies and early reconstruction.

"Education cannot continue responding to the necessities of markets," added UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education Vernor Muñoz. "We need to start building a new world, and the only way is to invest in education."

Protection for schools

Another key concern highlighted at the meeting was the rise in attacks against schools worldwide.

"The Committee on the Rights on the Child learned that attacks on schools, teachers, and students have increased in recent years," said UN Committee on the Rights of the Child member Lothar Krappmann. "One of our messages is to pay more attention to these cruel facts."

In Afghanistan alone, there were 133 documented cases of school attacks from 2006 to 2007. When asked about the repercussions of the lack of education services throughout the country, Save the Children Afghanistan Country Director Leslie Wilson reiterated that education is a fundamental human right.

"If you have an un- or under-educated people, it just can't be good for the development of democracy, rule of law and civil society, because people just don't know what their rights are," she said.

Discussion on education in emergencies

How critical is education for communities in times of natural disasters and war? What kind of challenges will the global economic crisis pose for agencies trying to deliver education services to children in emergency countries?

Click here  (Real player) to listen to a UNICEF Radio podcast discussion on the global education crisis, featuring these guests:

Nicholas Burnett, Assistant Director General for Education, UNESCO; Lothar Krappmann, member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; Vernor Muñoz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education; and Leslie Wilson, Afghanistan Country Director, Save the Children.




Podcast #13: Themes in education in emergencies. Amy Costello interviews Nicholas Burnett, Lothar Krappmann, Vernor Muñoz and Leslie Wilson.
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