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Educating the World’s Children of Conflict

More than 240 million children and adolescents worldwide have had their education disrupted due to war and violent conflict. The international community must mobilize resources to provide displaced children with safe learning environments, qualified teachers, and the means to resume their formal education.

OSLO – It was scorching hot when I arrived at a cramped classroom in the world’s largest refugee camp, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. But the children I came to meet, a graduating primary school class of Rohingya students, did not mind the heat. Instead, the smiling youngsters proudly told me that they had learned to read and write in Burmese and in English. And then they came over with hand-written letters, all of which contained variations of this one message: “You must help us get an education beyond primary school – we want to be teachers, doctors, and engineers.”

Unfortunately, even the most motivated and talented children in Bangladesh are not guaranteed secondary education. Nor are the children in Myanmar, Colombia, Mali, Somalia, and other conflict zones. Simply put, we lack the resources to meet these children’s needs. All too often, their dreams of getting an education and serving their communities remain just that – dreams.

While there are countless barriers preventing children from having access to the educational opportunities they so badly need, the biggest and most heartbreaking is insufficient funding. Somehow, there is always enough money for World Cups and Super Bowls, Lamborghinis for new billionaires, and numerous regional arms races, but not enough to help children become teachers and nurses.