Parents living in conflict zones make extraordinary efforts to keep alive the hope that comes with education. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the international community. Currently, less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid is dedicated to education. And it is not just a case of too little aid arriving too late. Agencies trying to provide education in conflict zones have to secure their funding through unpredictable annual appeals processes, where money tends to follow the most recent wave of media interest – and where children living amidst long-running conflicts are seen as yesterday’s news.
South Sudan is the latest country to demonstrate the inadequacy of the current aid architecture for education. In 2005, when a peace agreement ended a brutal 21-year civil war, hopes for a better future were running high. Seven years on, much has been achieved. More than half a million children have entered formal education for the first time. Child death rates have fallen by 20 percent. There have also been improvements in immunization, nutrition, and access to clean water.
Yet despite the progress that has been made, over 80 percent of South Sudan’s population lives on less than $1.25 a day. The country has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Half of primary-school age children are out of school, and just 400 girls make it through to the last grade of secondary school. In fact, girls are more likely to die in childbirth than they are to make it through primary school.
With tensions running high, it is now critical that both sides in the Sudanese region draw back from the brink of conflict and resolve their differences. But South Sudan also needs support for reconstruction. As an all-party committee of the United Kingdom’s parliament noted in a report this week, if South Sudan is to develop as a prosperous, peaceful nation, “it will need to invest in health, education and infrastructure.”