The political upheaval in Côte d’Ivoire is taking a heavy toll on education, especially in the north, illustrating starkly the devastating impact conflict can have on learning opportunities – and the vicious circle in which conflict and education can become trapped. As the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report details, grievances over education inequalities in the north were at the root of the civil strife in Côte d’Ivoire over the past decade.
The UN’s IRIN news service warned last month that the political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire is causing deep harm to an already broken education system, with “gunfire disrupting classes, teachers staying home for political reasons and families increasingly desperate about their children’s schooling.”
IRIN had already described in September the poor state of education in Côte d’Ivoire. A teacher described his school in Abidjan, the commercial capital, as much better than others in the city: “There are around 63 students per teacher – that’s a small class; it’s considered good. But there are no tables, no chairs, sometimes there’s no light. Sometimes students take it in turns to come into the classroom to sit on the few chairs.”
In the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, released on March 1, we turn the spotlight on how Côte d’Ivoire’s experience demonstrates the ways in which perceived injustices linked to education can inflame violence.
Education was an integral part of the politicization of identity that fragmented the country and tipped it into a civil war in 2002, pitching rebels in the north against the government in the south. Rebel groups in northern areas cited long-standing disparities in schooling as evidence of discrimination by the state. Widening education disparities between north and south, and the everyday experience of a poorly performing school system in the north, lent weight to their claims.
This year’s Global Monitoring Report focuses on other ways in which education failures can stoke conflict – such as perpetuating prejudice instead of promoting tolerance, and failing to pass on the skills that children need to escape poverty. The report lays out practical steps that governments and the international community can take to make sure that education builds peace rather than fanning the flames of war.