Peshawar and the war against education

By Bushra Rahim

An old, destroyed classrooms at a government primary school in Baqir Shah village, Sindh, Pakistan. Credit: NESCO/Amima Sayeed

An old, destroyed classrooms at a government primary school in Baqir Shah village, Sindh, Pakistan. Credit: NESCO/Amima Sayeed

Many children and youth in conflict zones are being injured, killed, kidnapped, recruited and traumatized. Armed conflict negatively impacts children’s access to school, and interrupts the studies of enrolled students. As we look forward to implementing a new education agenda post-2015, it is vital that the particular needs of children in conflict-affected areas are addressed and their human right to education assured.

In this blog, Bushra Rahim, Dy Director at Finance Department Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan and Ph.D. student at University at Albany-State University of New York, provides a heartfelt account of the recent tragedy in Peshawar and the impact of the on-going conflict on the education system in her native Pakistan.

On the 16th of December 2014, a group of militants stormed the Army Public School and College in Peshawar and fired indiscriminately. Over 140 people (mostly teenage students) were killed, and a further 250 injured. The school, operated by the Pakistan Army, was the intended target, although the 1,100 enrolled students come from both army and civilian backgrounds.

The province in which the school is located, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is one of the poorest and most troubled regions in Pakistan. More than 830 schools have been destroyed in the area between 2009 and 2012. Many students have been regularly targeted by militant groups. In October 2012, Malala Yousafzai, was shot by the militants for raising her voice in support of children’s education in district Swat. On January 2014, a ninth-grader from district Hangu, Aitazaz Hassan Bangesh, sacrificed his life trying to stop a suicide bomber set on blowing up his school.

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Posted in Conflict, Finance, Human rights, Out-of-school children, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Peshawar and the human right to education

At least 132 children and 9 staff were killed this week following a Taliban attack on the Army Public School and Degree College in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The GMR team is dedicated to the notion that each and every child in the world should be provided with the means and opportunity to exercise his or her right to quality education in a safe, secure and respectful environment. Attacks on innocent children and on teachers who devote themselves to enabling them to learn are egregious violations of human rights.

The Right to Education


Due to destroyed classrooms, pupils in Baqir Shah village, near Shikapur, Sindh, Pakistan, must have their lessons outside with little protection from the glaring sun. Credit: UNESCO/Amima Sayeed

The attacks in Peshawar are just the latest in a series of violations of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) – The right to education – that occur in at least 30 countries worldwide due to armed conflict. The Article stipulates that:

Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

The United Nations was created above all to end the ‘scourge of warfare’ and prevent a return to what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights described as ‘disregard and contempt for human rights’. Almost seventy years on, however, the scourge of armed conflict continues and it is destroying opportunities for education on a tragic scale. The human and financial costs of conflict to education are huge. We estimate that a significant proportion of all out of school children live in conflict zones all over the world. These issues are especially acute in the Asia-Pacific Region. There is an urgent need for countries to protect schools and education systems as a vital part of ensuring peace.

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Posted in Conflict, Out-of-school children, Refugees and displaced people | 2 Comments

“Literacy For Life” and literacy assessment after 2015

By David Post, Senior Policy Analyst for the EFA Global Monitoring Report.

On 23 October 2014 the United Nation’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee (the “Third Committee”) adopted a new resolution, “Literacy for life: shaping future agendas”.  The Resolution, highlights the importance of functional literacy for the Sustainable Development Goals post-2015 and reflects a need for new ways to monitor literacy.

Credit: Rubén Torrens/UNESCO

Credit: Rubén Torrens/UNESCO

In programming, the Third Committee encourages “better integration of literacy into sector-wide and multi-sectoral education and development strategies, expanding the provision of quality literacy programmes, enhancing education systems to provide quality basic education through schooling and enriching literate environments to allow people to acquire, use and advance literacy skills.” The Resolution also calls upon “governments to develop reliable measures of literacy and generate data that are comparable across time and disaggregated by age, sex, disability, socioeconomic status, geographical location and other relevant factors.”

The Resolution is based on years of research and experience following the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000, including the monitoring of the EFA goal on adult literacy.

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Posted in Adult education, Language, Learning, Literacy, Post-2015 development framework | 3 Comments

Monitoring progress in education among individuals with disabilities

POST2015_equity_borderBy Daniel Mont, an Honorary Senior Research Associate at the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre at University College London.  During his ten years at the World Bank he co-chaired the analytical working group of the UN Washington Group on Disability Statistics, and has published widely in the area of disability and poverty.  He is currently working with UNICEF on getting disability into Educational Management Information Systems and with UNESCAP on operationalizing the indicators in the Incheon “Making the Right Real” Disability Strategy.

Equity is a guiding theme of the proposals in the Open Working Group outcome document on the global development agenda post-2015. The report explicitly recognizes people with disabilities in 5 of the 17 goals, including education.  In order to effectively monitor and evaluate progress towards achieving this vision we need timely, high quality data on both people with disabilities and the environmental barriers they face.  In general, this has not been possible in most countries. In fact, until recently there were no generally agreed upon questions for identifying people with disabilities that had been tested widely in developing countries.

Corinna Becker/UNESCO

Corinna Becker/UNESCO

Fortunately, this situation is changing.  Drawing upon the framework of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, the UN Statistical Commission’s Washington Group on Disability Statistics (WG), comprising representatives from dozens of national statistical offices across the globe, has developed and tested a short set of six questions for identifying people with disabilities.

The main aim is to include these questions as a regular part of every national census and survey – for example, household income and expenditure surveys, labour force surveys, demographic and health surveys.  This will allow all currently constructed indicators to be disaggregated by disability status. If accomplished, this will be a major achievement, allowing us to produce timely, high quality indicators to monitor progress on the post-2015 priorities.

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Posted in Environment, Equality, Equity, Health, Learning, Marginalization, Testing | 8 Comments

Addressing the challenges of measuring inequality in education

POST2015_equity_borderThis blog introduces a new series that will look at the framing and measurement of inequalities in post-2015 education targets. The series aims to elaborate an equity perspective in the future monitoring of education by examining issues related to disability, gender, poverty status, household wealth, residence, health and social mobility.

Social exclusion and the unfair distribution of the benefits of development and public services have become a serious concern for the international development community as it prepares to adopt a new agenda post-2015.  In the field of education, despite notable progress in some areas, there continue to be sharp inequalities by poverty status, household location, gender, disability and ethnicity, with many marginalized groups remaining invisible to governmental officials and development planners. Scarce economic resources, the lack of ‘voice’ and power imbalances exacerbate the sense of social injustice among millions. In this context, equity has become an important guiding theme of the current proposal of the Open Working Group for Sustainable Development as well as in the formulation of the education goal.

An equity perspective has been, and will continue to be, an overriding concern in the EFA Global Monitoring Report. Assessing progress in global education goals based solely on changes in national averages clearly fails to account for the discrimination and exclusionary practices faced by many marginalized groups, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

Creating robust equity-oriented indicators 

Although the principle of equity has gained traction in development circles, there is considerable work to be done in creating robust equity-oriented indicators of education priorities, which allow for monitoring national progress over time.  Several key questions need to be addressed:

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/ARETE

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/ARETE

  • How should the monitoring of educational goals track inequalities in education participation and learning outcomes within and between countries, between schools and across different socio-demographic groups?
  • What are the limitations of existing data sources and what can be done to improve them?
  • How can we ensure that our measures of education inequality capture not only those in the education system but also those outside it?
  • How can we capture not only inequalities observed in children, youth and adults but also those structural inequalities engrained in education systems?
  • Since summary measures of inequality are yet to be routinely used in education, what indicators would be both robust and easy to communicate to the broader community?

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Posted in Equality, Equity, Gender, Health, Literacy, Marginalization, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty, Quality of education, Sustainable development, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Post 2015: Sustainable development goals and the right to education

November 20th marked 25 years since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which had a major influence on the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All (EFA). Among all human rights treaties, this Convention is the one that has been ratified most rapidly and by the largest number of states.



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The 2000 Dakar Framework for Action reaffirmed that EFA followed a rights-based approach and explicitly aimed for “free compulsory primary education of good quality.”  Since 2002, the EFA Global Monitoring Report has systematically followed up on violations of the right to education, for example highlighting inequalities in access, participation, attainment and learning outcomes, looking at how education costs are shared between governments and households, and reviewing the state of education in the middle of armed conflict.

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Posted in Governance, Human rights, Millennium Development Goals, Post-2015 development framework | 3 Comments

Our finance data tip for post-2015: We need to know who is financing what, where, and when.

post2015_data_200In August this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commissioned an Independent Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) to come up with key recommendations necessary to bringing about a data revolution in sustainable development. Among the 9 key principles now being proposed are data disaggregation, data timeliness, data transparency and openness, and data resources and capacity.

Currently in most countries, the data we do have only give a very incomplete and partial picture of the resources available for education. With a more ambitious set of education targets for post-2015 framed with equity at their center, it is essential to be able to track in a timely fashion how much is being committed and to which groups in particular.

Some of the challenges to this ambition are as follows:

  1. Breakdown spending by education focus: current expenditure data from both governments (reported by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics) and donors (reported by the OECD-DAC) present a wealth of data but currently do not align exactly with the education targets proposed for post 2015.
  2. Breakdown spending by type: very few tools currently exist that provide timely and consistent data on what is being spent within countries. Data is lacking on what is spent on education by sub-region, by income level and on different groups of children such as by disability or gender.
  3. A changing donor landscape: the post-2015 agenda has been marked by an interest in the plethora of new actors who might help finance the SDG goals. Data on what NGOs, the private sector, philanthropic organizations and emerging donors are giving to education currently remains un-transparent and extremely fragmented. It is hard to deduce whether resources are new, or are part of previous commitments.
  4. Timeliness of public expenditure data: current data on what resources have been approved to be spent, and how much ends up being spent, needs to be produced in a far more timely fashion than at present. Aid disbursements to education for the year 2013, for instance, will only be available at the end of 2014 making it nearly two years out of date. The same is true of government commitments.

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Posted in Finance, Millennium Development Goals, Post-2015 development framework | 2 Comments