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War hurting learning in Africa

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By SCOLA KAMAU

Posted  Monday, March 14  2011 at  00:00
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Armed conflict is the biggest threat to education in Africa, a new Unesco report shows, while painting a dim outlook on aid inflows in the coming years.

Apart from increasing the number of school dropouts across the region, conflict is diverting millions of dollars in public funds from education into military spending.

As a result, sub-Saharan Africa now has the largest financing gap that is frustrating the achievement of Education for All (EFA) programme.

In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 10 million children are dropping out of school every year, the report released last week shows.

Disbursements in the region fell by four per cent, the equivalent of a six per cent drop in aid per primary school age child, signifying the impact of armed conflict on education at the household level.

Twenty-one African countries have been mentioned as the highest spenders of gross domestic product on military globally compared with the amount directed towards education.

Burundi is ranked second, spending 4.9 per cent of its GDP on the military while Uganda follows at position 13, with two per cent of its GDP expenditure going to the military.

The report points out that if countries resolved conflicts and cut military spending by 10 per cent, 350,000 extra children would attend primary school in Burundi, and 180,000 in Uganda.

Failure to completely resolve conflict in these countries has also seen children abducted and forced to become soldiers denying them a right to education.

The use of child soldiers is reported in 24 countries including Uganda, the Central African Republic of Congo and Sudan.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2008 showed in Uganda, when the Lords Resistance Army waged war against the government, tens of thousands of lives were lost and approximately 1.6 million people were displaced over two decades.

In Rwanda, Unicef notes there were 5,000 child soldiers during the 1994 genocide.

If each of the countries including Ethiopia, Angola, Mali and Togo cut military spending by 10 per cent, a total of 9.5 million children would access education.

Displacements from armed conflicts have also forced children to remain in camps for the internally displaced or flee to neighbouring countries where in most cases their guardians are unable to fund their education.

In Kenya, after disputed national elections in December 2007, civil unrest displaced over 250,000 people and affected a total of 500,000 persons.

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