Countries in crisis and education: what roles for international aid?


More than half of the world’s out-of-school children live in countries affected by crises. In situations of conflict alone, UNICEF estimates that more than 25 million children in 22 conflict-affected countries are out of school. Beyond situations of violence, many other types of crises, whether economic, political, social or natural, can have a major impact on the access, quality and equity of education systems. In this interplay of crises and education, the evolution of international aid and the behavior of international development actors play an important role that needs to be better understood.

What impact of crises on education?

Macroeconomic stability of countries appears to be one of the most important determinants of human capital accumulation . Beyond the inability of children to go to school and complete disruption of education systems, the mere contraction of economic activity and public spending can have a devastating impact on education through education. rising costs and declining household income and expected returns from education. For some economic crises, a positive effect on schooling has been observed via the opportunity cost (newly unemployed adults take back part of the economic activities of children who therefore have more time to go to school),Most international results show a very negative effect of crises on access, quality and equity , especially for the poorest households and girls.The most lagging countries in terms of poverty reduction or education are thus the most confronted with crises .

On the other hand, education can play a stabilizing role, or on the contrary instability. When it is unfair, perceived as unsuitable by certain groups, or conveys messages that may fuel violence, education can be one of the determinants of a future crisis .

Manar, 11, and his friends in their damaged school in Gaza. Oxfam International

What impact do crises have on international aid?

On the side of the northern countries, studies show that a crisis in a donor country significantly reduces the volume of its aid offered internationally. On the southern side, research shows that aid flows are more pro-cyclical than economic and political cycles in recipient countries. Like public spending on education, education support is often reduced in times of political crisis and conflict. Simply stated, this means that international aid tends to decrease or even stop during negative shocks in the country, which could have the effect of further aggravating the impact of the crisis. Thus, aid to education does not go to the countries most in need and does not compensate for the effects of crises. In addition, the share of humanitarian funding dedicated to education in response to crises remains very low.

What impact of aid on education in countries in crisis?

The specific literature on the effectiveness of education aid demonstrates a positive and significant impact of aid on education, particularly for the primary cycle . While there is strong evidence that aid to education is effective , the crucial question now is to better understand when this international aid works and when it does not work, with crisis situations emerging as a key issue. .

Recent work shows that aid to education remains effective and may even be more effective during crisis episodes in countries even if the capacity to absorb aid is lower. This support for education during crisis episodes even tends to be particularly crucial for the education of the most vulnerable children, especially girls.

What are the links between humanitarian interventions and development actions?

During a crisis, the long-term work of developing educational institutions is often interrupted and replaced by emergency interventions aimed at ensuring educational continuity and the protection of children. In Mali, civil society actors have deployed bridging classes, enabling thousands of children to access accelerated learning programs. However, the effectiveness of emergency actions is hampered by the structural weaknesses of the systems. How to integrate Malian students who have benefited from remedial classes in a formal education system where only 30% of students complete primary and 37% of teachers have received initial training, and while more than 700 schools are still closed?

The phases of crisis and reconstruction do not follow one another in a linear fashion and humanitarian aid, supposedly a short-term response to a shock, is mobilized over the long term, encroaching on the temporality of development. Faced with these challenges, plans integrating short-term actions with more structured responses are designed in particular in Lebanon and Ethiopia to improve the integration of refugees while strengthening the education system. Some inclusive educational innovations and practices developed by humanitarianssuch as the monitoring of schools by communities, or the strengthening of decentralized actors, could also be scaled up more widely by development actors to strengthen the good governance of education systems and maximize the effects of education in crisis prevention.

How to build more resilient education systems?

The longer duration of crises and their impact on development trajectories are forcing international aid actors to find new ways of working . It is therefore important to build resilient and crisis-sensitive education systems by ensuring good central and local management and integration of support for peace and social cohesion . Building peace and stability requires equitable and quality education .

During crisis episodes, the balance or even the quality of budget management becomes a central constraint and aid should react more quickly in order to secure priority social spending. Stability, predictability and targeting of funding are therefore key. Funding for education system support should not only be flexible and rapid to meet emergency needs, but also better targeted at strengthening or re-launching educational services in the most backward countries. As recalled in the recent G7 communiqué for quality education for girls and womenbetter coordination between humanitarian and development funding is essential. To make this dialogue effective, it is not necessarily necessary to invent new mechanisms or new concepts. The challenge is to ensure increased consultation in the countries concerned, with national authorities, civil society actors, the various donors and stakeholders, to better understand and articulate the links between education, crisis and international actions.

Author Bios: Rohen d’Aiglepierre is a PhD, researcher “Human Development” / “Human Development” reseacher and [email protected] is also at the AFD (French Development Agency)