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"I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation." – U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, October 9, 2009

The Pursuit for Education for All: Climbing Our Way Through a Tangled Web

The fight for education for all is far more complicated than I ever imagined. To be honest, I had never given this social issue much thought before. Before reading the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, I imagined that if we could set up schools in countries where children are out of school, put in some teachers—bam! enrollment and literacy rates would rise. This is highly inaccurate. Lack of education is a tangled web of factors all interdependent upon one another. The report claims that armed conflict is the major barrier to education for all. It was found that 40% of all out of school children live in countries affected by conflict. Warfare impacts several factors, which, in turn, affect education. In countries affected by conflict, children are more malnourished, less likely to be in school, and youth and adults are less likely to be literate than in countries without conflict. Even basic yet often overlooked things, such as hunger, impact education. Malnutrition damages cognitive development, preventing children from acquiring skills needed for future learning. The health of children is influenced by their mother’s education. Mothers who are educated are more likely to know the ways HIV can be transmitted and what medicines can reduce the risk of transmission. Sexual violence, often used as a war tactic, hinders women’s education due to the effects that rape has on the body and the mind. Interestingly, the use of education has been proposed as a means to reduce conflict and promote peace. I admire this proposal, having never considered that education holds the potential to both cause and prevent conflict. If we could teach children to be respectful of one another and teach social skills that promote cooperation rather that quarrel, we could prevent conflict from igniting the cycle of a lack of education.

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