Bullets but no books

Outrage over treatment of 43 million war zone schoolchildren worldwide.

Save the Children this week launched a global campaign to address the "moral outrage" of 43 million children in conflict zones going without basic education.

Research by the charity reveals the devastating consequences of armed conflict on education in 30 countries wracked by war, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal and Afghanistan.

It shows how schools are destroyed or commandeered by armed forces, teachers are killed or flee to escape violence, children are recruited and forced to fight or are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

In 2003, more than half of armed conflicts used child soldiers under 15; more than five million children aged six to 11 were out of school in the DRC, and more than six million 12 to 17-year-olds had never been to school.

In Nepal, between January and August 2005, more than 11,800 pupils were abducted from rural schools for indoctrination or forced recruitment into militia. In Afghanistan, most qualified teachers fled the conflict so that fewer than 15 per cent now hold professional qualifications.

According to Save the Children, international donors are reluctant to commit funds for education in such countries because of concerns about the difficulty of delivering such aid.

This week it launched Rewrite the Future, the biggest global campaign in its 85-year history, with the backing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the United Nations. The aim is to persuade national governments and international donors and institutions to "significantly" increase their funding for education and make education for these children a priority.

If the campaign is successful it hopes to ensure that three million out-of-school children are in class by 2010 and improve the quality of education for five million more. The charity will work in 20 countries helping to build schools, train teachers and provide essential materials such as books and pens.

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children, said: "This is a crisis the world is choosing to ignore. Those with the power, knowledge and resources are failing to intervene because they won't address the difficulties preventing them from delivering this aid."

Save the Children is calling for:

* The international community to fill the funding gap by providing an extra $5.8 billion (pound;3.7bn) in aid to fund education in conflict-affected fragile states and ensure adequate systems are in place to deliver aid to such countries.

* Education to be part of every humanitarian response.

* All national governments to prosecute government forces and armed militia who are violent towards teachers and students.

Jan Egeland, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator, said: "It is a moral outrage how the world is treating these children. Children cannot wait for conflict to end before we give them the opportunity to go to school."

* newsdesk@tes.co.uk

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