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Breaking the cycle of crisis

Violent conflict is one of the greatest development challenges facing the international community. Beyond the immediate human suffering it causes, it both causes poverty, inequality and economic stagnation and makes all these things worse.

Children and education systems are often on the frontline of violent conflict and suffer enormously.

The story in numbers

Almost half of the 61 million of the world’s out-of-school children live in fragile states with weak institutional capacity, poor governance, political instability and in many cases, ongoing violence or the legacy of past conflict.

One child in three in conflict-affected fragile states does not go to school, compared to one in 11 in other low-income countries.

Secondary school enrolment rates are nearly a third lower than in other developing countries and far lower still for girls.

Girls in conflict-affected fragile states are also often the victims of sexual abuse and violence.

An accelerated learning centre in Afghanistan for children who have missed out on school

Rewrite the future

Since 2005 Save the Children has dramatically scaled up its education delivery in more than 20 conflict-affected fragile states as part of our global Rewrite the Future campaign, which ran until 2010.

Through Rewrite the Future we set out to make the case for increased funding for education in these places and to demonstrate that large-scale education interventions could in fact be delivered in these challenging settings and that even children in countries beset by conflict and fragility could go to school.

We now have a lot of experience of supporting education in conflict-affected fragile states and are committed to using it to improve our ongoing work and to share it with other organisations working on the issue.

Learning from our efforts

Breaking the Cycle of Crisis: Learning from Save the Children’s delivery of education in conflict-affected fragile states is our latest publication drawing on that experience.

It presents expert synthesis of and reflections on four research based evaluations of Save the Children’s work to improve the quality of children’s education in Afghanistan, Angola, Nepal and South Sudan.

Basic education in the four countries displayed common features resulting from conflict, such as physical destruction of infrastructure, negative impact on access, retention and learning outcomes, damage to the teaching force, as well as exacerbation of gender inequity.

However, the diverse reasons for conflict, the way conflict affects populations and the continuing legacies of war have generated different responses with regard to current and future schooling.


But among these differences we’ve identified a series of successes of the four programmes including:

  • greater availability of schools
  • higher levels of student attendance and enrolment
  • the benefits of alternatives to formal schooling
  • better learning outcomes.

Ongoing challenges

Along with these successes we’ve also identified some ongoing challenges, including:

  • teacher motivation and recruitment
  • persistent illiteracy
  • problems with the language of teaching
  • poor outcomes from some teacher training.

Six underpinning principles

The report goes on to identify six underpinning principles for effective education interventions in conflict-affected fragile states:

  • community buy-in
  • participation
  • resources
  • motivation
  • understanding
  • legal accountability.

And finally the report sets out a series of policy recommendations which on the basis of our experience we believe are important to improving education in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

A different future is possible

The issues that we faced in all four countries represent complex challenges, but Breaking the Cycle of Crisis shows that it has been possible for Save the Children to improve access to education for 1.6 million children, develop strategies for better child protection and safety at school, improve the quality of teaching, and increase attendance and learning outcomes in schools we’ve supported in four very specific conflict-affected fragile states.

Much still needs to be done and Save the Children remains committed to investing our own funds and energy in education in conflict affected settings. We hope that this synthesis of our experience will both inspire and challenge others to join the cause.

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