Education, the tool by which society passes on knowledge and raises its standards, is often the key aspect which distinguishes one country from another. Attention to it is vital to achieve prosperity and progress in any society.
Sometimes, however, education turns from being a near-sacred opportunity into a fear of going to school! Of the countries that perform badly in terms of education, some suffer from terrorism and civil wars, while others endure poverty.
For example, in Afghanistan, attacks on schools have increased nearly three times in the last year, making it more difficult to provide education for children in many parts of the country.
According to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), about 3.7 million Afghani children, or nearly half of the children of school age, have not been enrolled in formal education in the country. More than 1,000 schools across the country remain closed because of security threats from groups such as the Taliban and Isis.
The matter is not very much different in Somalia, a country suffering from poverty as well as from terrorism. Education here is dangerous as well as frustrating, with schools and colleges frequently targeted by the al-Shabab terrorist group.
While Somalia’s 30-year-old civil unrest has almost completely destroyed the country’s educational system, affecting the future of millions of school-aged children, it now seems that the authorities there are getting to grips with educating its young people, who make up over 70% of the country’s population.
The government, supported by several private educational institutions, is trying to create a new system and enrol more than three million children who are out of school.
However, the situation there is still not trouble-free. Al-Qaeda-linked groups – which are often accused of recruiting thousands of children as soldiers and frontline fighters – are now targeting those who are trying to create a peaceful future for Somalia’s children.
The same is happening in Kenya, where al-Shabab terrorists frequently mount assaults on schools and universities, with dozens of casualties in each incident.
Attacks on Kenya’s education system persisted from 2009 to 2017, with a slight upturn in attacks on schools in 2017, due to al-Shabab's increased activity that year. In many cases, the perpetrators were unknown, and it is possible that some incidents included in this profile were not linked to armed groups. However, al-Shabab was increasingly active in Kenya during the reporting period, according to the UNHCR’s Refworld.
The situation is slightly different in Mali, where the tragedy of education is that for young people, its value in life is eclipsed by the search for gold. The lure of gold ¬– Mali is Africa’s third largest producer, with 70% of Mali's export earnings coming from gold production – attracts some Malians early in life, who neglect everything else, such as education, in response to the siren calls to make quick money.
In Mali now, looking for gold is seen as the fastest way to become rich and gain everything you and your family want, making education seem a waste of time in the eyes of a majority of the population.
Meanwhile in Libya, the state of division existing in the country affects the educational process. There are two ministries of education in Libya, one in Tripoli under the Government of National Accord (GNA), and the other in the east under the temporary Benghazi government.
In 2018, the number of educational staff in Libya was estimated at 526,000, including 314,000 teachers. The number of students is nearly 1.25m in a country with a total population of just over six million.
Unicef supports education in both the east and the west of Libya, including the establishment of temporary classrooms, the availability of drinking water and proper sanitary systems. Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of Libyans have fled their country in search of better prospects in Algeria, Egypt and Jordan.
There is no doubt that education affects and is influenced by the political climate in which it exists. The more well-prepared the environment is, the more education thrives in a natural way. In this context, governments need to maintain the education process with the aim of prosperity and community progress for their country, taking due care to combat any threats to damage centres where learning takes place.