Impact of Conflict on Education Equity

Led by Gudrun Østby
May 2013 - Dec 2013

Despite recent global educational improvements, various forms of inequalities in education persist, particularly in developing countries. Goal 3 of the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID’s) Education Strategy calls for providing equitable access to 15 million learners in crisis- and conflict-affected environments by 2015. In addition, the strategy recommends carrying out rigorous studies to further the understanding of the linkages between educational inequalities and conflict. To this end PRIO has contributed with a report Conflict and educational inequality: Evidence from 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

​​The report provides an overview of the patterns of political violence and educational inequalities in sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular look at whether and how armed conflict may exacerbate educational inequalities between ethnic and religious groups and urban and rural populations. Thirty countries were studied, and four conflict-affected countries were scrutinized in more detail: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia, Mali, and Nigeria.

Findings from the Demographic Health Surveys (DHS) data show vast inequalities in education that exist between ethnic and religious groups and rural and urban populations across sub-Saharan Africa. An analysis of conflict data (from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP)) overlaid with the educational inequality maps suggests that conflict is not a major contributor to educational group inequalities in sub-Saharan Africa. The report concludes that there are only marginal differences in ethnic and religious education inequality between high-conflict and non-conflict regions. Individual-level analyses for all 30 countries suggest that in some conflict contexts, notably in two of the focus countries, DRC and Liberia, education is negatively affected. However, past conflict appears to be a surprisingly weak predictor of low education across the continent as a whole. The absence of a stronger negative impact of armed conflict on education could indicate that local communities are often quite resilient and that, while education may be interrupted during the most severe phases of conflict, the long-term effects may be limited. It could also mean that the efforts taken by governments, donor organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide education and other services in conflict and post-conflict settings help to even out the negative effects of conflict.


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