Addressing the Educational and Psychological Needs of Children in Conflict Zones

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GRC 2023 Global Essay Competition Top 30

By Kavin Khanna

Wars and conflicts are as old as the history of humankind. Since times immemorial, humans have engaged in violent conflict for survival and resources. While it is mostly wagered by unimpassioned adults, the heaviest burden of conflict is often borne by innocent children who then struggle to cope with their educational and psychological needs.
The statistics are mind-numbing. Peace Research Institute Oslo reports that the number of children living in conflict zones has increased significantly since 2000. By 2021, only about 822 million children lived in peaceful countries, whereas the rest – a staggering 1.65 billion (67% of the world’s children) lived in conflict-affected countries (Figure 1: A & B). Approximately 449 million children (over one in six) resided in an active conflict zone in 2021 (Ostby et al., 2022, 2). By end of 2022, the number of children forcibly displaced from their homes doubled over the last decade and reached 43.3 million (UNICEF, 2023). More than 75 million children across the world’s crisis and conflict-affected countries currently require urgent support to receive an education (Graham et al., 2019, 25). Recent conflicts (Russia-Ukraine, Sudan, and Israel-Gaza etc.), have only exacerbated the situation. As the data illustrates, this global issue needs immediate and sustained attention.

Regrettably, conflicts across the world have obliterated school infrastructure, forced teachers to flee, deprived children of learning, and exposed them to inconceivable mental trauma. Displaced children usually suffer long-term educational disenfranchisement. Those out of school beyond a year are 50% more likely never to return and are highly vulnerable to child labor, child marriage, exploitation, and recruitment by armed groups (Theirworld, 2022). Inarguably, conflicts leave scars on young minds and access to education is a crucial aspect of their rehabilitation. While the United Nations recognizes education as an inalienable right (, Article 26, 7), specific solutions are direly needed to ensure continuous education for children in conflict.
In the recent past, Covid-19 led us to discover that technology can enable our continuous education. I, therefore, envisage a digital solution that offers an integrated learning and support platform (“iLEAP”) for our fellow children in conflict zones. Looking around, I found a few that only partially address this need. Hence, iLEAP shall offer a comprehensive ecosystem that integrates available solutions, builds add-ons to fill the gaps and delivers a toolkit of solutions that work holistically to remotely deliver continuous classroom learning, mental health support and coaching to such children. Through the GRC, I aim to approach UNICEF to propose that iLEAP is developed and rolled-out under their auspices and complements UNICEF’s Education Strategy (UNICEF, 2019). iLEAP shall offer a multi-lingual curriculum for children across all learning ages that can be delivered in assisted or unassisted mode by teachers, with extensive usage of audio-visual aids. Laying special emphasis on mental health, an empaneled group of volunteer psychologists shall conduct online therapy sessions with student groups or individuals on the platform. iLEAP shall also seek to connect children from non-conflict zones to buddy-up and mentor the ones from conflict zones. Besides, iLEAP shall also find cross-application in supporting other children displaced by ecological disasters or those simply unable to afford access to quality education, thus potentially benefitting an estimated 224 million children (Education Cannot Wait, 2023). Overall, iLEAP shall be a platform that facilitates educationists, donors, teachers, volunteers, students, child psychologists and counsellors to interconnect and use available solutions and tools to remotely deliver both continuous learning and support to children.
However, the biggest impediments to the effectiveness of iLEAP in displaced communities remain the daunting challenges of connectivity, affordability and last-mile reach of digital devices. Unsurprisingly, statistics from UNHRC reveal that displaced people are 50% less likely than those not displaced to have an internet-enabled phone while 20% of rural refugees have no internet access (Connectivity for Refugees-UNHCR, 2023). However, it is heartening to note that UNHRC is already working on solutions. The Connectivity for Refugees initiative aims to provide affordable access to digital channels and mobile connectivity for all displaced populations by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. In the interim, I plan to seek support from satellite-based internet service providers (like Starlink, Hughesnet, Viasat etc.) to connect displaced populations since some of them have already shown interest to do so. As for digital devices, I shall supplement the efforts of UNHCR by approaching individuals and companies who can donate low-cost or refurbished mobile devices and computers that will then be delivered to displaced children through UNHCR.
While I’m convinced that iLEAP shall be a great enabler, the educational and psychological needs of our fellow children in conflict zones can only be addressed through a collaborative effort from UN agencies, Governments, NGOs, and most importantly, the collective determination of society at large. The world owes nothing less to us – the inheritors of this planet.


  1. Ostby, G., Rustad, S.A., and Arasmith, A. 2022. Children Affected by Armed Conflict, 1990–2021
    Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). CONFLICT TRENDS 02 2022. 2
    Report available on:
  2. UNICEF 2023, Child Displacement. Worldwide, about 43.3 million children had been displaced as a
    consequence of conflict and violence as of the end of 2022.
  3. Graham, G., Kirollos, M., Fylkesnes, G., Salarkia, K., Wong, N. 2019. “Stop The War on Children: Protecting
    Children In 21st Century Conflict”: 25.
  4. Ostby, G., Rustad, S.A., and Arasmith, A. 2022. Children Affected by Armed Conflict, 1990–2021Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). CONFLICT TRENDS 02 2022.Report available on:
  5. Theirworld’s mission to give children in crises a safe place to learn, 2022.
  6., Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26, 7.
  7. UNICEF. Every child learns. UNICEF education strategy 2019–2030.
  8. Education Cannot Wait, 2023. Number of Crisis-Impacted Children in Need of Education Support Rises
    Significantly: Education Cannot Wait Issues New Global Estimates Study.
  9. Connectivity for Refugees-UNHCR, 2023. Connectivity for Refugees: A transformative pledge to connect
    forcibly displaced people and their hosts.
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Addressing the Educational and Psychological Needs of Children in Conflict Zones
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