Beyond the Rubble: Nurturing Dreams Amidst Conflict

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GRC 2023 Global Essay Competition Top 30

By Arnav Jain

“Amidst the relentless bombings, my childhood is shattered, and I yearn for the sanctuary of my school, which is a pile of rubble. The fear of violence is all I experience. Even if they leave, what future do I have? My dream of being a teacher is forgotten; I only care about living."

It is estimated that one in six children (over 426 million) grapple with this stark reality6 of living in a conflict zone. Of these, close to 56% of children are forcibly displaced by conflict and violence5. Extended absences from school, increase the likelihood that children do not return to formal education and expose vulnerable children to threats like child labor, under-age marriage, exploitation, and recruitment by armed groups by 50%5. As a teenager attending a conventional school, these distressing conditions and the mental scars born by children my age in conflict zones deeply troubles my conscience and underscores the urgency for focused solutions. While the United Nations acknowledges education as an inalienable right, urgent and specific measures are needed to ensure continuous learning schemes for children in conflict zones, an issue made worse by underinvestment (as only 3% of humanitarian aid is devoted to children's educational necessities4). In today's interconnected world, English, is used to operate 64% of the internet7, making English-language skills crucial for global participation in an increasingly Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven future. Children in conflict zones face educational challenges, leaving them unprepared for this new era and widening the gap with more privileged peers. As our world becomes more interconnected, the language barrier makes these children more vulnerable to poverty, limiting their access to more lucrative jobs and confining them to lower-paid manual labour. Addressing these challenges is essential to bridge the inequality gap and equip these children for a rapidly evolving world.

To mitigate educational disparities in conflict zones, my proposed solution involves entailing a curated curriculum from validated sources globally, focusing on Mathematics and English (the core subjects), as they are essential to our digitalized world and emerging AI technologies, acknowledging globally an estimated 720 million youth lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, and 258 million children are out of school8. In this solution, translators bridge the linguistic gap in conflict zones, ensuring easy accessibility in the native mother tongue of children. While other educational tools, existing learning platforms (like Khan Academy and Akelius) are more developed, due to their reliance on fragile tablets or smartphones, they are impractical for conflict-zones. Moreover, these devices are vulnerable to theft, are of limited use when electricity and data are scarce and children are incentivized to sell smart devices for essential needs, as such devices are valuable (containing gold and intricate circuits). (Over 20% of mobile phones in conflict zones are used for financial transactions, suggesting that some devices are sold for cash12,13).

Hand-cranked radio devices are an optimal solution to educational challenges in conflict-zones. Operating with a simple mechanism, these devices utilize a hand-cranked lever to generate electricity, converting it into sound to deliver core subjects, providing children flexibility in accessing materials at their convenience. With minimal maintenance requirements and low costs, these radios are durable for reuse and have negligible resale values, offering a compelling incentive for prolonged and widespread usage. Currently, over 15,000 radios have been distributed in Sudan with 240,000 children depending on these radios2. Devices would be distributed by strategic collaborations with UN aid agencies/local NGOs already operating in conflict zones. This collaboration amplifies the initiative's impact, ensuring educational resources reach those most needed in conflict-affected regions. Funding for such devices would also be a cheap option where the simplest way to implement this and identify gaps would be to implement them in conflicted areas like small villages /towns and get feedback on improving.

As a teenager, I reflect on the staggering reality that over 26% of the world's population under 18 lacks education14, and only 3% of all humanitarian aid devoted to catering for the educational needs of children indeed highlight our unacknowledgment and naivety to such a pressing social issue. Coupled with the challenges posed by evolving technologies and uncertain climate change impacts on the future, children in these zones are more vulnerable to white-collar jobs. It deeply troubles me that children denied a fair chance face a bleak future exacerbated by our collective inaction. My bid, delivering essential education in Mathematics and English through cost-effective hand-held devices and bridging the educational gap for a brighter future, doesn't only stand as a proposal but a heartfelt endeavor to illuminate the path for every child transcending the shadows of conflict but ensuring no mind is left unheard in the dark.

Chicago Syle Citations

  1. Aman, Mariam. “BBC Show Is a ‘lifeline’ for Afghan Girls, Un Says.” BBC News, October 13, 2023.
  2. Education Cannot Wait. “South Sudan.” Accessed December 8, 2023.
  3. Impact Network. “Success Stories.” Accessed December 8, 2023.
  4. UNICEF. “Education in Emergencies.” Accessed December 8, 2023.
  5. “Theirworld’s Mission to Give Children in Crises a Safe Place to Learn.” Theirworld, July 6, 2022.
  6. Ortiz, Elena, Milorad Kovacevic, Michael Gottschalk, Lexah Caraluzzi, Ava Kawamura, Ziwen Lu, Siri Aas
    Rustad, and Anna Marie Obermeier. Women, Peace, and Security Index 2023/24: Tracking Sustainable Peace
    through Inclusion, Justice, and Security for Women. Washington, D.C.: GIWPS and PRIO, 2023. Accessed
    December 9, 2023.
  7. "Globalization." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 9 Dec. 2023. Web. 9 Dec. 2023.
  8. World Bank. Learning to Realize Education's Promise: An Investment Framework for the Global Partnership for
    Education 2018-2021. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2018. Accessed December 9, 2023.
  9. International Telecommunication Union. “World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Database.” Accessed
    December 9, 2023.
  10. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. “UNESCO: Education Sector Emergency
    Response Plan for Ukraine (2022-2023).” Accessed December 9, 2023.
  11. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. “Transnational Organized Crime in Southeast Asia: Evolution,
    Growth and Impact 2019.” Accessed December 9, 2023.
  12. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. “Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants 2018.” Accessed December
    9, 2023.
  13. International Telecommunication Union. “Measuring the Information Society Report 2020.” Accessed December
    9, 2023.
  14. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. “Education for All Global Monitoring Report
    2019.” Accessed December 9, 2023.
  15. Global Education Monitoring Report. “Education Under Siege 2021: 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report,
    UNESCO.” Accessed December 9, 2023.,
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Beyond the Rubble: Nurturing Dreams Amidst Conflict
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