Civil war’s legacy on children's education


Civil wars not only leave behind causalities and destruction, they also leave more indirect legacies on survivors – the remaining population trying to make the transition to post-conflict and peace.

Conflict causes ongoing negative effects on children’s education, leading to long-term disadvantage.

Shikha Silwal, Assistant Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee University, analysed the effect of the Nepalese Maoist civil unrest on children’s educational attainment during the time of conflict (1996-2001), and in the 3-5 year period after violence ended (2009-2011).

She found the conflict had long-term and substantial negative consequences on children’s education. Students were less likely to complete their education, due to higher than normal dropout rates. Those that did complete their schooling scored worse than normal, and worse than their peers who live in less violent areas.

All students in Nepal are required to pass an exam at the end of their secondary schooling. The number of students who sat the exam and their scores was compared to counts of civil war causalities. Numerous steps are taken to ensure the results are causal in nature.

During the conflict period, students from high conflict areas of the country had a lower completion rate than their peers in low conflict areas. This suggests a greater number of students dropped out before they could take the exam.  The decrease in the number of girls who sat the exam was greater than the decrease in the number of boys.  Possible drivers for this could be the increased cost of education, the disrupted learning environment, and early marriage for girls.

On average, students from high conflict areas who did sit the exam scored worse than their peers in low conflict areas. Essentially, students who were exposed to more violence were less likely to pass. As students must pass this examination to continue to high school, this directly impacts their future education and employment opportunities, and creates further disparity between high and low conflict areas.

Secondary school completion rates returned to normal levels about 3-5 years after conflict ended. However, the gap remained in score achievement, with students from low conflict areas continuing to score better than their peers from high conflict areas.

Likewise, a gap between male and female completion rates remained in areas with high conflict, with more boys sitting for and completing the high school exam than girls.

Education and Peace

Research by the Institute for Economics and Peace identified high levels of human capital as one of eight key factors that lead to Positive Peace - the attitudes, structures and institutions that underpin peaceful societies.

Human capital describes a country’s stock of skills, knowledge and behaviours. The adverse effect of conflict leaves a legacy on future generations, as it disrupts and limits their education opportunities, decreasing the human capital in areas already plagued by conflict.  

 

Shikha Silwal is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee University. She is currently on sabbatical with the Institute for Economics and Peace in Sydney.

You can track Nepal’s peace levels over the past eight years using the Global Peace Index interactive maps.

 

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High Levels of Human Capital

High Levels of Human Capital is one of the eight “Pillars of Peace” that describe the attitudes, structures and institutions that underpin peaceful societies.


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