Children from Conflict Zones & Their Education

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Introduction to Conflict Zones Impact on Children

Conflict zones are understood as any context in which citizens are disrupted by violence and left unprotected by their government (Mundy & Dryden-Peterson, 2011). While conflict zones were once confined to the theater of war zones designated by the rules of engagement, conflicts in the modern age continuously spill out in diverse ways impacting the environment and vulnerable populations. Aggravated by resource scarcity and weather inconsistency, the rise in persistent conflict zones has led to an increase in migrant/refugee populations in which children are often losing out on their developmental opportunities. Complicated by the rise of nationalism and border security measures, these populations are at an increased risk of continued persecution leading to cycles of poverty and lack of education which increases the likelihood of violence. Education plays a key role in ending such cycles of disempowerment by helping children of conflict zones to develop resiliency and awareness which will give them a stronger chance at success (Mundy & Dryden-Peterson, 2011).

Conflict-Affected Countries in 2009

(Table omitted for preview. Available via download).

Fragile States 

Understanding the needs of children in conflict zones requires the full conception of the notion of “fragile states”. Fragile states are those whose culture/economy and dynamic globalized evolution are weakened and have a higher likelihood of falling into violent disarray. Economic strength and a corresponding lack of corruption in politics are closely linked to the likelihood of fragility as well as the likelihood to use education as a tool of conditioning rather than empowerment (Mundy & Dryden-Peterson, 2011). The chart above shows the likely states to be or become fragile due to economic status as analyzed by the World Bank (Mundy & Dryden-Peterson, 2011).

Typology of Educational Needs

Rather than calling for education in emergencies, researchers emphasize the need to specify education in conflict zones as a means of highlighting the needs of displaced and traumatized children (Mundy & Dryden-Peterson, 2011). Youths who are in a conflict zone are vulnerable to losing all mooring with their culture and subsumed by the violence which imprints them with trauma too young to resist its call. Education has the power to help heal that trauma, and enlighten youths that violence is deviant rather than the norm. In the past, rooted in the corruption of colonialism, education was used in conflict zones to blind and enslave a traumatized population. However, the new typology of education emphasizes the need to bring cultural sensitivity to the diverse children in conflict zones through an application of precision education based on their needs (Burke, Greene & McKenna, 2016).

Thus, a correct application of education for conflict zone children, such as in Saudi Arabia, can be healing for a people and a nation, leading to ending cycles of conflicts rooted in ignorance, racism, and political blindsiding (Mundy & Dryden-Peterson, 2011). This application requires educators to have a keen understanding of the roots of the conflict, as well as sensitivity and competence which ensures they will not further the conflict through mixed messages. This need has led to the specialization of teachers who work with conflict zone children, who are in increasing demand (Carroll, Lama, Martinez-Brockman, & Pérez-Escamilla, 2017).


Burke, K. J., Greene, S., & McKenna, M. K. (2016). A critical geographic approach to youth civic engagement: Reframing educational opportunity zones and the use of public spaces. Urban Education, 51(2), 143-169.

Carroll, G. J., Lama, S. D., Martinez-Brockman, J. L., & Pérez-Escamilla, R. (2017). Evaluation of nutrition interventions in children in conflict zones: A narrative review. Advances in Nutrition, 8(5), 770-779.

Mundy, K. & Dryden-Peterson, S. (Ed.). (2011). Educating children in conflict zones: Research, policy, and practice for systemic change―A tribute to Jackie Kirk (international perspectives on education reform series). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.