By CEID Blogger, on 6 July 2023
By Shuhra Koofi, MA Education and International Development
This blog serves as a continuation of my previous article, where I shed light on the distressing university ban imposed by the Taliban on Afghan women. In this piece, I will delve deeper into the restrictive measures placed on women in Afghanistan and highlight the grave risks associated with recognizing the Taliban’s de-facto government. I start by examining the far-reaching implications of these oppressive policies on women’s rights and human rights as a whole. Then, I discuss a virtual exhibition that highlights the challenges faced by Afghan women in accessing education and their resilient spirit in the face of adversity. Urgent international attention and action are needed to support their ongoing struggle. To this end, my UCL MA classmates have created a virtual exhibition titled “Women’s Education and Resistance in Afghanistan”.
The Taliban’s Violation of Women’s Rights
Since their takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban rulers have implemented policies that have resulted in widespread violations of human rights, particularly against women and girls. One of the most extreme policies imposed by the Taliban was the pronouncement that girls would not be allowed to attend schools beyond secondary education. This policy, along with subsequent edicts, such as the women’s university ban in December 2022 and the prohibition of women from working in national and international organizations, including the United Nations, has significantly limited women’s rights and access to education.
The ban on Afghan women working for the UN has been widely condemned by human rights organizations and the United Nations itself. The United Nations Security Council has expressed its deep concern on this ban, stating that it will have a negative and severe impact on UN aid operations throughout the country, hindering the delivery of life-saving assistance and basic services to the most vulnerable populations.
Furthermore, the Taliban has enforced strict regulations to police women’s behaviour in public, requiring them to cover their faces and prohibiting them from traveling long distances alone. These regulations place the responsibility for the enforcement of these measures squarely on male family members, meaning that a male “guardian” can be fined and then imprisoned if a female member of his family goes outside of their homes without a male accompanying them. If the guilty male guardian is a Government employee, then they must be fired for the woman’s transgressions. Women working in the media have also been forced to cover their faces while reporting the news via TV screens, further limiting their freedom of expression.
The consequences of these oppressive policies have been severe and violent, with reports of widespread mistreatment of women. Women have been barred from attending amusement parks, public baths, gyms, and sports clubs, and are not allowed to work in NGO offices. Moreover, women have been completely excluded from public office and the judiciary since the Taliban’s takeover.
China’s Collaboration with the Taliban
In contrast to efforts to protect women’s rights, reports have emerged in recent months about China’s expanding collaboration with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Taliban commanders visited China in July 2021 and met with the Chinese Foreign Minister, who commended the Taliban for “restoring order” in Afghanistan and expressed optimism about their role in the country’s peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction. According to Al Jazeera, the Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced on August 25, 2021, that China has pledged to continue its economic assistance with Afghanistan. The consequences of China’s collaboration with the Taliban raise concerns on several fronts.
- Legitimising the Taliban’s authority: China risks legitimising the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan by cooperating with the Taliban and offering strong economic support. This could lead to other countries and international organisations following suit, further isolating Afghan civil society and weakening efforts to advance democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in the country.
- Providing the Taliban with the means to pursue its oppressive policies: The Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan was distinguished by grave violations of human rights, notably against women and girls. By providing economic assistance to the Taliban, China risks helping them to continue their policies and further deteriorate the country’s already poor humanitarian situation.
- Undermining regional stability: China’s relationship with the Taliban has the potential to undermine regional stability by escalating tensions with other neighbouring nations, particularly India and the United States, both of whom have expressed concerns about China’s expanding influence in the region.
- Encouraging terrorism: Concerns have been raised that China’s interaction with the Taliban may indirectly encourage terrorism, considering the Taliban’s history of offering safe havens to terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and the symbolic safety and political gravitas that China’s support lends them. This could have far-reaching consequences for regional and global security.
China’s example has been replicated in Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey, which have all also recognized the Taliban rule, compounding these risks. The impacts on women’s rights will be long-lasting. The Taliban’s history of enforcing extreme interpretations of Islamic law, and twisting these to suppress women’s rights and freedoms, is well-known. By recognizing the Taliban’s de-facto government, China and the rest of these countries risk normalizing and legitimizing the oppressive policies of the Taliban, undermining efforts to advance democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Afghanistan.
Resistance and International Support
Amidst the challenges faced by Afghan women, there have been inspiring examples of resistance and international support. Women’s rights activists are urging the international community to hold the Taliban accountable for their actions and to support efforts to protect Afghan women’s rights and freedoms. Online platforms and educational initiatives have been established to provide education to Afghan girls who are barred from attending school. For instance, the BBC has launched an education initiative called “Dars” for Afghan children, especially girls, whose secondary education has been halted by the Taliban. This initiative provides educational content through a dedicated BBC News Afghanistan channel.
Additionally, a virtual exhibition titled “Women’s Education and Resistance in Afghanistan” has been created by UCL MA classmates, including myself. This exhibition aims at highlighting the importance of education for women in Afghanistan and the challenges they face. It explores the history of women’s education in the country, the impact of conflict, and the inspiring stories of women who have fought for their right to learn and succeed.
I encourage you to visit this exhibition on the topic of women’s education and resistance in Afghanistan and to consider the nature, value and significance of the messaging. Let’s come together to show our support for the empowerment of women and further raise awareness of the challenges they face.
The Taliban’s de-facto government in Afghanistan has systematically attacked women’s rights and human rights as a whole. Their oppressive policies have significantly limited women’s education and work opportunities, further restricting their freedom and independence. The collaboration between China and the Taliban raises concerns about the legitimization of the Taliban’s rule, the perpetuation of oppressive policies, and regional stability. However, amidst these challenges, there is growing resistance and international support for Afghan women, with initiatives aimed at providing education and raising awareness about their plight. It is essential for the international community to take urgent action to protect Afghan women’s rights and empower them to build a brighter future.
By CEID Blogger, on 29 June 2023
Conceptualising a path out of the peacebuilding narrative in conflict-affected contexts
By Reem Ben Giaber
I often question whether my research fits in with the work of other colleagues at the Centre for Education and International Development (CEID). I am from Libya and Germany – the former is often defined as a ‘conflict-affected’ country, and I am trying to explore teachers’ perceptions there of the roles that schools play in turbulent societies like Libya. Yet the questions I ask could be asked of any teachers in any country so, epistemically, I sometimes think that my research is more in the philosophy of education camp than in the education and international development camp. Or can it be both? Mindful of Gur-Ze’ev’s (2001) critique that much of peace education is driven by ‘good will’ more than ‘theoretical coherence or philosophical elaboration’ (p. 315), which leads to mainly unchallenged and unevolving practices, I propose a pragmatist philosophical approach (familiar in political science and political philosophy disciplines) as worth looking into, to see if the two camps can benefit each other. My first published article in the London Review of Education is a cautious conceptual re-examination of pragmatist philosophy in the fields of Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) and peacebuilding education. It is available [here].
The dominant analytical and programmatic frameworks used when writing about conflict-affected contexts such as Libya in Global Northern academia belong to the interdisciplinary field of PACS – an umbrella term that includes peace education (PE), critical peace education (CPE), peacebuilding education (PbE) and education and conflict to name a few. Within PACS, education is increasingly gaining attention as a tool for building peace and developing social justice and democracy. Yet, caught in the epistemological and methodological nets their work entails (neo-colonialism, blind universalism, organisational impact metrics, white saviourism, structural violence etc), many scholars in these fields are themselves calling for a more context-specific and ground-up approach to education for peace or social justice (Bajaj, 2019; Davies, 2017; Kester & Cremin, 2017; Zembylas & Bekerman, 2013). As such, this trajectory to involve local stakeholders in thinking about the links between school and their society, brings the project back to the philosophy of education discipline, drawing upon centuries of thought and scholarship. This is the integration, or even shift, I am proposing in my doctoral research because what is needed here is cultural criticism and transformation – a sensitive topic where one’s own positionality is significant.
My article takes a deeper look at the American philosopher John Dewey’s pragmatist approach to politics and education, and his conceptualisation of a ‘public,’ his understanding of enquiry and his views on teaching for peaceful and democratic living. When Dewey (1916) famously described democracy as not a political system, not a form of government, but as a way of living and communicating with others in our community that best allows for individual and social flourishing, he made it a cultural and pedagogical phenomenon. This is meaningful to the field of PACS because it situates the design, inquiry and action that can be taken at the local level. For PACS projects to be effective, PACS scholars and practitioners would share their expertise as facilitators and capacity builders – not deliverers, consultants or implementers.
Throughout my paper, I argue that a pragmatist philosophy is a worthwhile pedagogical project in a challenging and unsettled context such as Libya, as it is an internal and ground-up discourse, compared to the often externally-initiated and top-down discourses of peacebuilding. I speak as an ‘adjacent and connected critic’ (Koopman, 2009), because I am both a Libyan and a German researching a problem in Libya to which I hope to find potential proposals by engaging with discourses and practices in an academic institution in the Global North. As such, to describe Libya’s socio-political situation, I prefer to use words such as ‘unsettled,’ ‘changing,’ ‘turbulent’ or ‘evolving’ rather than ‘conflict-affected.’ One reason for this is to ensure a disentanglement from PACS education frameworks that activate organisational mechanisms from fundraising to pre-packaged programmes to metrics to impact evaluation reports. Another reason is for socio-linguistic considerations.
Speaking to Libyans, it is clear that ‘conflict-affected’ is too definitive, confining and suggestive of a state where common everyday occurrences like meeting friends in a café or taking your children to play in the park are excluded. Libyans would not describe their society as ‘in conflict’ or ‘conflict-affected’ because that would suggest to them that there is what Galtung would call direct violence (i.e. war) all the time. What Libyans might recognise is Galtung’s structural and cultural violence and that, again, takes us to culture critical projects which can, understandably, only be initiated by Libyans. Finally, from a pragmatist perspective, ‘conflict’ and ‘peace’ are locked into a dualistic tango of end-states. We either have one or the other and this denies that both are possible at the same time and that the only way to ensure any transitional amelioration in the situation is to keep working democratically (beyond programme end dates). There is no ideal (capital P Peace or capital D democracy) or destination to be reached; there is just continuous inquiry and work to be done with an ‘end-in-view’ (Dewey, 1916) that drives action.
By CEID Blogger, on 5 May 2023
4pm June 8th 2023, UCL IOE 20 Bedford Way Room 675
Professor Roy Carr-Hill sadly passed on 21st November 2022. Roy was an esteemed serving colleague in the Department of Education, Policy and Society (EPS) at UCL IoE.
The Centre for Education and International Development (CEID) invites family, colleagues, students and friends to celebrate Roy’s life and work, including his latest book, published posthumously.
Tribute to Roy
Roy was a true polymath and a prolific academic whose work spanned criminology, statistics, health, education and social services; including important work on education in developing countries and on the funding of the National Health Service in the UK. Roy was an avowed anarchist. As a statistician, he paid great attention to the uses and abuses of statistics by governments, especially the disguising of social problems as technical problems. He was a regular contributor to the heterodox journal Radical Statistics. Much of his work served to shed light on inequalities and inequities in access to and outcomes of education and health, focusing on the conditions of the least advantaged, including populations neglected by surveys.
Born in Widnes in 1943, Roy studied mathematics as an undergraduate in Cambridge and Penology for his DPhil at Oxford. He first taught at Sussex University, followed by a stint as a researcher for the OECD in Paris for their Social Indicators of Well-Being study. Roy’s clear-thinking and outspoken views were not valued equally by all his employers and in 1978 he decided to take-up employment in Mozambique, at the time a Marxist-Leninist state. He taught statistics and educational planning at the Universdade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo.
On returning to the UK in 1981 Roy served at the Medical Sociology Unit in Aberdeen, moving to the York Centre for Health Economics in 1984. His work in health includes studies in nutrition, HIV and AIDS and many in other areas.
Notable examples among these are his work on funding allocation for medical general practice in the UK and his trenchant criticism of the use quality-adjusted life-years (QALY) as a metric for health funding decisions in the UK. The ‘Carr-Hill formula’ (or global sum allocation formula) was introduced in 2004 and remains in use in 2022. It is used to weight GP practice funding according to factors driving workloads including list turnover, patient age, sex and additional needs linked to illness and mortality as well as adjusting for regional cost-factors including variations in staff pay and the impact of rural location.
Roy took up his post at UCL Institute of Education 1992. His work in education includes studies of adult literacy, education among nomadic groups, decentralisation and girls’ education, among many other topics. His work on ‘counting the uncounted’ has gained particular attention in recent years in view of renewed global efforts to attain ‘universal’ access to education and skills despite the poor quality of population data in many contexts. During the 1990s and 2000’s, Roy worked on several major African education reform programmes, serving as a consultant to, for example, governments in Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya.
Roy was a most dedicated teacher on the MA programmes taught in the Centre for Education and International Development (CEID), working with students from a range of different backgrounds, sometimes without detailed knowledge of statistics or planning. He was patient, and attentive, walking alongside students and helping them develop and enlarge their ideas. Roy was the statistician on the ESRC-funded NICK (Nutritional Improvement for children living in urban Chile and Kenya) project. At the time of his death, he was working on the ESRC funded AGEE (Accountability for Gender Equality in Education) project, engaging in participatory discussions to generate a cross-national composite indicator that could assess work done, and still to do on gender equality in education.
Roy’s work embodied his independence of thought, clarity of mind, commitment to shining a light on inequality and injustice and his indefatigable work ethic. He was a supportive, critical and humorous colleague friend and teacher.
Roy is survived by his wife Angeles, his four daughters, seven grandchildren, two brothers and their families.
Book synopsis (by Routledge)
This book examines the factors affecting the successful implementation of Education Sector Plans in developing countries. It provides a detailed comparison that draws on data from 27 countries to offer careful research conclusions and policy recommendations.
Offering a detailed comparison of the schooling situation (e.g. availability of potable water and toilets, provision for the disabled) as well as educational outcomes (both test scores and percentages out-of-school) from the 27 countries using empirical evidence, the book examines the resources that have been invested in different education sectors, investigating the development and success of each plan. The volume uses correlation analysis to compare factors including the availability of government funding, national characteristics, ministerial decisions, influences of country and donor stakeholders, as well as district- and school-level issues. Thorough comparative analysis of the data is then demonstrated, with two measures of achievements to identify which factors can be considered as the most important in order to reach realistic policy and research conclusions.
Timely and engaging, this book will be of great interest to researchers, scholars, and postgraduate students in the field of education and international development, comparative education, and international education more broadly.
By CEID Blogger, on 9 January 2023
By Shuhra Koofi
Student, MA Education and International Development
On 20th December 2022, the Taliban’s Minister of Higher Education in Afghanistan released a statement prohibiting women from attending university. The statement read: “You all are informed to implement the mentioned order of suspending education of females until further notice.” This resembles statements issued from 1996-2001, when the Taliban were first in power and issued wide bans on education for girls. At that time, my mother was a medical student in Kabul University. After missing out one year of her studies, she decided to get married and resumed her education only when the Taliban’s regime was overthrown in 2001. She is now a law and political science graduate of Kabul University. The return of this form of prohibition on girls’ education means depriving a generation from progress. It took my mother 20 years to catch up following the period when she was banned from university. The country now faces the same kind of scenario where girls and women, for more than one year are not allowed to continue their education beyond a secondary school level. This will not only impact individuals like my mother, but rather it will impact everyone.
Since 15th August 2021, when the Taliban re-took power, Afghanistan has entered an era of darkness for the women of the country. The Taliban de facto authorities in 2021 banned girls from attending schools above 6th grade. Nearly 850,000 out of 1.1 million girls of secondary school age have not attended schools since the decree was issued. The 2022 ban on women’s participation in universities further restricts education equality.
These prohibitions have created tensions inside and outside the country. No pretext was provided justifying the decree before it came into action. A sudden move was announced, followed by prompt implementation of the order by Taliban’s officials. The decree came into effect on the last day of university exams, and female students, who were sitting exams, were summarily asked to step out of classrooms. Some male students opposed the ban on female colleagues and declined to proceed with their own exams. In addition, more than 100 university professors resigned in protest.
The Taliban’s decision to exclude women from many forms of education, work and public life has faced resistance from women inside Afghanistan and from the Afghan women politicians, feminists, and activists living in exile. This resistance gained momentum as the United Nations (UN) issued a statement condemning the Taliban decision and asking for its immediate revocation. The UN statement read “suspending women from education is in clear violation of Afghanistan’s obligations under international law”.
Many Afghan women find the decision to deny girls from basic rights baseless, as they believe that the Taliban’s toxic ideology is not founded on Islamic principles or Afghanistan’s historic ethos. Rather, it promotes components of patriarchal custom practiced in some areas of Afghanistan, along with the Taliban’s one-sided interpretations of Islam, taught in certain religious schools. In particular, the decision of the Taliban to deprive girls from education has no legitimate religious justification as the first word in the holy Quran is “Eqra”, which commands Muslims to read. While there are various interpretations of the Quran’s verses, no one can agree that the word “Eqra” may carry a different meaning other than “read”, which is the first command given to Muslims. However, the Taliban are denying this fact and inaccurately interpreting Sharia for their own gains. “I study Sharia Islamic law and argue the Taliban’s order contradicts the rights that Islam and Allah have given us”, says a Kabul university student forced to stay home and disrupt her studies, in an interview with the BBC. She adds; “They have to go to other Islamic countries and see that their actions are not Islamic.”
The Taliban justify their decision by claiming the need to change school and university curricula. Nevertheless, there are fears that changes in the education system in Afghanistan through the new curricula will raise a new generation, who strongly support the Taliban’s extreme ideology, believe that a woman’s place in society is at home, promote suicide attacks and the use of violence to attain political aims, perceive backing other terror groups in the region and beyond as a religious duty, and support, as a common practice, the killing of those who oppose them.
The Taliban’s actions since coming to power contradict promises made during the Doha peace talks, on February 29, 2020. A member of the Taliban’s negotiations team at those talks, Shahabuddin Delawar, stated “Education is the right of women, starting from 1st grade of school up to PhD”. What the Taliban pledged during peace negotiations is fundamentally different to what the group has been doing since seizing power. Taliban officials during the peace talks committed to protect Afghan women’s rights, yet, they have issued decrees of prohibition on women, such as; prohibition on traveling alone, attending school and university, visiting parks, obtaining employment, and having access to their means of sustaining their livelihoods and living as human beings. Taliban rulers, have established the world’s first gender-apartheid system through a most restrictive government, removing women from public life and forcing thousands into exile.
To address what women in Afghan universities are going through, a number of actions can be taken by UK academics and universities. These include: giving Afghan feminist leaders in exile a platform to talk about the deteriorating situation of women in Afghanistan, offering scholarships for Afghan women students to study in the UK, and providing online courses for them to continue their education inside Afghanistan. Seminars and conferences on Afghanistan are needed to place pressure on the UK government to impose conditions on their humanitarian aid to the government of the Taliban as a means of political pressure on the Taliban. Above all, a commitment in academic discourse must be made not to normalise the events in Afghanistan, or dismiss them as a local cultural phenomenon: on the contrary, we must ensure that the voices of women and girls protesting this regime are kept centre-stage, for theirs are the voices that matter most in this story.
By CEID Blogger, on 4 October 2022
As part of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda, governments worldwide have committed to delivering inclusive and equitable high-quality education for all children. India has been no exception. India’s Right to Education Act (RTE) has ensured a quantitative expansion so that all eligible schoolgoing students are brought within the formal education system at the elementary/primary education level . However, government schools continue to suffer from high dropout and low retention rates, leading to questions surrounding the implementation of the SDG agenda. Most research into Indian government schools has also concluded that government education provision is of poor quality. These problems are compounded by an exodus of the middle and lower-middle classes from government schools into private provision. Anecdotal evidence shows that even teachers teaching at government schools often choose a private alternative for their children.
Together with Dr Kusha Anand, CEID’s Marie Lall has just published a book on education policy and practice in Delhi government schools that critically examines these dynamics. The open access volume focuses on the past 6 years, during which Delhi schools have experienced major reforms led by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, which was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2020 on the basis of improved public service provision. Anand and Lall’s book, Delhi’s Education Revolution, explores in depth the connections between the AAP’s policy and practice in this area. The book is available for download free here.
Delhi’s Education Revolution is a rather unique book in that it is based on the voices of 110 Delhi teachers who reflected on their classroom practice and critically discussed how far the changes have indeed improved education for all children, no matter what background they are from. The book aims to show that listening to stakeholder voices is key for the continued success of reform processes. It argues that the AAP reforms have largely delivered higher quality and more appropriate education for a wide section of society. However there have been costs to teachers’ lives and practice, and the children from the poorest sections of society receive a reduced level of education through the practice of setting, in order to improve a school’s and a city’s overall achievement score. The book critically evaluates the AAP government’s education policy through the eyes of those most affected by the changes – the teachers.
Analysis: The history of secret education for girls in Afghanistan and its use as a political symbol
By CEID Blogger, on 31 August 2022
Writing in The Conversation, Professor Elaine Unterhalter (IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society) explores the history and past shortcomings of efforts to educate girls in Afghanistan, ranging from development efforts in the 1960s to secret schools under the Taliban.
In August 2021 the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, and since then secondary education for girls in the country has been banned. However, there have been reports of clandestine girls’ schools operating despite the ban. Teenage girls are reportedly taking extraordinary risks to attend lessons. Their teachers bravely share knowledge, even if they do not have extensive experience or the backup of an education system.
Education for girls was also banned during the previous era of Taliban rule in Afghanistan (1996-2001). In this period, too, girls attended secret schools.
Not much was known about these schools during Taliban rule. A 1997 report noted that the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan supported 125 girls’ schools and 87 co-education primary schools and home schools. An article in the Guardian in July 2001 stated that aid agencies had estimated 45,000 children were attending secret schools.
After the defeat of the Taliban in 2001, the educational work of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), which they carried out during Taliban rule, was much documented.
Before 9/11, there was very limited international knowledge of these secret schools for girls. But after 9/11, the misogynistic actions of the Taliban regarding women’s rights and girls’ education became a pillar of the argument for the US War against Terror.
When visiting Afghanistan in December 2001, UNICEF executive director Carole Bellamy referenced secret schools as part of a call for aid funding. The existence of these schools exerted considerable symbolic power.
Since the 1960s, the education of girls has been promoted in international development and aid policy as a way to limit population, address economic growth, or attend to political stabilisation. Girls and their education have been portrayed as a development intervention and a “good buy” for project funding. The argument runs that when women are educated and in work, they contribute to reducing poverty, enhancing the health of their children, and promoting social and cultural cohesion.
But these policies can fail to address or inquire into the needs, rights or capabilities of girls themselves, or the wider conditions of gender and intersecting inequalities. They are often promoted without any sustained engagement with wider policy goals for gender equality or women’s rights.
A commitment to women’s education can be hampered by nsufficient long-term funding for broader gender equality initiatives, as well as and inadequate representation of gender equality concerns in peace-making discussions. They mean that even when girls return to school in large numbers, practices inside and outside education can still reflect the social divisions and gender inequalities that preceded the conflict.
In November 2001, Laura Bush, the wife of US president George W Bush, made a high profile radio address condemning the “severe repression and brutality against women in Afghanistan”. “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women,” she said. War was justified because of the Taliban’s ban on girls’ access to school. A narrative emerged of the need to “save” Muslim women.
One consequence of this was the risk that conservative groups in Afghanistan could link the education of women and other women’s rights measures to American aggression and colonial or geo-political ambitions – meaning that a future anti-American movement could also look to restrict these rights.
Nevertheless, in the post-Taliban era (2002-2021), a huge expansion of education took place in Afghanistan, with many important initiatives in girls’ education and women’s rights. Profound social divisions remained, though, and many girls still lacked schooling.
The Taliban seizure of power in August 2021 halted the growth of secondary and tertiary education for young women that had taken place over two decades. Promises made by the Taliban about reopening schools in 2022 were retracted.
In contrast to the limited reports on clandestine girls’ schools in the 1990s, many accounts are now circulating of secret schools. The more extensive reporting may come from better opportunities to share information using new technologies, or from the initiatives of educated girls and women.
But, to date, there has been no systematic analysis of these reports. There are reported divisions among the Taliban leadership on how, or under what conditions, girls should be in secondary school and university.
The fragmentary reports mean it is difficult to know who can and cannot attend clandestine schools, what the girls in these schools can and cannot do, and who is financing them.
In the 2000s, education for women became part of the narrative behind the War on Terror. Today, the positioning of girls’ schooling, gender and women’s rights in the process of peacebuilding remains a work in progress.
Key international organisations which oversee the allocation of funding and consult widely on strategic direction regarding education and gender equality are developing more wide-ranging policy on gender equality and women’s rights. An example of this is the UN’s Education Cannot Wait. According to its website, Education Cannot Wait is active in Afghanistan.
But one kind of initiative is seldom enough. Many coordinated processes are needed. These processes of global cooperation and policy direction are cumbersome and far away from the pressing needs and wishes of girls locked out of school in Afghanistan, but they are a necessary step.
The debate continues as to whether girls’ education alone is an approach which will allow other transformations to follow – or whether is just a limited intervention, which can be undertaken without engaging the politics of peacebuilding that would secure a stronger foundation for women’s rights.
This article was originally published in The Conversation on 23 August, 2022.
By qtnvhle, on 11 August 2022
By Nicholas Chiu
BSc Politics and International Relations
The dramatic Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has led to a plethora of humanitarian appeals and databases to catalogue these appeals, leading, paradoxically, to anxiety among ordinary people on how to navigate this information to help Ukraine. Perhaps you are a Ukrainian citizen, or have friends or family living there. Or you may be a concerned citizen whose horizons extend beyond Britain’s borders. You might be unsure of how to help Ukrainians in their time of need. If you were to probe Google for answers, you might discover websites such as WRAL’s list of charitable organizations to support, Charity Watch’s Top-Rated Charities Providing Aid In Ukraine or CNBC’s list of the top-rated charities to help the Ukraine relief effort. Whilst useful and concise in themselves, such lists only provide cursory summaries, lacking breadth and detail. To bridge the information gap and present the information in a more directly accessible way, a team of UCL undergraduate students, myself included, have created an online database that provides critical evidence on charities aiding Ukraine (such as Charity Navigator ratings, methods of donating and past controversies), media sources and journalists covering the war (such as sources of revenue and ownership) and circulating myths.
My own involvement with this database began on the fateful morning of the 24th of February, when I saw the news that Russian troops had crossed the border into Ukraine. Like many of my peers, I was under the myopic assumption that Europe could not, once again, see a conflict involving a major power break out within its borders, at least not within the decade. To us students of international relations, Putin’s flexing of military muscle in 2021 had been no more than posturing for diplomatic concessions. We were gravely mistaken. We woke to the realisation that one man had seized the imperium by thwarting his country’s nascent democratic endeavours and appointing himself dictator perpetuo: dictator for life. His Soviet-red-tinted glasses only filtered through visions of a Ukraine that had once existed under Communist hegemony as a glorious breadbasket of the Soviet Union under Russian control, but it failed to admit the grey and dismal spectres of Ukrainians starving in the man-made Great Famine of 1932-1933 and other divisive narratives that had entrenched Ukraine’s desire for freedom and independence. Putin knew no world order than the one he grew up in, and saw no alternative than to throw a generation of young Russian and Ukrainian soldiers into the meat grinder, as well as anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the crossfire, in an effort to erase Ukrainian statehood.
After days of constantly refreshing news apps and attending solidarity protests on Downing Street, three groups of people would not leave my mind: the Ukrainian soldiers fighting against the Russian army, the Ukrainian civilians caught in a warzone, and the Ukrainian refugees spilling out across the country’s borders. I was plagued by the lingering, reverberating thought that I was not doing enough as an individual to contest this injustice. Therefore, I took the opportunity to materialise my sentiments into action. I joined Students for Ukraine, a project run by Professor Brad Blitz, the Head of the Department of Education, Practice and Society, where I led a team of 7 Politics and International Relations and Philosophy, Politics and Economics students to research pathways for assistance (Emilijia, Maria, Jia Yue, Wynsey, Ingrid and Laurynas).
Together, we created a database congregating data and information on charities, media sources, individual journalists and war myths, conveniently assembled into one Google Sheet. We evaluated the transparency and trustworthiness of 32 charities (as well as 46 media sources and journalists), utilising data from Charity Navigator, a prominent charity assessor, in addition to analysing the charities’ own annual financial statements. The database includes references and all information was cross-checked. Collating the results of our research, we created a leaflet to be posted around campus that appealingly visualised key facts on our top 10 recommended charities supporting Ukraine.
The war is far from over. Ukraine needs our help now. Eventually, when the conflict subsides, Ukraine will yet need our support to rebuild and rehabilitate. It is never too late to donate, and if you are unsure or uncertain where your contribution goes, our database and leaflet are here to assist you.
Life in Limbo: Brad Blitz unpicks the legal and political logic for deporting asylum-seekers from the UK to Rwanda
By CEID Blogger, on 13 June 2022
In June, 2022, High Court Justice Jonathan Swift ruled that the British Home Office’s planned deportation of some 31 asylum-seekers to Rwanda could go ahead, against evidence offered by UNHCR and others that such removal could lead to serious violations of the asylum-seekers’ human rights. These deportations have allegedly been approved out of respect for assurances that the asylum-seekers will be offered protection and a right to remain in Rwanda. However, in his latest piece for the Byline Times, Brad Blitz argues that there is limited legal basis for such assurances, and, worse still, that there is no system in place for follow-up monitoring of the asylum-seekers to be deported by the Home Office. With the first removal flight scheduled for Tuesday, activists are pinning their hopes on the Court of Appeal overturning Swift’s decision. Yet, Blitz cautions against such optimism, since the appeal may only deal with the judge’s decision and not the critical evidence from UNHCR and other human rights authorities that was dismissed in the case. For a full break down of the case and its logical foundations, check out Blitz’s full article here.
By CEID Blogger, on 27 April 2022
By Rodie Garland
When a country is invaded, what are the effects on education – and how can we know? Given the scale of the assault on Ukraine, there is a sense in which it is impossible to assess these effects in their entirety – nationally, socially, and individually. If you’ve fled your home, leaving behind your family’s livelihood and, perhaps, family members; if you’ve been without shelter or water or food; if you’ve suffered trauma – then of course your education will suffer. But this impact is difficult to measure and may not be your foremost concern. The reliance on measurable data to support policy in education and international development is indeed recognised as controversial (see, for example, the work of Sotiria Grek). At the same time, missing elements in the existing data present obstacles to ensuring inclusive and equitable education: something the NORRAG Missing Data project aims to address. We also need to bear in mind that data, and how we use them, is not neutral. When we work with education data, we need to be asking what it is that we are and are not measuring, in what contexts, and with what purposes and consequences.
With all this in mind, there is much data currently being collected that is useful in giving us at least a partial picture of the education impacts of the war in Ukraine. A daily tally is kept of the numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and those leaving the country (respectively 7.7 million and 5.2 million as of 25 April), presenting a top-line indication of the level to which everyday life is disrupted. It is worth pointing out that for many Ukrainians, this did not begin on 24 February: conflict has been ongoing in the east since 2014, with an estimated 1.5 million people internally displaced before the recent invasion. Though none of these figures are perfect, as individuals slip through the cracks in war, they do disproportionately represent women and children: it was estimated, as of 1 April, that 999,500 school-aged children were internally displaced. By 18 April, Save the Children warned that two-thirds of all children in the country had been uprooted from their homes: clearly, an upheaval with enormous consequences, including for schooling.
Along with displacement come the concerns of basic survival that make any kind of learning difficult. Depending on what data are collected, when and by whom, education may or may not feature among these concerns. A survey of IDPs asks adults to report their current needs, selecting from a list of options; the needs reported as most pressing are financial and health-related, with others including clothes and shoes, transportation, information or means of communication (e.g., internet connectivity), food, accommodation and hygiene. Since much education is currently taking place online (see below), and since over half of displaced households contain children, we can speculate that the issues reported here indicate educational impacts.
Other data do seem to place more of an emphasis on children and their schooling, although reliable systems for monitoring and tracking children have also been severely disrupted. Throughout the country, children are experiencing separation from parents, the destruction of family units and the breakup of their communities. The Global Protection Cluster reports that the main issues faced by those living in shelters are a lack of rooms for family units and lack of gender separation, as well as overcrowding, lack of water and lack of electricity. It also identifies the main risks for this population which, alongside exposure to violence, shelling and mines, and family separation, include lack of access to education. Overall, 3.3 million children are estimated to need ‘education in emergency’ assistance.
This level of disruption is caused not only by displacement, but by the destruction of educational institutions themselves. Evidence from eye witnesses, key informants and satellite imagery allows for frequent updates on the total number of educational facilities damaged – 1,237 as of 21 April, with over 9% of educational institutions destroyed completely. There are also reports of at least three instances of schools being used for military purposes, and 14 where they have been used as shelters or for other humanitarian purposes. Using schools for military purposes turns them into military targets, endangering children’s lives, not to mention the damage to educational infrastructure.
While little of the data currently being collected mention gender differences, undoubtedly there are specific risks to girls, as illustrated by the awful news reports of the rape and murder of women and girls in Bucha. While women and girls will not be the only victims, the Global Protection Cluster reports that gender based violence (GBV) is a reality for those who are internally displaced. This comes amidst increased military presence, lack of access to safe shelter and basic goods, and a high risk of trafficking at borders, in a country where even before the war 67% of women reported experiencing some form of GBV after the age of 15. At the same time, there is a warning that the widespread proliferation of light weapons is likely to increase the risk of school-aged youngsters being drawn into armed groups, something that is perhaps most likely to affect boys.
And yet, while the war rages, schools open wherever they can, for face-to-face or online learning. One of the many ‘unprecedenteds’ of the COVID pandemic is a situation where a country like Ukraine now has a developed infrastructure for remote learning, while its children have experience of turning to technology for their education. The Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science (MON) reports that as of 21 April, nearly 90% of schools are operating in some form. Over 12,000 secondary schools have introduced remote learning, with over 3.7 million students taking part in some kind of schooling (out of a total of 14,000 schools with 4.2 million students, excluding Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk). In 14 of 25 regions, all educational institutions are operating, via remote learning; three regions are running remote, blended or face-to-face learning; and at least some schools are running remotely in remaining regions. Kindergartens operate in 15 regions, while most vocational, professional and higher education institutions are running where the local situation permits.
Many children who have left their homes are either taking part in remote learning, or accessing schools in the places where they now live. The MON puts the figure for the latter group at nearly 87,000 (21 April), a growing number. Levels of online learning will vary between regions, but to give some perspective (albeit anecdotally), a teacher contact in Kyiv reports that around 70-80% of students at her school are attending remote lessons. Schools were asked to report data on online attendance up to 14 April, which suggests that more concrete information on participation might soon become available. She also tells me that of those learning remotely, around 85% are in Ukraine, with 15% elsewhere. Indeed, Education Minister Serhiy Shkarlet claims that Ukrainian pupils abroad are prioritising online learning in their home schools, and want to complete the school year with their own teachers. Most Ukrainian students in the Netherlands, he says, are choosing remote learning, with special classes and even schools being set up for them. Ukraine has also asked members of the Standing International Conference of Inspectorates to disseminate information about Ukraine’s online platforms to enable children to access Ukrainian education wherever they are. At an event held recently by NORRAG’s partners the International Parliamentary Network for Education, Serhiy Shkarlet underlined the MON’s work to ensure that learning continues. Such education offers a pathway of resistance: a subject for a future blog post.
One unknown is what becomes of those children who have crossed into Russia. Russia claims that over 863,600 people, including more than 158,170 children, have crossed into its territory since 24 February. While the UN cannot verify these figures, it estimates that as of 17 April, over 522,000 people have travelled to the Russian Federation. There are reports that in some cases people have been subject to forcible deportation, and concerns that Russia is intending to implement the enforced adoption of some Ukrainian children. In any case, those crossing into Russia will include students at all levels of education, and as yet it is hard to guess at the consequences for their educational futures.
Even while schooling continues for the majority of children, we currently know little of how children and adults are experiencing this. International evidence from the pandemic points to inequalities, including gender inequalities, in who accesses online learning. And for children living through war, there are issues that technology alone cannot solve. The very nature of education will need to change: one teacher reports taking her students through breathing exercises to manage their anxiety, while mine risk education is now critical, according to the Education Cluster. Alongside this, it states, must come training for teachers on life skills education, and emotional and psychosocial support – and help for them in their role as care-givers as well as educators. Children attending their usual school between air raids, or adjusting to life in another country, whether in a new school or connecting with familiar faces online, will have vastly different experiences. Understanding all of these, with the help of monitoring and evaluation techniques like AGEE framework, associated with CEID, will help address some of the issues of missing data, and is part of understanding the costs of war.
Rodie Garland is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Education, Practice & Society (EPS) at UCL IOE, where her research focuses on home-school relations. She holds a BA in Russian. The research for this blog was funded by EPS and linked to the work of the AGEE project.
By CEID Blogger, on 28 February 2022
By Alexandra Lewis
In 2009, I was working in Russia on a research project looking at Chechyna. I was threatened (in a roundabout way as these things are done) and shifted my research instead to Somalia and Yemen – two safer places – which I then spent almost a decade looking at as an education and conflict specialist. I have since travelled all over the world, to Afghanistan, Bosnia Herzegovina and beyond. Yet the feeling of something unfinished has never left me. Over the past three years I shifted my focus back to Russia, because the parallels between my ancestral home and the war-torn countries I was studying began screaming to me that they could no longer be ignored. In particular, I saw an extreme securitisation of identity politics emerging, with volatile potential. How countries wage war on domestic populations elsewhere has been informative to me when considering the current assault on Ukraine. However, what we are witnessing today is not Afghanistan, Somalia or Yemen either.
It is easy now, when thinking about “War”, to lean on examples from recent history to try to understand what Ukraine must look like today. Running with this comparison, let me state that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is nothing like, for example, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. We are talking here about a highly trained military operation supported by an immensely sophisticated intelligence apparatus. Moreover, since we are now dealing with the potential absorption of Ukraine into Russian territory or into a Russian sphere of influence, we need to plan ahead of time to work within the Russian repressive architecture of foreign agents laws, censorship and totalitarianism, which brings with it significant dangers for aid recipients. This complicates the humanitarian response so aptly described by my colleague, Brad Blitz, below. To truly understand the needs created by this crisis, we therefore have to look at the bigger picture, which takes us beyond simply Ukraine’s borders to Belarus and Russia.
Last week, we were in all probability looking at the end of Ukraine as a country, and at the least at the end of Zelensky’s Government (which may soon be replaced by a Russian puppet state). Though now we see the resilience of the Ukrainian people to invasion and support incoming from the West, this is still a distinct possibility. We are also looking at the end of Belarusian sovereignty, which Russia has simply swallowed on its way to Ukraine. Finally, and not to be forgotten, we are also witnessing the death of any remaining freedom in Russia: under incoming sanctions and the threat of national security, Putin can completely cut Russians off from the wider world and return the country to full totalitarianism, which he is doing. In one move, Putin has this week effectively destroyed three countries.
This is not Afghanistan, these are not the Taliban
In 2021, prominent Kremlin aid, Vladimir Surkov, famously wrote in an essay that Russia has a social entropy problem. Using metaphors rooted in thermodynamics, Surkov explained that chaos always increases, and that social chaos and political instability follow the same principle. According to him, in order to ensure Russia’s future stability, the country’s social entropy must continuously be exported from the centre to the peripheries, and the easiest way to ensure this is through regular military expansion.
I have spent the last year writing a book on Pre-Conflict Imperialism in Russia: a book on the idea that Putin has deliberately been pushing the Russian people to adopt a new identity based around a continual readiness for war, that Putin leaches off the very idea of war to ensure the continuation of his regime. This trend has been active for a long time, and the invasion of Ukraine has been years in the making. From Putin’s testing of the waters in Crimea in 2014, to the Russian involvement in Syria as a military training exercise writ large, Russia has been continuously investing in the professionalisation and expansion of its armed forces, since their embarrassing performance in Georgia in 2008. At the same time, Russia has been destabilising Ukraine and testing Western reactions to this by feeding conflict and insurgency in the Donbas Basin. Commentators will now say “yes, but what about the supply issues that the Russian army is facing? What about the failure to commit sufficient resources to hold cities in Ukraine?” These to me can only be taken as evidence of incompetence on the part of the state if the aim is to occupy Ukraine. I do not believe that is the end game: to me, war itself and the chaos that it produces are the purpose of this invasion.
But why the long preamble to war?
The long preamble to the invasion, with the mobilisation of forces along the Russo-Ukrainian border for months on end in 2021 and 2022 was immensely costly. It led to speculations on all sides, the raising of opposition voices in Russia, not to mention the logistical and morale costs of housing military units far from home in a state of constant readiness. It could be argued that this was done to provoke Ukraine into firing at Russian personnel, so as to provide Russia with a legitimate justification for attack. That this did not happen is an incredible testimony to the sheer fortitude and strength of will of the Ukrainian people and their servicemen and women. In an awesome show of collective national commitment to peace, the likes of which I do not think we have ever seen before, Ukrainians did not fire a single shot across the border at Russia. It made no difference. That Putin chose to invade regardless implies that he had confidence enough that he could sell this war at home without a need for even this pretext for invasion.
This leads me to conclude that the need for a highly visible build up lay elsewhere. Over the past several years, and since the invasion of Crimea, Russia’s actions have led to a loud discussion of possible sanctions among Western powers in particular, and Putin has taken note. By triggering this discussion, Russia has been able to anticipate the sanctions regime that is now being discussed and prepare its economy and reserves for their imposition. The strength of the Russian economy and its ability to weather crisis has routinely been miscalculated: the standard phrase one hears jokingly applied in this field is that “Russia has the GDP of Texas”, a totally meaningless phrase and a meaningless comparison between a state and a country where costs of living are totally different, and where GDP does not reflect funding to the armed forces and active military personnel, whose loyalty is carefully financed. It is also meaningless in a context where the suffering of ordinary people under sanctions – and make no mistake here, it will be ordinary people and not the elites who suffer their impacts – simply does not factor into state decisions.
A long preamble to war allowed Russia to anticipate the international response to their takeover of Ukraine, plan for it, and, importantly, secure relative non-intervention from China.
Sanctions and propaganda
Many commentators are stating that Putin’s popularity will fall when sanctions hit the Russian people and body bags start being sent home from Ukraine. But body bags from distant wars have rarely led societies to turn on their Governments (we can count the cases). Given that Russia has banned non-state media, declared online rigorous and independent journalists to be foreign agents, and imprisoned, murdered or chased out its opposition parties, the full telecommunications apparatus of the state will now be turned towards converting body bags into fuel for budding hatreds between Russians and Ukrainians, and it will have a pretty clear and open field in which to do so. Let us keep in mind here that in the build-up to war, the belief was already spreading across Russia through state news channels that this confrontation has been orchestrated by NATO, not Putin. There are some incredibly brave Russians protesting in cities across the country, despite the arrests, despite the repressions: but the propaganda machine has largely been effective.
Sanctions and counter-sanctions will assist the Kremlin in maintaining its lie about the “special operation in Ukraine”: Putin can now close airports, sever business ties between Russians and the West, prevent travel, move the country from an internet to an intranet if he wants to and ban YouTube, arrest even more dissidents, and bring down the iron curtain, all the while blaming these moves on the cruel international community and its unfair decision to cut off Russia from the world. We are already seeing debates in Latvia, Estonia and Belgium about banning all Russians from travelling to these countries: these are places that have traditionally offered safe harbour to those fleeing Putin’s repressions, who now have fewer and fewer avenues through which to run. Added to this is the reality that Russia is not comprised of ethnic Russians alone – a conveniently unremembered truth in Europe. There are no “pure” Russian families there (indeed I would argue there is no such thing as purity anywhere), and yet there is a long history of targeting ethnic and religious groups for repression on the basis of identity. The borders must stay open, at the very least in the short term for mixed Russo-Ukrainian families to get out.
Three birds with one stone
Even as Russia uses this war to entrench Putin’s totalitarian dictatorship and seize large chunks of Ukraine, it is also finalising its soft annexation of Belarus, whose shell of remaining sovereignty is now crumbling to dust before our eyes. This brings all three territories under Russia’s legal and security frameworks, which means: those receiving assistance from the international community through financing and external support may very soon face accusations under the foreign agents law, which has already been used to shut down everyone from NGOs to newspapers in Russia. Russia’s military campaign has been implemented hand in hand with a large scale information crack down, with restrictions on internet freedom, Twitter and Facebook, alongside threats of closing down Telegram. Russia is working hard to control the narrative at home and will bend its will to doing the same in any Ukrainian territory it takes over, which will mean targeting in the first instances organisations with ties to Western funding.
We must continue to donate to and help these organisations, even as we do so with eyes open, knowing that this danger may be coming. But we must do so while preparing to help colleagues to get out of Ukraine if they need to. The British decision to suspend visas to Ukrainian nationals this week is utterly disgusting in this regard. I must repeat here: this is not Afghanistan, these are not the Taliban. The Russian Government will absolutely have the capacity in place to find and punish threatening institutions that it sees receiving funding from abroad. And yet despite this fact, we must continue to help Ukraine, and we must widen the net of support: we must help Ukrainian colleagues flee for their lives in the immediate moment and finance those humanitarian organisations choosing to stay behind, but we should also prepare to help colleagues do the same in Belarus and Russia tomorrow.