Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

By Yasmine Sherif
NEW YORK, Jun 13 2024 (IPS-Partners)

Few will disagree with the nearly universal concern that we – the human family – are once more faced with an era of darkness. An era whose burdens are mainly carried on the tiny shoulders of crises-affected children and adolescents, their teachers and families, all left furthest behind.

Two years ago, Save the Children issued a report estimating that 468 million children were living in, or fleeing from, conflict zones. The past two years have only increased this figure with new conflicts, climate disasters and forced displacement. The light of hope enshrined in international law, including human rights law and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is slowly dying. The light of hope to arise from protracted crises and sudden disasters through an education is fading further away for millions upon millions of young people.

In the Middle East, schoolyards are turned into graveyards for Palestinian children and their teachers, others deeply traumatized, maimed or orphaned. In Sudan, 18 million children are out of school, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, 9 out of 10 children cannot read and understand a simple text by age 10. In Afghanistan, a generation of adolescent girls are prohibited from attending school beyond the 6th grade.

In Latin America, children and their families flee instability in Venezuela, disrupting their education. In Haiti, children cannot attend school and live in constant fear of brutal attacks by armed gangs. As we highlight in this month’s high-level interview with Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti: “The instability in Haiti continues to undermine education. Frequent disruptions in educational services have posed significant challenges in accessing schools.”

In Myanmar, the Rohingya continue to be persecuted, while the refugees across the border cannot attend the public education system. And in Europe, war rages on in Ukraine, pushing Ukrainian children into harms’ way rather than into the safety of schools.

The distance between ‘the haves and the have-nots’ continues to grow larger. According to the World Economic Forum: “The inequality gap is widening, with more than two-thirds (69%) of global wealth held by developed nations, while less than a third can be found in the developing world.”

And while millions of young people in the Global North celebrate graduations this month at high schools, colleges and universities, a quarter of a billion children and adolescents across crisis-impacted countries in the Global South are not even able to access early childhood development and the basic 12 years of education.

The darkness is creeping into every corner of our society. Still, rather than raging against the dying light, as the writer and poet Thomas Dylan once urged us to do, we sink deeper into a dark abyss by spending resources on destructive wars – rather than on the enlightenment and hope of education.

We seem bent on extinguishing the light of justice, peace and security for all – with an emphasis on all. For, as Martin Luther King Jr. said: “It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people.”

We must “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Indeed, we must rekindle the light whose rays illuminate and transform. If not, what is the alternative?

Yasmine Sherif is Executive Director Education Cannot Wait (ECW)


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