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Abrogation in Islam: the Uniqueness of Duality

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Jamal Badawi, concludes his propagating claims in his e-mail to Robert Spencer, on February 14 2005, by declaring: “Those who erroneously claimed that all such definitive verses have all been ‘abrogated’ by what they called ‘the verse of the sword’ were mistaken and failed to give any definitive evidence of their claims.

There is no single verse in the Qur’an properly interpreted in its context and historical circumstances that ever allowed the Muslim to fight non-Muslims simply because they are non-Muslims…”

Well, even if Badawi ignores the 109 verses that call for violence of Jihad and slaughtering against the infidels and hundreds of verses that call for incitement and hatred against the other, he still deceives and misleads in his propagation. Contrary to his words, the mild verses that call for avoidance and against retaliation are all from the Meccan period and were all abrogated, nullified and rendered void when Muhammad became strong and victorious at Medina. Western politicians, members of the academia and the media are not only unaware and perhaps ignorant of this reality, just because they don’t learn, but at the same time disseminate, intentionally or unintentionally, the tidings of the Islamic propaganda.

When one opens the Qur’an, he sees at the top of the page in brackets the words Makki or Madani, meaning Sûrah from Meccan period or Medinan period. This differentiation is according to Islamic exegesis, since the Qur’an is organized neither chronologically nor topically but in order of the length of the Sûwar: from longest to shortest. The line of differentiation was in September 622, when Muhammad ran away from Mecca and went to Yathrib (later called Medina, or Madinat al-Nabī). This event was so significant in Muslim history that it is called Hijrah, meaning emigration, but also ‘separation,’ ‘breaking of relations.’

Most importantly, it marks the beginning of the Muslim Calendar. This is something to bear in mind concerning Islamic doctrine and teaching. Muhammad began his prophecy from year 610 in Mecca. The total majority, 90 Sûwar of the Qur’an, out of 114, are from Meccan period. Yet, Islamic exegetes preferred the Hijrah as the founding event of Islamic history. The reason is clear: at Mecca, after 12 years of preaching Muhammad had a total 80 believers and the Muslims were weak and persecuted. Only at Medina, Muhammad became the leader of a religion, a military hero who fought his enemies at the battleground and won over. The Medinan Sûwar, only 24 in number, reflect this reality, being much more belligerent and warmongering, and the Calendar emphasizes this reality: they are more important.

However, from Islamic perspective, it was essential to find out the exact chronology and the historical settings of the Qur’an Sûwar, as the order of their revelation is not known from reading the Qur’an. This problem was recognized by early Muslim scholars who devoted much attention to it. They have investigated this realm and developed it almost as a science called Asbāb al-Nuzûl, “the causes of descend,” the circumstances and reasons of revelation of the Qur’an’s Sûwar.

For the Muslims the Qur’an is miraculous (I’jāz) and has been revealed for all times and situations from the beginning of history to the end of the world. However, the many repetitions in the Qur’an, the arbitrary order, the mixture of styles and genres are indicative of human process in its creation. The Qur’an being collated piecemeal, still exacerbates the determination of the chronology of the verses and their orderly appearance. From here the principle of abrogation (al-Nāsikh wal-Mansûkh) has developed. The Arabic words ‘Nāsikh’ and ‘Mansûkh’ are derived from ‘n.s.kh.’, means ‘to abolish, to replace, to withdraw, to abrogate’. It appears four times in the Qur’an.

Arthur Jeffery explains: The Qur’an is unique among sacred scriptures in teaching a doctrine of abrogation according to which later pronouncements of the Prophet abrogate, i.e.: declare null and void, his earlier pronouncements. The importance of knowing which verses abrogate others has given rise to the Qur’anic science known as ‘Nāsikh wa-Mansûkh,’ i.e. the Abrogator and the Abrogated. So, rather than attempting to explain away the inconsistencies in passages giving regulations for the Muslim community, Qur’an scholars and jurists came to acknowledge the differences while arguing that the latest verse on any controversial subject abrogates all earlier verses that contradicted it.

According to a Hadīth: the Messenger of Allah abrogated some of his commands by others, just as the Qur’an abrogates some part of it with the other. Muhammad was accustomed to stating something to his followers with the claim that it was revealed to him from Allah, then later on he would change it and tells them that Allah had invalidated it. The Qur’an is confusing and there are revelations which might have been forgotten, changed or eliminated. There is no agreement even to which was the first Sûrah to be revealed to Muhammad (Sûrat al-A’laq, 96 or Sûrat al-Muddaththir, 74). One example of the jumbled chronology is that Sûwar 2:193 and 2:216, 2:217 were revealed just after Muhammad arrived in Medina, about six years before Sûwar 2:190–2:192 were revealed. Yet Sûrah 2:193 was inserted to follow 2:190-192.

What are the Qur’anic sources of abrogation?

When we cancel a message, or throw it into oblivion, we replace it with one better or one similar. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things? (Sûrat al-Baqarah, 2:106).

When we replace a message with another, and Allah knows best what he reveals, they say: you have made it up. Yet, most of them do not know (Sûrat al-Nahl, 16:101).

Allah abrogates or confirms whatsoever he will, for he has with him the Book of the Books (Sûrat al-Ra’d, 13:39).

If we pleased we could take away what we have revealed to you. Then you will not find anyone to plead for it with us (Sûrat Bani Isrā’īl, 17:86).

There is also references in the Hadīth:

“The Prophet said, ‘If I take an oath and later find something else better than that, then I do what is better and expiate my oath'” (Sahīh Bukhāri, 7:427).

“The Prophet said, ‘It is a bad thing that some of you say, ‘I have forgotten such-and-such verse of the Qur’an.’ For indeed, I have been caused to forget it. So you must keep on reciting the Qur’an because it escapes from the hearts of men faster than a runaway camel'” (Sahīh Bukhāri, 6:550).

The assertion of the scholar Ali Dashti is explains the problems:

“It must always be borne in mind that most of the Qur’anic laws and ordinances were formulated in response to random incidents and petitions from aggrieved persons. There are inconsistencies in them and in the reasons that there are abrogating and abrogated ordinances….

Muslim exegetes agreed that Muhammad was prepared to change his mind, vows, and rules according to the circumstances. Ahmad von Denffer, a German converted to Islam exegete, summarizes the issue that the knowledge of al-‘Nāsikh wal-Mansûkh bears important perspectives: It is concerned with the correct and exact application of the laws of Allah; it is one of the important pre-conditions for interpretation (Tafsīr) of the Qur’an and the application of the Islamic law (Sharī’ah); it sheds light on the historical development of the Islamic legal code; and it helps to understand the immediate meaning of the verses concerned.

According to the narration of Ibn `Abbas, one of the most acclaimed transmitter of the Qur’an and the Hadīth:

“Sometimes the revelation used to descend on the Prophet during the night and then he forgot it during daytime, thus Allah sent down this verse’ [2:106]. Such behavior led the infidels to say that Muhammad was preaching contradictory and opposite commands. He does not receive inspiration from Allah, for he changes his mind whenever he wishes. Thus, this verse was written… Muhammad used to order something and then change it the next day whenever he found it too difficult to be implemented. Lastly, Muhammad did not want to embarrass the men around him who memorized his sayings.”

Yusuf Ali said that Sûrat al-Baqarah, 2:106 means that Allah’s message from age to age is always the same, but its form may differ according to the needs and exigencies of time. There is nothing derogatory in this if we believe in progressive revelation. This does not mean that eternal principles change. As about Sûrat al-Nahl, 16:101 Yusuf Ali claims: “The doctrine of progressive revelation does not mean that Allah’s fundamental law changes. It is not fair to charge the Prophet with forgery because the message, as revealed to him, is different from that revealed before, when the core of the truth is the same, for it comes from Allah.”

Abd al-Majid Daryabadi, Pakistani exegete and Qur’an commentator, refers to Sûrat al-Baqarah, 2:106:

“There is nothing to be ashamed of in the doctrine of certain laws, temporary or local, being superseded or abrogated by certain other laws, permanent and universal, enacted by the same law-giver… Even divine laws may be subject to divine improvement…

However, today Islamic propagators, fearing the implications of abrogated verses on their propaganda and Da`wah, act to dismiss the doctrine all in all. In an Islamic internet site, one named A. Muhammed refutes the abrogation principle, by attacking the “corrupted interpretation the verses: 2:106 and 16:101.” To this day, he claims, Jews and Christians accuse Muhammad of fabricating the Qur’an, and the case is substituting one verse of the Qur’an with another. Muhammad Asad, a converted Jew, has the same attitude: “the ‘doctrine of abrogation’ has no basis in historical fact, and must be rejected.” The Ahamadiyah sect also joins this conception.  

Yet, to this group of deniers, Hibat-Allah Ibn Salamah (d. 1019), one of the Islamic scholars and abrogation founders, would have reacted by declaring: “these people have deviated from the truth, and by the virtue of their lies have turned away from Allah… All verses about forgiving the infidels are abrogated unanimously. Anyone who engages in the scientific study of the Qur’an without having mastered the doctrine of abrogation is ‘deficient’ (Naqis).

Muslim exegetes noticed that the number of verses that are considered to have been abrogated increased between the eighth and eleventh centuries (al-Zuhri: 42 abrogated verses, al-Nahhas: 138, Ibn Salama: 238, al-Farsi: 248). However, Suyuti confirmed only twenty abrogated verses which are acknowledged by all exegetes.

Andrew Rippin states that although the companions of Muhammad are reported to have discussed Naskh and even to have disagreed over the abrogation of verses, references are relatively infrequent. The number of verses that are considered to have been abrogated increased dramatically between the eighth and eleventh centuries. Whether there are more than 200 abrogation or only five, it is almost a consensus among classical and most important Muslim exegetes that it exists and had much influence on understanding the revelation of Qur’an.

The following list is taken from al-Tabari Qur’an commentary: a) 3:85 abrogates 2:62 and 5:69. b) 9:29 abrogates 2:109. c) 2:185 abrogates 2:184. d) 9:36 abrogates 2:217 and 45:14. e) 5:90 abrogates 2:219. The provision of this verse concerning alcoholic drinks and gambling has been abrogated by verse 5:90. f) 4:12 abrogates 2:240. g) 24:2 abrogates 4:15-16. The provision of this verse ordaining lashing for the unmarried and stoning to death for the married, when four witnesses testify to the crime.

Concerning types of abrogation, Ibn Salamah delineates four kinds:

a) Forty Three Sûwar that were not abrogated at all (neither Nāsikh nor Mansûkh): 1, 12, 36, 49, 55, 57, 61, 62, 66, 67, 68, 69, 71, 72, 77, 78, 79, 82, 83, 84, 85, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104, 105, 106, 107,109, 108, 110, 112, 113, 114.

b) Six Sûwar that maintained the authority of the abrogator, but their original wording was not abrogated (with Nāsikh but no Mansûkh): 48, 59, 63, 64, 65, 87

c) Forty Sûwar in which their wording had been abrogated, but maintained their authority for applications (with Mansûkh but no Nāsikh): 6, 7 10, 11, 13, 15 16 17, 18, 20, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 51, 53, 54, 60, 68, 70, 74, 75, 76, 77, 86, 80, 88, 109.

d) Twenty five Sûwar that have had both their authority for applications and their wording abrogated (with both Nāsikh and Mansûkh): 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 14, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 33, 34, 40, 42, 51, 52, 56, 58, 73, 103, and 108.

Suyuti, makes the following typology: 25 Sûwar in which there are verses both abrogating and abrogated: 2,3,4,5,8,9,14,18,19,21,22,24,25,26,33,34,40,42,51,52,56,

58,73,108. That is, out of 114 Sûwar of the Qur’an, 71 Sûwar, comprising 62% have had verses changed or deleted.

The most important verse and the greatest abrogator (Nāsikh) of the Qur’an verses is Sûrat al-Barā’ah, 9:5, called “the verse of the sword.” It has cancelled and replaced in Toto 124 mild verses:

2:62; 2:83; 2:109; 2:139; 2:190; 2:191; 2:192; 2:217; 2:256; 3:20; 3:28; 4:15; 4: 16; 4: 63; 4:80; 4:81; 4:84; 4:90; 4:91; 5:2; 5:13; 5:99; 5:102; 6:66; 6:70; 6:91; 6:104; 6:106; 6:107; 6:108; 6:112; 6:135; 6:137; 6:158; 7:183; 7:199; 8:61; 8:73; 10:20; 10:41; 10:46; 10:99; 10:102; 10:108; 10:109; 11:12; 11:121; 11:122; 13:40; 15:3; 15:85; 15:89; 15:94; 16:82; 16:106; 16:125; 16:127; 17:54; 19:39; 19:75; 19: 84; 20:130; 20:136; 22:68; 23:54; 23:96; 24:54; 27:92; 28:55; 29:46; 29:50; 30:60; 32:30; 33:48; 34:25; 35:23; 36:76; 37:174; 37:175; 37:178; 37:179; 38:70; 38:88; 39:3; 39:15; 39:39; 39:40; 40:12; 41:34; 42:6; 42:6; 42:15; 42:48; 43:14; 43:83; 43:98; 44:59; 45:14; 46:35; 47:4; 50:29; 50:39; 50:45; 52: 48; 53:29; 53:39; 54:6; 58:8; 58:9; 58:11; 60:8; 60:9; 68:44; 68:48; 70:42; 73:10; 74:11; 76:8; 76:24; 86:17; 88:22; 88:23; 88:24; 93:22; 95:8; 109:6.

According to Ibn Kathir in his commentary to 9:5, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq used this and other verses as a proof for fighting those who refrained from paying the Zakāt. These verses allowed fighting all the peoples unless and until they embrace Islam and implement its rulings and obligations.

“It is recorded that Ibn `Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said, I have been commanded to fight the people until they testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. This honorable Ayah was called the Ayat al-Sayf [the verse of the Sword], about which al-Dahhak bin Muzahim said, ‘It abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term. Ibn `Abbas commented: ‘No idolater had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Barā’ah was revealed.

This is the reason why the issue of abrogation has become a serious matter in contemporary political debate conducted by the Muslim propagators, concerning jihadi terrorism and the homicide bombings phenomenon. They clearly sense that their propaganda war towards the free world as if Islam is peaceful and compassionate is shaky and slippery, and for that they deny any traces of the abrogation doctrine. Conquering the world, Dār al-Islām against Dār al-Harb, and the perpetuated war against the infidels, all these are not only slogans, but religious duty to be accomplished according to the power Muslims can master.

Therefore, since abrogation was legitimate and had been practiced in the Qur’an and Hadīth, there is no need to argue with the false fraudulent Islamic propaganda concerning Jihad being spiritual and Islam being peace-loving. Jihad means terrorism, aggressiveness and violence implemented against all infidels. The contemporary horrendous policy toward all the minorities in the Middle East reflects this reality. The crimes against humanity such as genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass-slaughtering perpetrated against Muslims and non-Muslims is pervasive.

Surah 9 is most important concerning the issues of abrogation and the policy of Jihad against all infidels. It is the only Sûrah without the Bismillāh (“in the name of Allah, most benevolent, ever-merciful”) opening, probably for its military Jihadi and violent character. For that, some Muslim exegetes call it “the Ultimatum,” al-Barā’ah. It was revealed after the conquest of Mecca in January 630. al-Suyuti listed Sûrah 9 second to the last, while Bukhari claimed that “The last Sûrah that was revealed to Muhammad by Allah was Sûrat al-Barā’ah [9].” Consequently, since this Sûrah contains the largest amount of violent passages, it abrogates all the relevant Qur’an passages from earlier periods.

Bukhari, in the chapter headed “‘The statement of Allah” related to Sûrat al-Barā’ah, 9:5, claims:

“Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle said: I have been ordered to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Mohammad is Allah’s apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give obligatory charity. If they perform all that, then they save their lives and property from me, and then their reckoning will be done by Allah.”

“Paradise is under the blades of the swords… Our Prophet told us about the message of our Lord ‘… whoever amongst us is killed, will go to Paradise.’ ‘Umar asked the prophet, ‘Is it not true that pure men who are killed will go to Paradise and their enemies will go to Hell-fire? The Prophet said, ‘Yes’.”

Muhsin Khan, the translator of Sahīh Bukhāri, into English, claims that Allah revealed Sûrat al- Barā’ah in order to discard all obligations, and commanded the Muslims to fight against all the pagans as well as against the People of the Scriptures, if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizyah with willing submission and feel subdued [9:29]. The Muslims were not permitted to abandon the fighting against them and to reconcile with them and to suspend hostilities against them while they are strong and have the ability to fight against them.

For Ibn Kathir it is clear: as Jihad involves death and the killing of men: “Allah draws our attention to the fact that unbelief, polytheism of the infidels and their avoidance of Allah’s path (Fitnah) are far worse than killing.” Here is the permission to kill all infidels and the license of free violence and terrorism for the Muslims through all generations. Jihad is the right way, and it is permissible for the believers just because the others are infidels.

Ibn Hazm deals in detail in the Qur’an wherein there appears to be conflict and/or contradiction. Through every Sûrah, he points out verses which have been canceled and the verses which replace it. He notes that there are 114 versus that call for tolerance and patience which have been canceled and replaced by Sûrat al-Taubah, 9:5. Islam is unanimous about fighting the infidels and forcing them to Islam, or submitting them to Islamic governance, or being killed.

The contemporary Islamic al-Azhar influential scholar, Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti, says in his well-known research:

“The verse (9:5) does not leave any room in the mind to conjecture about what is called defensive war. This verse asserts that holy war which is demanded in Islamic law is not a defensive war, because it could legitimately be an offensive war. That is the apex and most honorable of all Holy wars. Its goal is the exaltation of the word of Allah, the construction of Islamic society and establishment of Allah’s kingdom on Earth regardless the means. It is legal to carry on an offensive Holy War.”

New Social Compact

Demand for Investigation of COVID-19 gained momentum

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Human history is full of natural disasters like Earthquakes, Floods, Fires, Vacanos, Drought, Famine, Pandemic, etc. Some of them were really huge and have been damaged a lot. The outbreak of diseases was also very common in the past, like Spanish Flu, Tuberculosis, Cholera, Ebola, SARS, Middle-East-Virus, etc. However, the most damaging in recent history is COVID-19.

According to Worldometer, the latest data reveal that Coronavirus Cases has reached :

193,422,021, and death toll touched: 4,151,655. However, these are the official data provided by each individual country to Worldometer. The actual data is much more, as some countries have limited resources and could not test their population on a bigger scale, whereas few countries hide the actual data to save face, like India. Prime Minister Modi has mishandled the Pandemic and politicized it. His extremist approach toward minorities and political opponents has worsened the situation. He is afraid, if the public comes to know the actual disasters, he may lose political popularity and have to leave the office. Unofficial sources on groud estimate the actual figures are almost ten times higher. He has taken strict measures to hide the actual data and control media on reporting facts.

Whatever the actual data, even the official data shows a big disaster. Almost all nations became the victim of it and suffered heavily. The loss of human lives and the economic loss have made the whole World think seriously.

It is time to investigate the origin of COVID-19. There are many theories, and some are part of the blame game and politics, without proper investigations and reliable evidence. The World is so much polarized that it is very difficult to believe any side of the views and blames. Under this scenario, it is the World Health Organization (WHO) responsibility to conduct a transparent investigation and reach the source of COVID-19. It is believed that the whole World may trust WHO.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian demanded on Wednesday that the United States show transparency and conduct a thorough investigation into its Fort Detrick laboratory and other biological labs overseas over the origins of COVID-19 in response to appeals from people in China and around the World. By Wednesday afternoon, an open letter published on Saturday asking the World Health Organization to probe Fort Detrick had garnered nearly 5 million signatures from Chinese netizens.

“The soaring number reflects the Chinese people’s demands and anger at some people in the US who manipulate the origin-tracing issue for political reasons,” Zhao said at a regular news briefing in Beijing.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “cease and desist order” in July 2019 to halt research at Fort Detrick that involved dangerous organisms like the Ebola virus. The same month, a “respiratory outbreak” of unknown cause saw more than 60 residents in a Northern Virginia retirement community become ill. Later that year, Maryland, where Fort Detrick is based, witnessed a doubling of the number of residents who developed a respiratory illness related to vaping.

But the CDC never released information about the shutdown of the lab’s deadly germ research operations, citing “national security reasons”. “An investigation into Fort Detrick is long-overdue, but the US has not done it yet, so the mystery remains unsolved,” Zhao said, adding that was a question the US must answer regarding the tracing of the origins of COVID-19.

There are 630,000 of its citizens lost to the Pandemic. The US should take concrete measures to investigate the origins of the virus at home thoroughly, discover the reason for its inadequate response to the Pandemic, and punish those who should be held accountable. Especially in the initial days, the mishandling of the Pandemic by then-President Trump was a significant cause of the rapidly spreading of the virus, which must be addressed adequately. Washington remains silent whenever Fort Detrick is mentioned. It seeks to stigmatize and demonize China under the pretext of origin-tracing.

It appealed that the WHO may come forward and conduct through research and investigation in a professional, scientific, and transparent manner to satisfy the whole World.

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How to eliminate Learning Poverty

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Children learn more and are more likely to stay in school if they are first taught in a language that they speak and understand. Yet, an estimated 37 percent of students in low- and middle-income countries are required to learn in a different language, putting them at a significant disadvantage throughout their school life and limiting their learning potential. According to a new World Bank report Loud and Clear: Effective Language of Instruction Policies for Learning, effective language of instruction (LoI) policies are central to reducing Learning Poverty and improving other learning outcomes, equity, and inclusion.

Instruction unfolds through language – written and spoken – and children learning to read and write is foundational to learning all other academic subjects.  The Loud and Clear report puts it simply: too many children are taught in a language they don’t understand, which is one of the most important reasons why many countries have very low learning levels.

Children most impacted by such policies and choices are often disadvantaged in other ways – they are in the bottom 40 percent of the socioeconomic scale and live in more remote areas.  They also lack the family resources to address the effects of ineffective language policies on their learning. This contributes to higher dropout rates, repetition rates, higher Learning Poverty, and lower learning overall.

“The devastating impacts of COVID-19 on learning is placing an entire generation at risk,” says Mamta Murthi, World Bank Vice President for Human Development. “Even before the pandemic, many education systems put their students at a disadvantage by requiring children to learn in languages they do not know well – and, in far too many cases, in languages they do not know at all. Teaching children in a language they understand is essential to recover and accelerate learning, improve human capital outcomes, and build back more effective and equitable education systems.”

The new LoI report notes that when children are first taught in a language that they speak and understand, they learn more, are better placed to learn other languages, are able to learn other subjects such as math and science, are more likely to stay in school, and enjoy a school experience appropriate to their culture and local circumstances. Moreover, this lays the strongest foundation for learning in a second language later on in school. As effective LoI policies improve learning and school progression, they reduce country costs per student and, thus, enables more efficient use of public funds to enhance more access and quality of education for all children.

“The language diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa is one of its main features – while the region has 5 official languages, there are 940 minority languages spoken in Western and Central Africa and more than 1,500 in Sub-Saharan Africa, which makes education challenges even more pronounced,” says Ousmane Diagana, World Bank Regional Vice President for Western and Central Africa. “By adopting better language-of-instruction policies, countries will enable children to have a much better start in school and get on the right path to build the human capital they need to sustain long-term productivity and growth of their economies.” 

The report explains that while pre-COVID-19, the world had made tremendous progress in getting children to school, the near-universal enrollment in primary education did not lead to near-universal learning. In fact, before the outbreak of the pandemic, 53 percent of children in low- and middle-income countries were living in Learning Poverty, that is, were unable to read and understand an age-appropriate text by age 10. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the figure was closer to 90 percent. Today, the unprecedented twin shocks of extended school closures and deep economic recession associated with the pandemic are threatening to make the crisis even more dire, with early estimates suggesting that Learning Poverty could rise to a record 63 percent. These poor learning outcomes are, in many cases, a reflection of inadequate language of instruction policies.

“The message is loud and clear.  Children learn best when taught in a language they understand, and this offers the best foundation for learning in a second language,” stressed Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education. “This deep and unjust learning crisis requires action. Investments in education systems around the world will not yield significant learning improvements if students do not understand the language in which they are taught. Substantial improvements in Learning Poverty are possible by teaching children in the language they speak at home.”

The new World Bank policy approach to language of instruction is guided by 5 principles:

1. Teach children in their first language starting with Early Childhood Education and Care services through at least the first six years of primary schooling.

2. Use a student’s first language for instruction in academic subjects beyond reading and writing.

3.  If students are to learn a second language in primary school, introduce it as a foreign language with an initial focus on oral language skills.

4. Continue first language instruction even after a second language becomes the principal language of instruction.

5. Continuously plan, develop, adapt, and improve the implementation of language of instruction policies, in line with country contexts and educational goals.

Of course, these language of instruction policies need to be well integrated within a larger package of policies to ensure alignment with the political commitment and the instructional coherence of the system.

This approach will guide the World Bank’s financing and advisory support for countries to provide high-quality early childhood and basic education to all their students. The World Bank is the largest source of external financing for education in developing countries – in fiscal year 2021, it broke another record and committed $5.5 billion of IBRD and IDA resources in new operations and, in addition, committed $0.8 billion of new grants with GPE financing, across a total of 60 new education projects in 45 countries.

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World leaders must fully fund education in emergencies and protracted crises

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Many schools in Afghanistan have suffered the effects of long-term conflict. ©UNICEF/Marko Kokic

During June’s UN Security Council High-Level Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, leaders from across the world stood up to call for expanded support for education in emergencies to protect vulnerable children and youth enduring armed conflicts, climate change-related disasters, forced displacement and protracted crises.

In our collective race to leave no child behind and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in just nine short years, now is the time to translate these universal values and human rights into action.

The will is there. Nations across the globe, UN leaders and other key stakeholders stood up to address the horrific attacks on education happening on a daily basis and called for increased funding for organizations working to ensure crisis-affected children have access to safe, quality education.

Irish President Michael Higgins focused on education, protection and accountability in his address.

“I am sure that we can all agree that it is morally reprehensible that 1 in every 3 children living in countries affected by conflict or disaster is out of school. Schools should be protected, be a safe shelter and space for learning and development,” said Higgins. “Ireland prioritizes access to education in emergencies. We have committed to spend €250 million on global education by 2024. That is why we are launching the Girls Fund to support grassroots groups led by girls, advancing gender equality in their own communities.”

Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, highlighted support from France to Education Cannot Wait, as well as the importance of protection for children caught in emergencies.

“The socio-economic consequences of the pandemic and school closures put children at greater risk: inequalities are increasing in all regions of the world. Acts of domestic violence, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and school dropout have increased,” said de Rivière. “School closures increase recruitment by armed groups as well as child labor. Here, as everywhere, girls also have specific vulnerabilities. I am thinking in particular of the risk of early and forced marriage. For its part, France will continue to play an active role and promote the universal endorsement of the Paris Principles and Commitments. In the field, we support projects that guarantee access to education in emergency situations, notably the Education Cannot Wait Fund.”

Children under attack

The number of grave violations against children rose to 19,000 in 2020 according to the UN Secretary-General’s Report on Children in Armed Conflict, released in May 2021. To put this number in context, that’s over 50 girls and boys every day that are killed or maimed, recruited and used as soldiers, abducted, sexually violated, attacked in a school or hospitals, or denied their humanitarian access to things like food and water. 

The numbers are staggering. Last year, more than 8,400 children and youth were killed or maimed in ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Another 7,000 were recruited and used as fighters, mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and Syria. With COVID-19 straining budgets and humanitarian support for child protection, abductions rose by 90 per cent last year, while rape and other forms of sexual violence shot up 70 per cent.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the need to support the Safe Schools Declaration and the Children in Armed Conflict mandate in his address to the UN Security Council.

“We are also seeing schools and hospitals constantly attacked, looted, destroyed, or used for military purposes, with girls’ education and health facilities targeted disproportionately. As we mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Children in Armed Conflict mandate, its continued relevance is sadly clear and it remains a proven tool for protecting the world’s children,” said Guterres. 

This is a vast human tragedy playing out across the globe. And despite efforts to support the Safe Schools Declaration, to re-imagine education during the COVID-19 pandemic and to align forces to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we seem to be backsliding on our commitments.

Just imagine being a mother and learning that your daughter will not be coming home from school today. That she was abducted, along with 150 other students at their school in Nigeria. Imagine seeing your son, Sabir, lose his leg after being shot by armed gunmen in South Sudan. Imagine being a Rohingya girl like Janet Ara, who hid in forests, forged rivers and is now seeking a better life and opportunity through an education in the refugee camps of Bangladesh.

Imagine the trauma and terror … now imagine the opportunity.

A wake-up call

If we can come together to give every girl and boy on the planet access to a quality education, we can build a more peaceful, secure, humane and prosperous world.

Before COVID-19 hit, we calculated that at least 75 million children and youth caught in crisis and emergencies were being denied their right to an education. But with schools closed and many children at risk of never returning to the classroom, that number has jumped to around 128 million. That’s more than the total population of the United Kingdom. That’s more than the total populations of Canada, Denmark and Norway combined.

Denying these children their right to a quality education perpetuates cycles of poverty, violence, displacement and chaos.

As the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) offers a new approach to break these negative cycles for good.

This means embracing a New Way of Working that brings in actors from across all sectors – national governments, donors, development, humanitarian response and education actors, national and local civil society, the private sector and more – to break down silos and work together to deliver whole-of-child solutions for whole-of-society problems.

In doing so we are bridging the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. Through ground-breaking collective action with partners across the globe, ECW has already launched multi-year resilience programmes and first emergency responses across more than 30 countries and crisis contexts and is on track to do more.

By doing so we can replace the cycle of poverty, violence, displacement and chaos with a cycle of education, empowerment, economic development, peace and new opportunities for future generations.

Delivering on our promise for universal, equitable education

The ECW model has proven to work. 

In just a few short years of operation, ECW has already provided 4.6 million crisis-affected girls and boys with access to a quality education. We’ve worked with national governments, donors, UN agencies and NGOs to reach 29.2 million girls and boys with our education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Bangladesh, girls like Janet Ara are returning to school, children with disabilities like Yasmina are accessing the support they need to learn, grow and thrive, and organizations like BRAC are receiving the support they need to build back better from the fires.

In Afghanistan, girls like Bibi Nahida are attending school for the first time, remote learning is helping children to continue their education during the pandemic, and female teachers are being recruited to teach biology, science and empower an entire generation of girls.

In Colombia and Ecuador, refugee children fleeing violence, hunger and poverty in Venezuela are being brought into schools, provided with laptops and cellular plans, and the psychosocial support they need to recover from the anxiety and stress of displacement.

Our call to action

An investment in education is an investment in the present and the future.

Recent analysis indicates that the likelihood of violence and conflict drops by 37% when girls and boys have equal access to education. Incomes go up by as much as 10% for each year of additional learning, while an estimated $15 to $30 trillion could be generated if every girl everywhere were able to complete 12 years of education.

We are making important headway with partners across the globe. The amount of humanitarian funding for education increased five times between 2015 and 2019 – and accounted for 5.1% of humanitarian funding in 2019.

Nevertheless, just 43.5% of humanitarian appeals for education were mobilized that same year.

That means girls like Bibi and Janet Ara may be pushed out of school, boys like Sabir might be recruited into armed groups. And children with disabilities like Yasmina will be pushed to the sidelines.

We have the will. Now it’s time to turn that will into action.

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