The Global Partnership for Education estimated that 264 million children were out of school during the 2015 school year. In low-to-middle-income countries around the world, one in four young people is illiterate. The quality of worldwide children’s education is not the only reason why 250 million kids either don’t make it past four years in school or have not learned basic math, reading or writing skills by grade four. So why aren’t children going to school?
- A country’s lack of funding for education contributes not only to the absence of actual schools and materials (400 million students worldwide do not have desks) but a low quantity and quality of teachers as well. Multiple education levels often make up one class, which impacts drop out rates and the overall quality of worldwide children’s education.
- Their families are poor. When a child’s parents are illiterate, unemployed or sick, all factors contributing to poverty, the risk of that child either dropping out of school or not going to school at all are doubled.
- Worldwide children’s education rates drop during times of war or conflict. According to UNICEF, about 48.5 million children do not attend school because they live in high conflict or war zones. In Syria, more than two million children are unable to attend school, with a quarter of schools no longer being used for educational purposes. About 50,000 education professionals have either fled the country or died in the fighting.
- Poor families often see no other option than to marry off their female children, a major cause of a lack of worldwide children’s education, particularly for girls. These victims of child marriage are restricted from education by immediate cultural obligations such as housework and pregnancy. A child with a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to live past five years old.
- School is too far away. Many children walk up to three hours to school each way. In an impoverished country where the children are hungry, disabled and responsible for working around the house, this is simply too much time to invest. Additionally, long and hazardous walks can be dangerous, especially for girls.
- There are 150 million disabled children around the world, with 80% in developing countries, and the rate is increasing. Nine out of 10 of these children are out of school. The reasons range from physical barriers to the negative attitudes of teachers to inadequate policies. ADD International based in the U.K. partners with and connects a network of disability activists around the world, providing tools, resources and support.
- They have to work. 11% of children are child-laborers, which comes to 168 million young people.
- They or their families are sick. Even in first-world countries, illness can be a huge barrier for worldwide children’s education. Developing countries have less accessible healthcare, making it more difficult to prevent and treat even the simplest conditions. When parents have access to healthcare, they have a higher chance of being able to work to provide for their families.
- They are female. Females account for 54% of the non-schooled population globally. This problem is particularly common in the Arab States and Asia, where cultural norms dictate a higher value in men than women. Especially for menstruating girls, a lack of bathroom privacy and sanitary supplies can lead to missing school. In Somalia, where 36% of girls go to school, the government implemented the Go To School initiative in order to give more girls access to education.
- They are hungry. According to the Global Citizen, “Being severely malnourished, to the point, it impacts on brain development, can be the same as losing four grades of schooling.” In developing countries, stunted children are 19% less likely to be able to read by age eight. This is a problem, as there are 171 million children stunted by age five in these countries.
From 2002 to 2014, the Global Partnership for Education helped 64 million children make it to primary school in its partner countries. The organization supports 65 developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, prioritizing the poorest, most vulnerable and those living in countries affected by fragility and conflict.
The WE Movement partners with countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to redesign villages that encourage sustainable community change. They build schools, educate teachers, deliver school supplies, build wells and water pumps, provide medical clinics and health training, assist with agriculture and food production and offer parents educational services.
Although there has been much progress in global education, the barriers holding children back from reaching their full potential through quality education still exist. When educated, young people are more likely to have the self-confidence and knowledge to better both their communities and their own livelihoods. Worldwide children’s education is an important tool in the overall reduction of global poverty.
– Katherine Gallagher