Poverty and War Continue to Plague Global Education Rates

Three extreme influences have contributed to a slowing in the reduction of global out-of-school rates among children worldwide, over the past ten years.  Indeed, pervasive poverty levels, protracted social conflicts, and more complex humanitarian emergencies have prompted the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to request more investments.

The research shows that 11.5 per cent of school-age children – approximately 123 million—miss school every day. This is lower than the 12.8 percent—approximately 135 million—in 2007, but not by much, and UNICEF laments these rates are not moving downward quickly enough.

According to UNICEF Chief of Education, Jo Bourne, “Investments aimed at increasing the number of schools and teachers to match population growth are not enough.”

She goes on to say, “This business-as-usual approach will not get the most vulnerable children into school – and help them reach their full potential – if they continue to be trapped in poverty, deprivation and insecurity.”

As you might expect, children who live in the poorest countries in the world and those who live in conflict (which are often the same) are disproportionately more affected by these factors. For example, of the approximately 123 million children who miss school, about 40 percent live in the least developed countries, 20 percent live in conflict zones.

UNICEF also makes sure to point out that war continues to threaten and to reverse educational gains.

Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are not only regions with the highest levels of poverty but their populations are still growing and are experiencing more and more emergencies. More importantly, these two regions account for 75 percent of the global out-of-school data among primary and lower-secondary-age children.

Some countries are showing progress, though. In Ethiopia and Niger, for example, enrollment rate is up among primary school kids, despite being among the most impoverished nations in the world.

Bourne continues, “Governments and the global community must target their investments at eliminating the factors preventing these children from going to school in the first place, including by making schools safe and improving teaching and learning.”

Finally, Bourne concludes, “Learning provides relief for children affected by emergencies in the short-term, but is also a critical investment in the future development of societies in the long-term. Yet investment in education does not respond to the realities of a volatile world. To address this, we must secure greater and more predictable funding for education in unpredictable emergencies.”


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