Education is a fundamental right, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Access to a quality educational program is the number one indicator of a child’s success and survival in this fast-evolving global economy. Education is vital to overcoming the challenging obstacles that many children are born into. It is also crucial in assuring that this next generation of children will be future-ready. A recent study by UNICEF found that a whopping 303 million children aged 5 — 17 years old are excluded from a formal education setting. This number highlights a global crisis that affects “1 in 5 children” 3. The figure shortens to 1 in 3 children if looking only at countries facing a crisis. We are amid a Global Education Crisis.
This is a critical moment in history
“This is a critical moment in history” initiates ‘A Future Stolen: Young and Out of School’ addressing the current global education crisis. “The global youth population is multiplying. If current trends hold, the number of adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years old will rise to more than 1.3 billion by 2030.” 3 Continuing with this trend, 1 in 5 of 1.3 billion children will remain out of schools. As the gap in social inequalities become ever so more vast, 1 in 5 children out of school may even become a hopeful figure in the future. Today, 1 in 5 children do not stand a chance in our global economy. It is time to wake up and face the Global Education crisis.
How is it possible that in 2020 one in five children do not successfully attend school? Though a fundamental right, education is not a reality for all children, but more so a privilege. Though any educational system is far from perfect, it isn’t easy to imagine 303 million children with zero access to school. The reality is that we are amid a Global Education Crisis. To put things into perspective, 3.3 million people is the population size of Bosnia. Can you imagine the population of an entire country without any education? What could the ramifications of this be for future generations?
Why does the current state of global education matter?
The vast percentage of children mentioned in the figures come from underdeveloped and developing countries. These numbers include countries in conflict as well as countries broken by natural disasters and the current refugee crisis the world is facing. The playing ground is not equal for these children when comparing them to children globally. “Without urgent action, in a decade, 825 million children — half all young people in the world — will not have the most basic skills necessary for jobs of the future.” 1 The gap and challenges today’s children now face will only grow exponentially if this crisis is not addressed immediately, leading to continual cycles of poverty and inequality.
How, then, can we “help” children get out of this unfortunate cycle? “Access to quality education is perhaps the single most potent equalizer of opportunity for [children]. Without a dramatic increase in investment in education for these children and young people, their situations will only deteriorate. [As a consequence] the world will see an increase in unskilled and unprepared youth unable to embrace new technology and tackle the challenges of a rapidly changing global economy.” 3
Why are there so many children out of school?
Below are a few barriers to education, as highlighted by ReliefWeb.
“Today, poverty remains one of the greatest barriers to enrollment in education programs.” Children do not matriculate in school due to the cost of school fees and supplies, sometimes over the price of a simple meal. Education is not economically accessible to all families, even when it is free. Because of economic hardships, some children have to work. “More than 150 million children aged 5 to 17 — half them under 11 — are victims of forced labor” 1. In other cases, there is a sufficient lack of funding from the state/country in areas even to maintain proper schools and educators.
“Girls are four times more likely to be out of school than boys from the same background. Girls are often marginalized and are left out of school simply because they are girls, and it is not the cultural norm for them to [receive education]. Their chances of getting quality education are even smaller if they come from [poverty], live in a rural area, or have a disability.” 1 Girls are also left out of education because they are married off as children, are marginalized because of pregnancy or face ridicule due to their periods.
Climate change and natural disasters.
“Extreme weather such as earthquakes, flooding, or typhoons, leave schools damaged, destroyed, or used as shelters. Families affected by droughts, heat waves, and crop failures often remove their children from school to work at home or because they cannot afford fees.” 1
Countries in Conflict: School attacks, Child soldiers, and the Refugee Crisis.
“Almost one in five children live in countries affected by conflict — and many of them are denied an education as a result. Children in conflict-affected countries are 30% less likely to complete primary school and half as likely to complete lower-secondary school.” 1
Countries in conflict also put children at risk for recruitment as soldiers. “In the past five years, children have been recruited by armed groups in the vicinity of schools in at least 15 countries. There are an estimated 250,000 child soldiers in the world today in at least 20 countries.”
Similar conflicts that have created the world’s current refugee emergency has also left children without education. “More than half the world’s school-age refugees are excluded from education as host nations struggle under the weight of growing humanitarian emergencies. Of the 7.1 million refugee children of school-age, 3.7 million do not go to school.” 1
We are in the midst of a global eduction crisis
The numbers and facts are heartbreaking. 303 million children not in school is a world crisis whose effects spread further than just a lack of education. “All children should be able to attend primary school regardless [of their situation]. At its core, if a child fails to gain the basic skills required to contribute as a functioning member of society, the loss is vast. The nation as a whole loses. Education can ultimately reduce poverty for future generations. Studies show the cost of educating children by far outweighs the cost of not educating them.” 2
What can we do today?
For starters, it is time to wake up and face the global education crisis. It is inexcusable to ignore harsh numbers and reality. We can start by actively making a difference in our homes and in our schools.
Spread the word
The most potent catalyst for change is using our voice. We need to speak about the education crisis. Bring it up in conversation with your students, parents, principles. Write letters to senators insisting in your state and country to actively and publicly support the UNs Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.
Educate your students on the matter
Teach your students not only on history but also on the current realities and crisis of the world. Children should know how other children live, even if this reality is unfortunate. For young children, it may be difficult to imagine another living situation far different from theirs. The best way to make children aware is by speaking to them about the realities of this world. Ultimately, the most significant way to inspire action is by teaching about injustices. Inspire your children to actively seek out to make a change in this world. This can be via their voice, fundraising, the passing of knowledge, there are no limits.
Highlight the importance of education
Make sure that your children are aware that education is a fundamental right, though only a few experience the privilege. Children should know that rights must be exercised for them to stand true.
Encourage children to become active players of their own education
In the classroom, we can encourage children to be active players in their education. Encourage students to question educational standards and to offer different perspectives.
Inspire children to be agents of change
Inspire your students to actively seek out to make a change in the world and to be a dynamic force in their community.
Publicly and actively support Global Education
For ideas on inspiring children, please take a look at The Earth Needs Action! and Empowering children to become action driven global citizens.
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- Watt, Ethan. “20 reasons why, in 2020, there are still 260 m children out of school.” Theirworld. https://theirworld.org/news/20-reasons-why-260m-children-are-out-of-school-in-2020
2. Dowling, Paddy. “Nearly 260 million children are still out of school — does the world care?”. Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/children-school-world-stats-tanzania-education-photos-a9242766.html
3. “A Future Stolen: Young and out-of-school.” UNICEF. https://data.unicef.org/resources/a-future-stolen/
4. “1 in 3 children and young people is out of school in countries affected by war or natural disasters.” UNICEF.