It’s the middle of September, and children across Canada are back at their desks, learning skills and gaining friendships. They are maneuvering through the social dynamic formed between peers and teachers that will serve them for a lifetime.
Yet, how is it that almost 58 million primary aged children around the world do not have this opportunity? Getting kids in developing countries in school, especially girls, has pretty high stakes: just completing primary school can make a significant difference in all aspects of their lives. A literate mother, for example, is 23% more likely to seek a trained birth attendant. Educated women are also able to earn more and to gain more respect as wage earners in the home and it their communities.
This UNESCO infographic below illustrates the many facets of life impacted by education and literacy. Better health outcomes for mothers and children, better job opportunities, lower rates of child marriage, faster economic growth, tolerance, and respect for the environment, are all benefits of education. More intangibly, as we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, education also gives women and girls the ability and confidence to speak out for themselves. Please click here if you are unable to see the infographic).
On our Facebook page, we have been talking about factors such as conflict and child marriage that prevent children from going to school. UNESCO also examines “intention” to better understand who these out of school kids are.
To this end, UNESCO divvied up out of school kids into three categories: those who have dropped out (around 23%), those who plan to go in the future (34%) and those kids who will never get an opportunity to go to school (43%).
“While access to education has been improving globally, there has been little progress in reducing the rate at which children leave school before reaching the last grade of primary education. About 135 million children began primary school in 2012, but if current trends continue 34 million children (some older than the official school age) will leave school before reaching the last grade of primary.” (Policy paper 14/Fact sheet 28, June 2014)
In previous posts we’ve discussed the social norms that can lead to girls dropping out of school but the cost of tuition, uniform and books is also an important factor. But sometimes it is just a matter of dollars and cents. In Burundi, for example, the government eliminated school fees in 2005 and primary enrolment rose from 54% of kids to 74% in 2006. By 2010, 94% of primary school aged kids saw the inside of a classroom.
Clearly, better rates of enrollment are just the first step in getting more kids school. There is a long way to go, but our efforts to strive towards a more equitable world will pay off in the long run.