Conflicts, poverty stall progress in reducing out-of-school children – UNICEF

By Prudence Arobani
New York –   Pervasive levels of poverty, protracted conflicts and complex humanitarian emergencies have led to stagnation in reducing the global out-of-school rate over the past decade, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said.

With 11.5 per cent of school-age children or 123 million missing school in 2017, compared to 12.8 per cent or 135 million in 2007, the percentage of out-of-school six-15-year olds has barely decreased in the last decade, according to UNICEF.

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

“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”.

Bourne said children living in the world’s poorest countries and in conflict zones were disproportionately affected adding, of the 123 million children missing out on school, 40 per cent live in the least developed countries and 20 per cent live in conflict zones.

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With their high levels of poverty, rapidly increasing populations and recurring emergencies, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia account for 75 per cent of the global out-of-school primary- and lower-secondary school age population, she said.

“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,” she continued.

However, some progress has been achieved, Bourne said, pointing out that Ethiopia and Niger, among the world’s poorest countries, have made the most enrollment rate progress in primary-school-age children with an increase of more than 15 per cent and around 19 per cent, respectively.

The UNICEF education chief said emergency funding shortfalls for education affected access for children in conflict to attend school adding, on average, less than 2.7 per cent of global humanitarian appeals are dedicated to education.

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Bourne regretted that with half of 2017 already gone, UNICEF had only received 12 per cent of the funding required to provide education for children caught up in crises.

According to her, more funds are urgently required to address the increasing number and complexity of crises and to give children the stability and opportunities they deserve.

“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,” Bourne underscored. (NAN)

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