Despite dramatic improvements over the last decade, progress towards achieving education for all has slowed down over the last couple of years. This is the reason, somewhere around 263 million children worldwide, nearly one in 10, do not go to school, posing a daunting hurdle to the United Nations’ efforts to educate all children by 2030, the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO reported.
Out of the 263 million children reported in the report, 61 million children are of primary school age (about 6 to 11 years), 60 million young adolescents of lower secondary school age (about 12 to 14 years), and 142 million youth of upper secondary school age (about 15 to 17 years) for the school year ending in 2014.
According to the report, sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest number of children who have an opportunity to attend school with 21 percent of children of primary school age denied the right to education, followed by Oceania (12 percent) and Western Asia (11 percent). The number is ‘staggering’, yet marks an improvement from 2000 when some 374 million children did not attend school. Children in their late teens are four times more likely to be out of school than younger children. It said globally 15 million girls of primary school age will never attend classes compared with about 10 million boys, and more than half those girls live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Many factors contribute to limiting access to school and excluding children from a proper education including income poverty, poor health and nutrition, disability, gender, ethnicity, child labor, migration, geographical disadvantages, cultural factors, and situations of fragility and conflict. Many children out of school live in areas of conflict, others are girls living in societies that do not advocate educating females and others live in countries that do not make secondary school compulsory, the report said.
Last year, the U.N. member nations adopted a set of global goals for 2030 that included a call for children around the world to complete primary and secondary school. UNESCO said while primary and lower secondary education is compulsory in nearly every country, upper secondary school is not. Also, it said older children are often of legal working age.
Hence, the focus must be on inclusion from the earliest age and right through the learning cycle, on policies that address the barriers at every stage, with special attention to girls who still face the greatest disadvantage.