The Goal of Universal Primary Education

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DATELINE — Approximately 58 million children around the world are lacking an education. This statistic has caused the United Nations to admit that there is no chance the millennium development goal will be met. This goal aimed for every child and teen to attend school by 2015.

The U.N. released statistics at the Global Partnership for Education  pledging conference in Brussels that revealed how many nations had not made enough progress regarding improved access to education since 2007. According to the U.N., if the current progress continues, about 43 percent of the 58 million will more than likely never see the inside of a classroom.

Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the areas largely affected by the lack of progress, has around 30 million children out of school thanks to a population expansion. According to UNESCO, more than a third of the children in the region who started school in 2012 will probably leave before finishing primary school.

However, it’s not just those who attend primary school who are missing out on their education. The U.N. reported that around 63 million teenagers around the world had left school in 2012, and nearly 26 million teens in the south and west regions of Asia are still out of school, while 21 million teens are lacking an education in sub-Saharan Africa.

Yet, despite the growing numbers, UNESCO has stated that there are ways to turn the situation around. The Education for All report showed six policies that have helped countries from Burundi and Nepal to Nicaragua that have helped get more children in schools. The report also identified around 17 countries that had reduced the number of children that weren’t in school by 86 percent in approximately ten years.

Burnudi’s choice to get rid of school fees in 2005 allowed the percent of children attending school to grow from 54 percent to 94 percent in around six years. Welfare in Nicaragua, which was introduced in 2000, has given families the chance to send their children to school without being weighed down by fees and expenses. This has reduced the percent of children who haven’t attended school from 17 percent in 1998 to 7 percent in 2009.

Other approaches for getting children back in school may seem basic, but they work; after the civil war in Nepal ended, children who lived in the conflict-ravaged regions gained the same levels of school attendance as children who lived in less war-torn areas.

The Global Campaign for Education UK, while calling for renewed attention toward achieving the goal of universal education, is also asking the governments of the countries represented at the GPE conference to pay attention to children with disabilities.

A report from GCE UK shows that around a third of children who aren’t in school worldwide have some form of a disability. The report goes on to state that in many low and middle-income countries, children with disabilities are more likely to be out of school than able-bodied children.

However, there are some who believe that there is still time to reach the goal of getting every child into school by the end of next year. Andris Piebalgs, the Eurpean commissioner for development has been quoted as stating that getting the approximately 58 million children who are currently out of school back into classrooms is ‘doable’.

Piebalgs added that, while UNESCO’s statement was ‘depressing’, it has shone a light onto the size of the work that is left to be done.

“Education enrollment is about political attention,” said Piebalgs, “and I hope that what Unesco is saying will be a wake-up call for governments because it’s about niche groups, or people in the slums or the kids of some minorities.”

Monica Newell

Sources: Mail and Guardian, The Guardian
Photo: International Political Forum

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Monica Newell

Monica is a BORGEN Magazine writer based in Midlothian, Virginia.

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