LAS VEGAS — UNICEF and UNESCO reports that a substantial boost in resources and strategies is needed to serve the educational needs of the 21 million children out of school in the Middle East and North Africa, and the nine million who are at risk of dropping out
Though regions of the Middle East and North Africa, also referred to as the MENA, witnessed a spike in enrollment rates in the past 10 years, a report released by UNICEF and UNESCO shows that more than 21 million children in these regions are not in school or are at a risk of dropping out. This decline in the educational systems comes at a time when conflict, poverty and violence is overwhelmingly high.
In the last decade, Middle Eastern and North African countries saw a 40 percent decrease in out of school children. However, this recent report claims 12.3 million children are out of school, and an additional six million are at risk of dropping out. Additionally, over three million in Iraq and Syria are not in school due to the continued violence and destruction throughout these countries.
Regional Director of UNICEF MENA, Maria Calivis said, “These children must be given the opportunity to acquire the skills they need through education in order to play their part in the region’s transformation.”
A press release from the U.N. said, “New policies are needed to scale up pre-primary education programs, tackle student drop-out and gender discrimination, and help more children in conflict areas get access to learning.”
A combination of factors contribute to this number, including war, child labor and high poverty. Girls and young women are most affected by this and are 25 percent more likely to not attend school than boys. The report also states that girls often face discrimination in school, are often forced into marriage at a young age and there are simply not enough female teachers.
This report was a part of UNICEF and UNESCO’s joint initiative: The Middle East and North Africa Out-of-School Children Initiative, or OOSCI. Launched in 2010, this initiative was designed to address the following objectives:
- Improve the statistical information and analysis on out-of-school children and understand not only how many children are out-of-school, but who they are and where;
- Identify the barriers that contribute to exclusion from education; and
- Analyze the existing and needed policies and strategies related to enhanced school participation.
This initiative has nine MENA countries currently participating: Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen. The schools in these countries currently lack proper infrastructure or the school environment is not conducive to children learning. Therefore, children either drop out or do not attend at all.
Of course, substantial financial and humanitarian resources are needed to even begin addressing these issues as well as a change in educational policy in the MENA region. UNICEF or UNESCO do not provide an estimate cost in the report but after the findings of this report, it is clearer as to where and to whom these resources should be directed.
– Candice Hughes