Millions denied the right to education: UN agencies

WINDHOEK: About 58 million children of primary school age (6 to 11 years) are out of school worldwide despite the progress that has been made on school enrolment, a Unesco/Unicef report says.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and United Nations Children’s Fund in a report titled “Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All” issued on Monday warned that if current trends continue, two-fifths of these children—or 15 million girls and 10 million boys—are unlikely to ever set foot in a classroom.

It raised the concern that most of the 30 million children who are out of school in sub-Saharan Africa will never go to school at all.

“While primary education has long been viewed as essential for a child’s full development, lower secondary education is also increasingly recognised as the foundation for the acquisition of the skills needed for a healthy and productive life and access to decent work,” read the report.

It said that in the 15 years since the launch of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals—which set the target for every child to complete a full course of primary education by 2015—the latest data show that the number of primary school-age out-of-school children has dropped by 42 per cent, and for girls by 47 per cent, despite rapid population growth.

There is clear consensus within the international community to make universal secondary education a key goal in the post-2015 agenda. Yet here too, the report finds a lack of progress, with 63 million adolescents of lower secondary school age out of school—five million more than children of primary school age, even though there are twice as many primary school-age children worldwide.

While access to education expanded considerably at the beginning of the year 2000, progress has stalled, with virtually no change in either the global rate or number of out-of-school children since 2007, according to the report.

The global primary out-of-school rate has now stagnated at around nine per cent—roughly 60 million children—for the past seven years, while the rate for children of lower secondary school age continues to hover at almost 18 per cent. Across both of these age groups, girls are still more likely to be out of school than boys.

The two UN agencies stated that to reach children who are out of school, a clearer picture is needed of who they are, where they are and exactly why they are not in the classroom. One practical way to pinpoint the children who are out of school is to make better use of the data sources that already exist.