(JollofNews) – Have we for a second paused to ponder on these questions: What would happen if every single child in every nation, tribe and tongue has access to quality affordable education? How would this affect the fight against poverty and inequality?
It is logical to think that if the right answers to the above questions are applied this will rapidly accelerate the drive to realise the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet still, statistics of child illiteracy are scary to read sometimes. According to UNESCO, almost 61 million children don’t attend school around the world and almost one school-age child in four (23%) has never been to school, or dropped out of school before finishing the primary cycle in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the absolute number of children denied access to school has climbed from 29 million in 2008 to 31 million in 2010. More alarming, that figure hasn’t declined over the years but instead; according to Global Partnership for Education, it has increased to 55 million out-of-school children living in sub-Saharan Africa.
The most disturbing analysis of the current statistics and trends of child illiteracy by Global Partnership for Education is that:
41% of all out-of-school children of primary school age have never attended school and will probably never start if current trends continue.
25 million children of primary school age are expected to never attend school. 15 million of these children are girls.
9% of children of primary school age are out of school around the world (2014), down from 15% in 2000. That’s the equivalent of 1 out of 11 primary school age children.
Despite that encouraging drop from 15% to 9%, it is concerning to think 25 million children of primary school age may likely never grace the corridors of a classroom. Based on these trends and projections, it is evident that more concerted global effort is needed to reverse that trend and ensure that that figure is drastically lowered.
As we look around our world today, it is quite evident that we’re confronted with an uncomfortable but undeniable truth: the lives of millions of children are blighted, for no other reason than the country, the community, the gender or the circumstances into which they are born into. This is not acceptable in the 21st century and it should not be allowed to happen. It is not a mission impossible to provide access to education for every child. Nelson Mandela echoed the same view when he once said, “It is not beyond our power to create a world in which all children have access to a good education”
Education comes as number four in the list of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is what SDG four states, “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”
The SDGs work in the spirit of partnership and pragmatism to make the right choices now to improve life, in a sustainable way, for future generations. So, all global partners must pull together in the right direction to ensure our future leaders (children) get the education they deserve and are entitled to have. Failure to do this, would be failing our children – the future generation. As data has shown, unless we accelerate the pace of our progress in reaching them, the futures of millions of disadvantaged and vulnerable children especially in Sub Saharan Africa and the future of their societies and countries will be jeopardised.
At this stage, let us shift our discussion to some of the benefits of investing in the provision of quality and affordable education for every single child in the world.
Firstly, education is a basic human right that every child should enjoy no matter their background. It is also very important and instrumental in the development of children, families, communities and even nations. Access to education for every child can serve as a tool to help end intergenerational chains of poverty. One may wonder how this is possible, but the answer is simple; as education is intrinsically linked to all development goals such as improving child health, reducing hunger, fighting the spread diseases, spurring economic growth, building peace and gender empowerment.
One of the greatest benefits we get with education is improved health. So therefore, the more children we get into education, these same children will grow up and be informed about health issues and be able to implement that knowledge in their communities. For example, diseases like Malaria can be fought by proper education on how to help prevent breeding grounds for mosquitos.
When it comes to fighting poverty, what we invest in the younger generation (children) will have a massive difference in the future. As we all know, proper equality education often results in securing better paid jobs, higher wages and economic growth and a better way of life. So, investing in the education of children means they are highly likely to be able to secure better jobs in future and address some of the financial challenges that grips their families and societies. This will in turn help to reduce poverty especially for the rural poor.
It will be a mistake not to point out the challenges some of the developing countries are faced with in the effort to provide access to affordable quality education for all children.
The challenge for governments in the less developed countries particularly in Sub Saharan Africa should be to address corruption as the money looted to enrich the minority could be invested into providing and improving quality education for all the children in these nations. These governments should be committed to education for all their citizens as research shows that, better education can help improve the livelihoods of people as ordinary citizens are able to earn better wages and live better lives.
Another obstacle standing between the millions of children without access to educations and the classroom is a lack of funding for quality basic education to help them overcome the barriers to the basic right of education such as school fees, and even poorly trained and qualified teachers. The international originations such as the United Nations and the more developed countries must do more to support countries to eliminate school fees and other barriers to education and work in collaboration with the less developed countries that have shown strong commitment to providing education for all children.
Finally, it is crucial to understand that reaching out-of-school children is not as simple as constructing more schools, distributing more books, or training new teachers. Governments and education regulatory bodies should ensure that school systems are strengthened with a special focus on reaching the less advantaged and marginalized children particularly in rural communities especially in the case of Sub Sharan Africa.