26 June 2014

Africa: Action and Investment Needed to Universalize Education - Unicef

Brussels — 58 million children still without access to school

Recent data show that progress in making education truly universal and inclusive, and the investment required to do so, have stalled. Today's Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Second Replenishment conference calls on the international community to commit to giving all children access to school and learning.

Today, one in 11 children do not go to school - denied opportunity and hope because they are poor, have a disability, belong to an ethnic minority, or live in a remote or war-torn region. The majority are girls. A much larger number of children - as many as 250 million children - either do not reach grade 4, or do so without learning how to read, write or do basic math.

Although about half of the 58 million primary school-age children who are not in school live in conflict-affected countries, and many more children live in regions affected by disasters, education is not yet seen as a priority in humanitarian action and funding.

"In a world where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing, education is the most powerful equalizer of opportunity, and more critical than ever for the children being left behind," said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

"We have to invest early, so that children are primed for lifelong learning; invest equitably, so that education's huge dividends reach those who need them most; and invest in quality education, so that children leave school with the skills they need to succeed in work and life."

"Education needs to be a central priority in humanitarian action. A safe place to learn does more than provide education; it provides hope and builds resilience. Children living through disasters and conflict have an equal right to education. It can heal, protect, and prepare their minds for life during and after disaster. Their futures, and the future of their countries, depend on it," Lake said.

Education: The Statistics

- Globally, aid to education has fallen since 2010, with poor countries hardest hit. New OECD figures show that total aid stagnated in 2010 and has fallen since then - by 2 per cent in 2011 and by a further 4 per cent in 2012.

- Globally, the gross enrolment ratio in pre-primary education is only 50 per cent, with rates as low as 17 per cent in low-income countries and 18 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.

- Evidence shows that the most disadvantaged children - their disadvantage due to poverty, ethnic and linguistic minority status, gender discrimination, remoteness, disability, violence, and HIV/AIDS status - experience the most dramatic gains from good quality Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programs. Yet it is exactly these children who are least likely to participate in these programs.

- A simulation on increasing pre-school enrolment in 73 countries found benefits in terms of higher future wages of $6.4-$17.6 per dollar invested.

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