November 29, 2019

Five things you need to know this week about global education

Female students and teachers in conflict zones are suffering horrific acts of violence

Photo credit: GCPEA

Our roundup includes the long-term effects that attacks on education have on girls and how Sesame Street will help to educate Syrian refugees. 

Girls suffer long-term effects of attacks on education

Female students and teachers in conflict zones around the world are suffering horrific acts of violence within their schools and universities.

This includes rape, forced marriage and sexual slavery, according to a report released by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) this week on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Attacks on education happen in many countries and the impact can be devastating for children and adolescents, who can have their schooling disrupted or ended. 

But the long-term consequences for girls and women of rape and sexual violence can be particularly debilitating, said GCPEA, because of early pregnancy, the stigma associated with sexual violence and children born from rape.


“The impact of attacks on girls and women in education is profoundly injurious and long-lasting - and can dramatically affect their future prospects, as well as the futures of their communities and countries,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA’s Executive Director. 

“Governments have an obligation to make schools safe and to protect female students and teachers from the recruitment, abduction and sexual violence they suffer far too often.”

GCPEA's report - It is Very Painful to Talk About - is based on extensive research, including the Education Under Attack series, and field research in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Most of Haiti's schools shut by protests

Protests have left most of Haiti's schools closed and children unable to attend their classes

Photo credit: UNICEF / Dormino

Violent political unrest that has rocked Haiti for more than two months is causing a crisis in the education system. 

Almost 70% of schools are closed, leaving Haitian children with nothing to do and their parents struggling to cope. In some homes, parents are trying to teach their own kids.

"The school principal told us several times, 'Come on Monday to do a bit of work.' When we arrive, the teachers are not there and the principal is alone with five or six students," said high school student Reevens Bosquet.

Haiti's public schools already suffer from a severe lack of funding and teachers. They can only accommodate a third of the students.

The Caribbean nation's crisis began in August, prompted by a national fuel shortage, and protests against unpopular President Jovenel Moise have raged since. Education Minister Pierre Josue Agenor Cadet said two possible calendars have been set up - one with classes resuming on December 2 and the other with a mid-January start.

New Sesame Street show for Syrian refugees to launch soon

The first season of a new Sesame Street TV show to help educate Syrian refugee children will be launched in February.

Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee announced in 2016 they were joining forces to work on educational learning programmes, including a new programme called "Ahlan Simsim," or "Welcome Sesame" in Arabic.

The project - and the development of services that reach refugee children directly - won a $100 million competition run by the MacArthur Foundation.

The first season of "Ahlan Simsim" will be shown across the Middle East from February 20.

Marginalised children in Cambodia still missing out on education

Many children in Cambodia are forced to make long journeys between home and the classroom

Photo credit: Killy Riddols

Cambodia has achieved incredible progress in basic education, with 98% of children enrolled in primary school. But that is threatened by low-quality learning and inconsistent access for marginalised groups, according to World Vision.

"Specific groups of children struggle to access quality education at different stages of their education," said a policy brief by the charity. It added that:

  • Children with disabilities – particularly girls and children with intellectual disabilities – are twice as likely to be out of school 
  • Girls drop out of school more often to support their household and girls with less education are generally more susceptible to exploitation and abuse such as human trafficking
  • Children from ethnic minority groups struggle to access education as they typically live in isolated rural areas, may not speak Khmer, face discrimination from peers and are deterred from school by the long distances between home and classroom

Displacement slows down education progress in Arab region

No part of the world is currently as much affected by migration and displacement as the Arab States

Photo credit: UNESCO

The Arab States region has been affected more than any other by the displacement of people in recent years - which has slowed down its education progress, according to a UN report.

The gap between the Arab States and sub-Saharan Africa in enrolling children at primary school has more than halved in the past 20 years. At the same time, Central and Southern Asia has overtaken the Arab States in enrolment rates at lower secondary level and is rapidly closing the gap at the upper secondary level too. 

Five of the 12 countries with the highest percentage of internally displaced people are in the region. A lack of paperwork, language challenges and security risks are the largest barriers to their education, said the first regional edition of the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report published by UNESCO 

“There is no doubt that the Arab states are facing a unique challenge to provide an inclusive education. Regardless, displaced children and youth do not leave their right to an education behind,” said Manos Antoninis, Director of the GEM Report. 

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