What have we learned about education plight of children around the world?

Education funding, Education in emergencies

Syrian refugee children at a school in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon Picture: A World at School


A couple of years ago, it was a struggle to get world leaders to sit up and take notice of the importance of funding education around the world.

Now – thanks to pressure from organisations and millions of people who backed campaigns like our #UpForSchool Petition – the right of every child to get a free, quality education is at the heart of the global agenda.

Unfortunately, as those leaders prepare to gather at the United Nations General Assembly next week, promises are still not being backed by actions.


Funding and other support is needed urgently to help 75 million children and adolescents living in countries affected by humanitarian emergencies.

With the UN General Assembly just days away, what have we learned during September that should give the international policymakers and funders food for thought?

28 million children have been driven from their homes and education by conflicts

Iraqi boy at a camp for internally displaced people in Erbil Picture: UNICEF/Anmar


That’s just one of many shocking statistics revealed in a report released by the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF on the growing refugee crisis for children.

One in every 200 children in the world is now a refugee. There are 50 million child refugees and the number has soared by 77% in five years.

Only half of child refugees – those who have moved to other countries – are enrolled in primary school and less than one in four in secondary school. And when it comes to children displaced within their own countries, the figures are even worse.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said: “If young refugees are accepted and protected today, if they have the chance to learn and grow, and to develop their potential, they can be a source of stability and economic progress.”


Lack of funding means education targets will be missed by decades

Illustration from the youth version of the UNESCO report


Last year the UN agreed a set of global goals to be achieved by 2030. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into force in January and include free, quality education for every child at every age level.

That was great news. But can it be achieved?

According to a report by the UN agency UNESCO, on current trends all girls and boys will not go to primary school until 2042 and lower secondary until 2059.

And full secondary education for all will not be achieved until 2084 – more than 50 years late.

Funding would need to be SIX TIMES higher than currently to achieve universal education by 2030, said the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) 2016 report.

Economist Jeffrey Sachs, in the foreword, said: “This report should set off alarm bells around the world and lead to a historic scale-up of actions to achieve (this goal).”


Crisis in the Lake Chad Basin is hitting children hard

Seven-year-old Zenabou fled with her family from Nigeria to a camp in Diffa, Niger Picture: UNICEF/Phelps


The children’s charity Theirworld examined the plight of children in the Lake Chad Basin region of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad who are in dire need of humanitarian help.

The violent insurgency of Boko Haram has forced millions to flee and created a severe education emergency with 1500 schools damaged, destroyed or occupied and the education of at least one million children dangerously threatened.

Theirworld – the charity behind A World at School – called on world leaders to provide safe, quality education for all children, safe spaces and psychosocial support for children, teachers and caregivers.


Urgent action is needed to get Syrian refugee children in school

Filippo Grandi meets a Syrian boy in Ankara Picture: UNHCR/Ali Unal


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has warned that urgent action is needed to prevent thousands of Syrian refugee children out of school in Turkey from becoming a lost generation.

Filippo Grandi said his agency needs to do more to help Turkey – which hosts three million refugees including 2.7 million Syrians.

“Everything starts with an education,” he said during a visit to the capital Ankara.

He’s right. World leaders pledged to get all Syrian refugee children into schools in neighbouring countries this year. But six months after that promise was made at a Syria summit in London, they have just days to come up with the $1 billion still needed.


Displaced population would make the world’s 21st largest country

There are more than 65 million forcibly displaced people (IDP) globally. If they all resettled in one place, it would be the 21st largest country in the world – larger in population than the United Kingdom and nearly three times as large as Australia.

That’s the background to a report by Save The Children on September 14, which says IDPs are falling far behind others in terms of education, health, child marriage and other key factors.

The “IDPs country” would rank fourth last on primary school attendance and almost last at secondary school level.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International, said: “Forcibly-displaced people face huge challenges, but if governments work together, along with non-governmental organisations and the private sector, we can improve their circumstances.”


Refugees are five times more likely to be out of school than the average child


The UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR) released a report on September 15 showing that more than half – 3.7 million – of the six million school-age children under its mandate have no school to go to.

It says refugees are five times more likely to be out of school than the global average.

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “This represents a crisis for millions of refugee children.

“Refugee education is sorely neglected, when it is one of the few opportunities we have to transform and build the next generation so they can change the fortunes of the tens of millions of forcibly displaced people globally.”

Get education updates leading up to and during the UN General Assembly.


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