With the start of the school in many countries in the coming months, the UNICEF said that inequalities in access to education are keeping some 244 million children between 6 and 18 out of the classroom and called for a global mobilisation to place education at the top of the international agenda.
With 98 million children out of school, Sub-Saharan Africa region leads the table and it is also the only region where this number is increasing. Then comes Central and Southern Asia region with 85 million children still having no access to education, , according to the latest UNICEF estimates.
“ A new school year is starting in many parts of the world. This news should bring us joy, but it also reminds us that deep inequalities persist in access to education: 244 million of children are still out of school. No one can accept this situation. Education is a right and we must do everything to ensure that this right is respected for every child,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said.
CLASSROOM; EDUCATION RISKS
“No one can accept this situation,” said Audrey Azoulay, underlining the need to respect every child’s right to education.
“In view of these results, the objective of quality education for all by 2030, set by the United Nations, risks not being achieved,” she warned. “We need a global mobilization to place education at the top of the international agenda.”
She will renew her call at the landmark Transforming Education Summit on 19 September, at UN Headquarters in New York. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has convened the Summit to mobilize action and solutions, including to reverse learning losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In view of the results, the objective of quality education for all by 2030, set by the United Nations, risks not being achieved. We need a global mobilization to place education at the top of the international agenda,” said Audrey Azoulay.
CLASSROOM; CLOSING THE GENDER GAP
As per the estimates., UNESCO said that difference in the rate of girls and boys out of school has closed worldwide. In 2000, the gender gap was 2.5 percentage points among primary school age children, and 3.9 percentage points among their upper secondary school counterparts. However, the data showed that the gap has beenreduced to zero, although regional disparities persist.
UNICEF said that about four million children in Ukraine are facing the start of an uncertain school year. “Children are returning to schools – many of which have been damaged during the war – with stories of destruction, uncertain if their teachers and friends will be there to welcome them. Many parents are hesitating to send their children to school, not knowing if they will be safe,” Audrey Azoulay said.
As per reports, thousands of schools across Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed due to the fighting, with less than 60 per cent deemed safe and eligible for reopening. She had earlier visited a rehabilitated primary school that had been damaged during the early weeks of the conflict. Only 300 students can attend at any one time due to the capacity of the school’s bomb shelter, representing a mere 14 per cent of the school’s pre-war capacity.
UNICEF said it is working with the Ukrainian authorities to get children back to learning – both in classrooms, when it is deemed safe, and through online or community-based alternatives if in-person education is not possible.
Since the war began, some 760,000 children have received formal or non-formal education. Additionally, more than 1.7 million children and caregivers have benefited from UNICEF-supported mental health and psychosocial support interventions.
“Schools in Ukraine are desperate for resources to build bomb shelters instead of playgrounds, with children being taught about unexploded ordinances instead of road safety,” said Ms. Russell. “This is the stark reality for Ukrainian students, parents and teachers.”
Getting children back to learning involves efforts such as rehabilitating schools, providing laptops, tablets and supplies to teachers and students, and guiding children and teachers on how to stay safe during a time of war.
Russell said “after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and six months since the escalation of the war, their physical and mental health is under enormous strain. More must be done to address what for many has been a sad reality.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian children who are now refugees face other challenges. Roughly 650,000 living in 12 host countries were still not enrolled in national education systems as of the end of July.
UNICEF has supported nearly half with formal or non-formal education. The UN agency is also working with governments and partners to make sure that Ukrainian refugee children are either enrolled in schools or have access to online learning
A UN report released in June 2022 said trhat the number of crisis-impacted school-aged children requiring educational support has grown from an estimated 75 million in 2016, to 222 million. The UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), outlines that of those 222 million girls and boys, as many as 78.2 million are out of school, and close to 120 million who are in attendance are not achieving minimum proficiency in math or reading.