Education is a basic human right and a powerful means by which socially and economically marginalised individuals can bring themselves out of poverty and begin to participate fully in society. Without such access to good education, individuals cannot exercise completely their civil, political, economic and social rights.

‘’The right to development is the measure of the respect of all other human rights. That should be our aim: a situation in which all individuals are enabled to maximize their potential, and to contribute to the evolution of society as a whole.’’

-Boutros Boutros-Ghali

It is unfortunate however, that despite of all the commitments that have been made by various Governments under international instruments for providing education for all, millions of children and adults still remain deprived of basic educational opportunities.

Over 160 countries committed themselves to six Education For All Goals in 2000:

Goal 1

Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

Goal 2

Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality.

Goal 3

Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes.

Goal 4

Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.

Goal 5

Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.

Goal 6

Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.

Statistics published in “Reaching the Marginalised”, a new report on education in the developing world by UNESCO revealed that any progress made by governments has not been consistent, the numbers of non-enrolled school-age children dropped by 33 million in 2007 compared with 1999 with about 15 million of that fall from India alone. Unfortunately in Liberia and Nigeria numbers were much the same as in 1999.

It would seem that keeping children in school once they get there is also a problem, with Uganda, India, and Nigeria showing the highest percentage of young adults who have had less than four years education. It appears that the world is definitely not on track for reaching its goal of primary education for all by 2015.

Unesco report that in total about 72 million primary school age children and another 71 million adolescents are not at school, and on current trends, 56 million 5 year old children will still be out of school in 2015.

Gender disparities remain a significant issue, with 28 countries across the developing world having nine or fewer girls in school for every ten boys. There has been little progress towards the goal to improve by 50% adult illiteracy – a condition that affects 759 million people. Incidentally two-thirds of these reading and writing problems occur in females. ‘Inequalities in Education’ an ‘Education For All’ global monitoring report, reveals that Nigeria and Yemen have largest proportion of the poorest girls who have never attended school.

April 21st-27th 2013 was Global Action Week on Education for All, a week –long advocacy event designed to promote quality education for all, organised annually by the Global Campaign for Education. ‘Every Child Needs a Teacher’ was the slogan of this year’s campaign which is centred around the importance of having adequate teachers in order to reach educational goals.

Even in areas where education becomes available, teachers in marginalised societies often have to overcome significant obstacles and cope with threats and danger in the course of their daily teaching routine. For instance, in rural Thailand village teachers often face overcrowded classes and children speaking a number of different languages may be present in the classroom. In Mali, teachers and pupils regularly face intimidation and threats and in Afghanistan gender stereotyping is a typical hurdle to be overcome.

Most governments claim to have in place a policy framework for combating marginalisation in education. Election campaigns around the world see governments pledge to expand opportunities for education, improve school quality and enhance learning standards. Unfortunately, the implementation of practical policies associated with such election promises is often inconsistent and inadequately coordinated.

It appears government strategies are failing to deal with some of the most powerful forces behind marginalisation. Monitoring and addressing inequality in education must finally become a central focus for governments in the coming years working with NGO’s and local communities in a consistent manner. A coordinated approach is required, with the introduction of specific measures needed to ensure that new policies reach those especially disadvantaged by factors such as gender, poverty, location, ethnicity or disability.

By Eve Pearce
Written for Restless Beings to add insight to the educational aspect of our Bangladesh Dhaka Street Children Project.

Photo credit: UNESCO

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