Inequality keeps too many children out of school in South Asia
A new study has revealed that 27 million children aged 5-13 are out of school in four countries -Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - in South Asia. “Out-of-school children have little opportunity to learn and develop and this has an unfortunate impact on the rest of their lives,” said EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, in reaction to the report released by the UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). “By better identifying these children and the challenges they face, we can take concrete and effective steps to reach out to them and try to ensure that their right to education is respected. We say: No more children hidden from decision makers!”
According to the “Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children – South Asia Regional Study covering Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka” launched on 28 January, children from rural areas, particularly girls, and from urban slums, ethnic minorities, children with disabilities and child labourers face the greatest risk of being out of school.
However, there has been a significant improvement in basic school enrolment rates in these countries over the past decade, notably in Sri Lanka, where there are only 70,000 children out of school.
The study is part of a global initiative launched in 2010 by UNICEF and UIS (Unesco Intitute for Statistics) which aims to significantly and sustainably reduce the number of children out of school around the world.
Informed decision and policies needed
The study shows that deeply entrenched inequalities are the main roadblocks keeping children out of school in South Asia. These include poverty, social and cultural norms, conflict, emergencies, and disasters. Children from rural areas, particularly girls, and from urban slums, ethnic minorities, children with disabilities and child labourers face the greatest risk of being excluded from education. This information in the study is crucial for decision makers in developing informed policies and reaching out to these excluded children.
Based on findings, the study urges policy makers to ensure:
• That children out of school, or at risk of dropping out, receive special attention and more resources from the Ministries of Education;
• The provision of sufficient quality education programmes in which children out of school can participate;
• Increased number of schools and better schooling together with social protection schemes, such as scholarships, to address multiple barriers to schooling.
EI: Quality education, a right for all children
Governments worldwide must address underlying inequalities, otherwise the problem will continue to deteriorate and millions of children will be denied a chance of a better future, according to van Leeuwen.
He also highlighted the fact that EI’s “ Unite for Quality Education” campaign is about ensuring that all children have access to quality teachers, as well as quality teaching and learning environments and tools.