NEW YORK, 23 April 2007 – As the world celebrates Global Action Week on Education, UNICEF urges donors and governments to keep their promises on education by reinforcing their commitment to the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015.
This year’s Global Action Week focuses on Education as a Human Right – a right denied to millions of children worldwide. Some progress has been achieved over the past 15 years, with net enrolment for primary education in developing countries increasing from 79 per cent in 1990 to 86 per cent in 2004.
Yet the number of children out of school remains high. In the 2001-2002 school year, some 115 million children of primary-school age were not in school – two thirds of them girls, and according to current estimates, 77 million eligible children are not enrolled in school and many of those enrolled do not attend. In sub-Saharan Africa for instance, only 63 per cent of boys and 59 per cent of girls go to school – the lowest rates worldwide.
“While we welcome the progress achieved over the last few years to send more boys and girls to school and help them acquire the basic skills they need to survive and thrive, it is unacceptable that millions of others still have no access to education,” said Cream Wright, UNICEF’s Global Chief of Education. “This goes beyond education. Children who do not go to school are more vulnerable to poverty, hunger, violence, abuse and exploitation, trafficking, and HIV/AIDS.”
Many barriers stand in the way of children’s schooling, from unaffordable fees and lack of basic facilities, to discrimination and low quality education. These are often compounded by negative cultural practices, like early marriage and the preference of boys over girls, which put education out of reach for many girls. The threats of natural disasters and civil conflicts disrupt the education of many children even further.
To address some of these constraints, UNICEF and partners aim to help children start school at the prescribed age, reduce gender-based and other disparities, improve the quality of education and ensure that education is restored in emergency and post-conflict situations.
UNICEF also supports national policies that promote free and compulsory quality education in child-friendly schools that provide safe, healthy and gender-sensitive learning environments including health and nutrition services, and safe water and sanitation.
“Ensuring that promises on education are kept is not just about sending children to school,” said Wright. “It’s about making sure that, when in school, they are safe, healthy and actually learning the skills that will protect them and enable them to fulfil their potential.”
About UNICEF UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.