|© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1531/Asad Zaidi|
|In Pakistan, 10-year-old Asma stands outside her family’s flood-damaged home in Allahdad Awan Village, Sindh Province.|
On any given day, more than a billion children are enrolled in primary or secondary school. But far too many of those enrolled children do not complete their education. Instead they drop out because the quality of the education they receive is poor or because of challenges that make it difficult for them to attend and participate in school. These challenges include deepening poverty, gender imbalances, emergencies and conflict situations, HIV and AIDS and disabilities. Chronic environmental degradation and climate-related hazards are also reasons why children cannot finish their education.
Scientific findings clearly indicate that a changing climate has – and will continue to have – a significant impact on human life and natural systems. Droughts, floods, rising temperatures, and heavy precipitation can lead to problems such as increased malnutrition, diarrhoea and malaria. Floods and rising sea levels can cause drowning, injuries, and severe mental and physical trauma, particularly for people who live on islands, along major river deltas and in low-lying coastal areas.
While no area is immune to the impacts of climate change, evidence suggests that developing countries, which already struggle with social, economic and environmental issues, will be worst hit by changes in rainfall patterns, greater weather extremes, and an increase in droughts and floods.
Children and women will be among those most affected by a changing climate. It is estimated that 65 per cent of those who will be affected by climate-related disasters every year in the next decade will be women and children.
Compared to adults, children are more susceptible to the negative effects of environmental degradation and more vulnerable to conditions such as poor air quality, contaminated water and extreme heat. Children who are excluded or discriminated against because of the economic or social background are often most affected. The impacts are more severe for children in countries that have weak governance and poor education systems, for girls, for children living in poverty, for children from ethnic minorities and indigenous groups, and for children living with disabilities.
Children as agents of change
While children are among the most vulnerable to climate change, they should not be considered passive or helpless victims. Children are powerful agents of change, and studies have found that many children can be extraordinarily resilient in the face of significant challenges. Providing children with empowering and relevant education on disasters and climate change in a child-friendly school environment can reduce their vulnerability to risk while contributing to sustainable development for their communities. Educating girls and women is one of the best ways of strengthening community adaptation to climate change, as shown by recent studies.
UNICEF works on scaling up and mainstreaming climate change adaptation and disaster-risk reduction plans into the education sector. This work is based on the principles of child-friendly education and aims to integrate climate change, disaster risk and environmental issues across the education system, including within policies and legislation, education sector plans and budgets, curricula and examinations, teacher education, school infrastructure and facilities, learning environments, and school governance and management.
Incorporating climate change and environmental education, including education on disaster-risk reduction, into a child-friendly education curriculum ensures the realization of children’s environmental rights as enshrined in many articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
New Resource Manual
Tokyo International Conference on African Development: 1-3 June 2013