Basic education and gender equality

Equal access to education

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/HQ06-0735/Noorani
A girl looks up from her class work in a boarding school for nomadic Bedouin children, in the village of Shola, Syrian Republic.

In 20 years, today’s children will be adults, with life stories and experiences that are unfolding now.

In 20 years, today’s students will be professionals, with knowledge and skills that were acquired through years of education.
 
And in 20 years, today’s out-of-school children, most of whom are girls, will wonder why we allowed them to slip through the cracks.

Of an estimated 101 million children not in school, more than half are girls. They are being denied their basic human right to education, with far-reaching consequences: Without it, their future opportunities are dramatically limited. If schooling unlocks the gate to a bright and successful future, a childhood bereft of education erects nearly insurmountable barriers.

UNICEF is deeply committed to creating a world in which all children, regardless of their gender, socioeconomic background or circumstances, have access to free, compulsory and quality education. UNICEF’s mandate to serve the most marginalized populations prompts it to focus special attention on girls, the largest group excluded from education.
 
UNICEF’s agenda fits into many international goals related to girls’ education, including Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3, to ensure that all children have access to and complete a full course of primary schooling, and to eliminate gender disparity in education by 2015. Other global goals echoing these commitments include the World Education Forum’s Dakar platform, which stresses the rights of girls, ethnic minorities and children in difficult circumstances; and A World Fit for Children’s emphasis on ensuring girls’ equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.

It is clear that the international community will not reach these goals if it sticks to business as usual. UNICEF works tirelessly to mobilize and provide resources to communities in need. In countries with low net enrolment rates for girls, its programmes help governments formulate policies, procedures and practices that will significantly reduce the number of girls who are not in school.

While UNICEF adapts its strategies to fit each situation, its interventions typically include outreach to locate excluded and at-risk girls to get them into school, policy support and technical assistance for governments and communities to improve access for those children who are hardest to reach or suffer most from discrimination, and programmes to eliminate cultural, social and economic barriers to girls’ education. UNICEF also provides development and implementation support, promotes educational quality and helps countries prepare for and respond to crises, in order to ensure that affected children learn in safe, stable and gender-sensitive environments.

UNICEF also provides development and implementation support, promotes educational quality and helps countries prepare for and respond to crises, in order to ensure that affected children learn in safe, stable and gender-sensitive environments.

In Southern Sudan, a country ravaged by decades of civil war, UNICEF helped launch the ‘Go to School’ initiative, a major campaign to rebuild the education system and bring over 1.6 million children back to the classroom. While significant progress has been achieved, enormous challenges remain.

Indeed, in Sudan and across the globe, UNICEF is committed to nothing less than full and complete access to free, quality education for every one of the world’s children. As the international community has acknowledged so often, access to quality education is not a privilege – it is a basic human right.

UNICEF will not rest until that right is fully realized.


 


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Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children

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