The Progress of Nations

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 The lost children
                   
 Commentary: Reaching the unreached
     

Education, the key

         

UNICEF/93-1272/Murray-Lee

A girl in Nepal earns money through scavenging. Around 600 million children in developing countries are subsisting on less than $1 a day.

“Education,” said the late Julius Nyerere, a former schoolteacher and much loved first President of the United Republic of Tanzania, “is not a way of escaping the country’s poverty. It is a way of fighting it.”

We know that more than 110 million children of school age in the developing world are not in school and that most of them are labouring. We also know that every year that a child attends school dramatically reduces the chance that he or she will end up in economic servitude.

Education is every child’s right; nothing can compare or compete with it, and when it is of good quality and relevant to children’s lives, it truly can fight poverty. Education empowers by opening new possibilities and opportunities for children to participate and contribute, to the fullest of their abilities, unhampered by their class or gender.

The Convention on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour fully recognizes the power of education, noting that the long-term solution to child exploitation "lies in sustained economic growth leading to social progress, in particular poverty alleviation and universal education."

The link between education and poverty alleviation is especially important because the economic abyss between the rich and the poor has widened over the past decade. Now, despite unprecedented global economic expansion, more and more people are being isolated in ever deeper poverty. The assets of the world’s three richest billionaires, for example, are more than the combined gross national product of all of the 48 least developed countries and their 600 million people. In contrast, the poorest one fifth of the world’s population shares only 1 per cent of the world’s GNP.

In the fight against child labour and the exploitation of children, education must go hand in hand with global measures to buffer poor nations through steps such as fairer trade, more aid, deeper debt relief, better investment policies and more stable commodity prices.

 
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