UNITE FOR CHILDREN-- UNICEF

Press Centre 2009/09/24: General Information

THE RIGHT TO QUALITY EDUCATION AND CHILD FRIENDLY SCHOOLS FOR ALL CHILDREN
UNICEF’s message on the opening of the 2009-2010 school year

TURKEY — At beginning of the 2009-2010 school year, UNICEF would like to wish all Turkey’s children and teachers success and happiness in their studies and in their careers.

We would also like to commend Ministry of National Education and school administrators throughout the country on the work which they have been doing to provide a quality education for all of the country’s children. We hope and trust that they will redouble their efforts in this direction in the days and months ahead.

Education is a fundamental human right: Every child is entitled to it. It is critical to our development as individuals and as societies, and it helps pave the way to a successful and productive future. When we ensure that children have access to a rights-based, quality education that is rooted in gender equality, we create a ripple effect of opportunity that impacts generations to come.

Under the Millennium Development Goals, the international community has committed itself to achieving universal primary education by 2015. Today, there are more children in school than ever before. Yet 101 million children of primary school age - 53 million girls and 48 million boys - were still not attending school in 2007.

Most out-of-school primary-school-age children (88 per cent) live in Africa and Asia. But 2.9 million of the 101 million children of primary school age who are not attending school are in industrialized countries. With every passing minute, many children are being deprived of the right to education.

At the same time, schools need to be child-friendly. Children come to school with unique personalities and backgrounds, shaped by the different conditions of their homes and the communities they live in. Schools must be able to take into account all factors which might obstruct the child’s enrolment, regular attendance and learning achievement. They should respect the unique identity of every child with her or his own needs. The physical environment and the emotional and social atmosphere dominating the school should be inclusive of all children and conducive for their education. The rights of children should be protected and their voices should be heard. The school and its environment should be a shelter where the child can learn and be protected.

For these reasons, UNICEF is issuing a call to responsible people globally to speed up their work to enable all girls and boys to benefit from their right to quality education from early childhood onwards.

Specifically, we are urging all states and providers of education around the world to:

- Ratify all relevant human rights conventions: formally recognize education as a human right, and ratify all relevant international treaties.

- Ensure access to education: budget for and implement early childhood education; make a commitment to compulsory primary education; develop secondary education, supported by measures to make it accessible to all children, and ensure equitable access to higher education.

- Remove economic barriers to education: abolish fees for primary education; collaborate with the non-formal education sector to promote and facilitate access to other learning opportunities, and include specific measures related to the removal of economic barriers in national plans of action and poverty reduction initiatives.

- Promote inclusion and end discrimination: ensure that births are registered, because the lack of a birth certificate may result in the denial of a place in school, and eliminate all forms of discrimination.

- Provide a broad, relevant and inclusive curriculum: promote a broad-based curriculum that aspires to equip children with numeracy and literacy, as well as with knowledge in science, the humanities, sport and the arts; and provide opportunities for play consistent with the right to optimum development.

- Develop rights-based learning and assessment: ensure that the right of children to express their views is granted and that their views are given due weight, and ensure that teaching and learning materials are adequate.

- Ensure adequate training, support and respect for teachers: establish minimum qualification standards for teachers at all levels of education, and introduce measures to protect teachers’ rights.

- Introduce child-friendly, safe and healthy learning environments: ensure minimum health and safety standards; monitor whether these standards are complied with or not, and provide appropriate health packages including nutrition, screening, health checks and protection from contagious diseases.

- Respect identity: provide bilingual or multilingual education for children not familiar with the language of instruction, and ensure community support for respect for religion, culture and language.

- Ensure children’s participation: establish and encourage student participation at all levels, and involve children in the development of relevant school policies.

- Protect children against violence: prohibit all forms of violence against children, including physical and humiliating punishment in school and at home; support and train teachers to end physical punishment and introduce strategies for non-violent conflict resolution; and provide effective mechanisms for complaint by children.

In Turkey, many initiatives have been taken to improve access to and quality of education. Among these are the ongoing expansion of preschool education, steps to improve the quality of primary education and efforts to ensure 100% access for girls as well as boys. UNICEF welcomes all these indications of Turkey’s determination to remove the barriers which stand in the way of the right to education.

We trust that Turkey will accelerate its efforts to overcoming those obstacles which still stand in the way of a quality education for all children, with equal opportunities in child-friendly schools.

With my best wishes for a healthy, fruitful and enjoyable school year.

UNICEF Turkey Representative

For further information, please contact:
Fatma Uluc, Education Officer + 90 533 640 4759, fuluc@unicef.org
Sema Hosta, Communication Officer + 90 533 622 8346 shosta@unicef.org

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.

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