UNICEF’s approach is to ensure that every child – regardless of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background or circumstances – has access to a quality education. Its focus on equity highlights the importance of educationas a primary tool for empowerment, and its essential role in breaking inter-generational cycles of poverty and deprivation. The education of girls, has been shown to benefit the lives of all children in multiple ways, such as reduction in child mortality and improvement in maternal health.
Why partner with religious communities for education?
Education has been an integral aspect of all the major faith traditions, with religious schools providing the foundation for the modern school movement.
Today, the hundreds of thousands of schools around the world run by religious communities represent an important constituency in educational programming, though in many places child rights organizations may have little interaction with them.
Religious institutions also play a significant role in increasing access to education for children in lower-income countries. They achieve this through various social protection components of education, such as school fees, credit or loan schemes for poor families and nutritious feeding programmes in schools.
However, just as it is important to highlight the positive role religious schools can have, it is also important to address the potential negative impacts of religious schools. For example, learning may be confined to memorizing religious texts or children may be subjected to corporal punishment.
Theologians and religious educators in particular, as opinion leaders, can spearhead efforts to develop curricula and translate fundamental concepts of child rights and equitable access to education for all – especially the most vulnerable and marginalized children – into language appropriate to their communities.
What can religious communities do to promote education?