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At a glance: United States of America

Podcast #53: Ensuring children’s right to education in rapidly growing urban areas

'Beyond School Books' - a podcast series on education in emergencies

© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-2138/Palasi
Children displaced by Tropical Storm Washi draw with UNICEF-provided supplies at a child-friendly space in Iligan, Philippines.

By Rudina Vojvoda

NEW YORK, USA, 1 March 2012 – More than one billion children live in urban areas according to UNICEF’s flagship report, ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World’.

  AUDIO: Listen now

On the whole, children in urban areas typically have better educational opportunities than those in rural areas. But for many urban children from marginalized groups – including the children of migrants and children living in slums or on the streets – education remains inaccessible. Many fail to meet registration requirements to enrol in urban schools and others can’t afford education-related costs, such as uniforms, books and supplies.

To discuss how urbanization has impacted education, UNICEF’s podcast moderator Femi Oke  spoke with two guests: Dr. Pamela Wridt, Co-Director of Children's Environments Research Group (CERG) , and Carlos Vasquez, a UNICEF Education Specialist. 

Making cities child-friendly

Children of migrants often face an inhospitable welcome when they move to urban areas, said Mr. Vasquez. “The children move from rural areas to the urban settings, but they remain in the peripheries because the cities are not designed or prepared to receive the millions of people that are migrating. Because of this, children are denied the basic human rights as they arrive in these settings,” he said.

Since 1996, the Child Friendly City Initiative has guided cities and local governments to include children’s rights as a key component of their agenda.  Dr. Wridt believes that the initiative has had a positive impact around the globe. “We have seen improved services and new programs for children that are designed by children, such as the clubs in Sudan, where children of different tribes are getting to know one another through peace education and reconciliation programs,” she said.

She also spoke of France and Turkey, where many cities are going through the process of becoming certified as child-friendly. “One of the things they did to become certified was to create children’s councils … that regularly advise the mayor or other decision-makers on matters that concern children,” she said.

Empowering communities

According to Mr. Vasquez, the success of coping with rapid urbanization depends on ensuring that communities are empowered to find their own solutions.

“If the communities are not involved, most likely the outcome will not be as effective as we wish it to be. Haiti is a perfect example of that. Communities have been left out of the process of rebuilding and putting back their life together. It is crucial that whatever we do, we involve children and communities – not only in the planning but also in the reconstruction aspect of their lives moving forward,” Mr. Vasquez concluded.  




UNICEF's podcast moderator Femi Oke speaks with experts about the impact of rapid urbanization on children and education.

  AUDIO: Listen now

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