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The worth of education

© UNICEF/MLYA2012/Balasundaram

The Convention on the Rights of the Child upholds the right to education for all children, everywhere. Education and literacy – which is intricately tied to learning – can turn a vicious cycle of poverty and missed opportunities into a virtuous cycle of empowerment and growth.

Benefits of literacy

Children who learn to read and write reap benefits that go beyond school grades, and experience consequences that will last for lifetimes to come.

§ Educating all children is the first step towards reducing poverty, reducing disparities and reducing crime opportunities.

§ Educating all children is the first step towards increasing life opportunities, increasing capacity and increasing the nation's economic capability.

§ Educating children is the first step towards empowering them to protect their own health and improve their standards of living. (For example, educating a girl dramatically reduces the chance her child will die before age five.)

§ Educating all children is the first step towards building a better world and future for their children.

Risks of illiteracy

Children who cannot read and write have far fewer opportunities to seek self-improvement, especially in the increasingly modernised and globalised world they live in today. Here are some of the risks that children will be exposed to, if they are not educated:

§ Life on the streets: Without the educational foundation to pursue higher studies that enable a good career, children are further discriminated against and may be forced out on the streets at a much younger age to earn a living. Without the ability to read or write needed for gainful employment, these children may be forced to petty criminal activities such as pick-pocketing to feed their hunger and to survive.

§ Exploitation: Children on the streets are not only at greater risk of suffering violence and abuse, they are also often too easily lured into gangs, and exploited by adults for sex work and drug peddling. Children who sell and use drugs expose other children to drugs as well. As a result of gang activity, these children inadvertently also contribute to the crime statistics of a city, town or village.

§ Health risks: Sex work and drug abuse are the two biggest risk factors for HIV infection. Uneducated children who are HIV-positive are even more vulnerable, as they do not know how to manage their infection, are unable to demand for medical care, are unable to support themselves, and, most chillingly, do not know how to prevent spreading the virus.





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