Education empowers children and communities
KUALA LUMPUR, 8 SEPTEMBER 2010 – “School is a lot of fun. I learn to read and count and sing. I study hard because I want to be a teacher,” shared bubbly 12-year old Ina, one of 200 Bajau Laut children attending the Lill-Babs Learning Centre in Sabah’s Bum Bum Island.
An indigenous people who for centuries have lived on boats in the seas between Mindanao, Sabah and Sulawesi, the Bajau Laut have historically not enrolled their children in school due to their nomadic seafaring lifestyle or because their children have no birth registration. Without an education, Bajau Laut children tend to end up begging on the streets where they are exposed to violence, abuse, exploitation and the risk of HIV infection.
“Educating all children, including those living on the margins of society, is the first step towards reducing disparities and eliminating poverty,” said UNICEF Representative to Malaysia Mr. Hans Olsen. “When children are empowered with education, they can improve their standard of living.”
Education is not the privilege of a few, but the right of all children, everywhere, as accorded to them by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and reinforced by the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the goals of the Dakar Framework for Action.
Yet, some 101 million children of primary school age across the world were not enrolled in school in 2007; 88 per cent of whom live in Africa and Asia as a result of poverty, local customs and gender discrimination. Out-of-school children represent a broken promise to children affecting the health and future of themselves, their families as well as the education system and the overall development potential of the countries where they live.
“Children are less likely to be healthy, grow strong or be safe without an education. They are less likely to fully participate in their communities or raise healthy children themselves one day,” highlighted Mr. Olsen. “Without universal education, countries are less likely to achieve other development goals.”
Achieving universal primary education
In Malaysia, the Lill-Babs Learning Centre seeks to transform a bleak future for Bajau Laut children to one of bright promise. Set up by a local NGO, the Borneo Child Aid Society, the “school” is one of 112 UNICEF-supported learning centres in Sabah and Sarawak for Malaysian and immigrant children in plantations and towns who are unable to access basic education because of distance, poverty or legal status.
UNICEF’s financial support in 2010 will enable the Borneo Child Aid to provide education for 1,000 plantation children as well as enhance the learning experience for some 9,000 children in Sabah and Sarawak through mini-libraries and the ASTRO educational channel at all 112 learning centres.
The project is one of many supported by UNICEF to help Malaysia in its efforts to achieve the second MDG of universal primary education, with all school-age children completing six years of learning.
“By investing in education for marginalised and vulnerable children, UNICEF is laying the foundation for growth, transformation, opportunity and equality so children like Ina can craft their own choices for an independent future full of opportunities,” Mr. Olsen affirmed...............................................................................................
International Literacy Day
UNICEF’s Education Programs in Malaysia
For more information, please contact:
Indra Kumari Nadchatram
All Children, Everywhere
Strategy for basic education and gender equality, 2009. Read
Newsline: Literacy Day 2010
Education in Malaysia: Real Lives