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Donors fail on pre-primary education funding
by Graca Machel
Theirworld, agencies
Children’s early learning is too often neglected, putting millions of children at a disadvantage before they even start primary school.
Investing in the first five years of a child’s life has been proven as critical in providing all children an equal chance at success, no matter who they are or where they are born. To allow the brain to grow and the child to develop to their full potential, children need quality nurturing care – including play, health, protection nutrition and early learning.
However, whilst progress is being made in some areas, children’s early learning is too often neglected, putting millions of children at a disadvantage before they even start primary school.
A pre-primary education has a significant impact on a child’s future prospects both in their education and adult life. Benefits of investing in pre-primary education are found to be the greatest for the most disadvantaged, who are often the least prepared when starting primary school and therefore most likely to be left behind.
In Mozambique, for example, children in rural areas who had enrolled in pre-school were 24% more likely to enroll in primary school and show improved cognitive abilities and behavioural outcomes compared to children who had not.
World leaders have recognised the key role the early years play in tackling inequality by agreeing a crucial target within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they agreed that by 2030 they would “ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.”
But despite the evidence and rhetoric the data is telling a different story. Of the 193 countries that committed to the SDGs only 38 currently provide free, compulsory pre-primary education. And when it comes to international donors giving to pre-primary education the picture is equally depressing.
New research published this week by children’s charity Theirworld shows that overseas development assistance to Early Childhood Development has gone up in recent years – which is good news. The progress has been driven by increases in health and nutrition after dedicated campaigns to improve children’s start in life. This is something to support.
But at the same time only 1% of all early year’s aid goes to pre-primary education with a shockingly small number of donors supporting this crucial area. In 2016 only three donors disbursed more than US$5 million globally to pre-primary education. In contrast 29 donors disbursed more than US$5 million to health.
Both national governments and donors are perpetuating inequality in the education system and wider inequalities by failing to support pre-primary for all children, instead they are disproportionately investing in higher education, which favours children from wealthier income groups.
Currently international donor governments give 26 times more to scholarships to help students study in rich countries in 2015 than to pre-primary. Poor children missing out on early years education are much less likely to reach higher education. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 1% of the poorer half of the population will enter into higher education – but this sector receives disproportionately higher levels of funding.
A new approach to education funding is needed urgently if we want to tackle inequality, with a greater measure of funding going to children at risk of being left behind, those living in rural areas, those discriminated against, children impacted by HIV/AIDs, girls and those facing multiple disadvantages.
This means countries must increase the amount and the percentage of their total education spending towards free and compulsory pre-primary services – and ensure funds are targeted towards children who need the most help. International donors have to do the same, increasing their share of education spending going to pre-primary to 10%.
The establishment of the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) - similar to the one that exists for funding global vaccines – will help to fund overall education spending and be able to better target resources to pre-primary education. International donors have an opportunity to come behind the launch of the fund at the G20 in Argentina later this year.
We have seen progress in health and nutrition with concerted global campaigns making breakthroughs in tackling preventable child deaths and malnutrition. Now is the time to build on this progress and deliver quality pre-school services to all children, no matter who they are or where they are born.
* Graça Machel if the founder and president of the Foundation for Community Development and the Zizile Institute for Child Development. She founded the Graça Machel Trust in 2010 where she focuses on child protection and development, women’s economic and financial empowerment, food security and nutrition, leadership and governance. Access the report via the link below.

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One in every five children, adolescents and youth is out of school worldwide
by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, agencies
May 2018
Youth campaigners to deliver 1.5m calls for education funding to UN chief. (Theirworld)
Theirworld and Youth Ambassadors have secured a meeting with António Guterres in the big push to get every child into school. More than 1.5 million people have joined the campaign calling for an innovative funding plan that could get millions of children into school.
Their voices will be heard loudly this week, when their petition signatures will be handed in person to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
Theirworld and three of our Global Youth Ambassadors from Kenya, Nepal and Sierra Leone will meet the UN chief on May 11. They will deliver the message that the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) is a big idea that could help to deliver quality education for every child.
The world''s leaders made a commitment at last year''s G20 summit to act on IFFEd - a bold plan to unlock $10 billion of funding each year - by the end of 2018. It was a crucial turning point for global education as education campaigners, along with Theirworld and many others, led international calls for the G20 to back education and IFFEd.
On the eve of the G20 summit in Germany last year, our global ambassador Shakira said: "There are too many kids at risk of missing their only window of opportunity. We can''t press pause and ask them to wait to grow up until we have it all figured out."
Since then, the campaign to ensure those global leaders keep their word has been gathering momentum.
“We’ve now secured a handover with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres," said Theirworld Campaigns Director Ben Hewitt. "We’ll deliver the message to him in person at the UN in New York.
"By standing together, what once was thought impossible can be made possible. The opportunity to give every child the best start in life – an education – is within our grasp."
Theirworld has been working with the organisations BRAC and Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) and the campaigning website Avaaz to collect the 1.5 million signatures.
"IFFEd would bring an education revolution," said Sahar Saeed, Deputy Director Research at ITA, based in Pakistan. "We would have more schools, more children going in, more teachers."
The Global Youth Ambassadors who will hand in the 1.5 million petition signatures are: Lian Wairimu Kariuki, a passionate education, youth and women’s empowerment advocate from Kenya; Ousmane Ba, a champion for girls education and children''s rights from Sierra Leone; Asmita Ghimire, from Nepal, who campaigns for female empowerment and youth skills.
Urgent action on education funding is crucial because more than 260 million children and youth are not in school. Over 500 million school-age children will end up without a primary education because they drop out of school at a young age or learn very little.
This means that by the year 2030 more than half of the world’s children and young people – over 800 million – will not have the basic skills or qualifications needed for the modern workforce.
The International Finance Facility for Education is a groundbreaking way to finance education in countries around the world. By multiplying donor resources and motivating countries to increase their own investments, IFFEd will unleash significant new funding streams for education. It has the power to help tens of millions of children go to school and prepare millions more young people for the future of work.
Mar. 2018 (UNESCO)
New figures on the number of children out of school worldwide reveal that despite decades of efforts to get every child into the classroom, progress has come to a standstill. According to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), about 263 million children, adolescents and youth worldwide - one in every five - are out school, a figure that has barely changed over the past five years.
The new numbers are published as delegates gather in Paris for the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-Education 2030 Steering Committee meeting. The Committee is a unique body providing strategic guidance on the advancement of the Education 2030 Agenda. SDG4 includes a concrete commitment to ensure that every girl and boy is completing a good quality primary and secondary education by 2030.
The rate of progress, or the lack of it, varies by age group, according to a UIS paper released today. At primary level, the out-of-school rate has barely moved at all over the past decade, with 9% of children of primary age (about 6 to 11 years), or 63 million, out of school.
In addition, 61 million adolescents of lower secondary age (about 12 to 14 years) and 139 million youth of upper secondary age –one in every three – are not enrolled in school. These youth, between the ages of about 15 to 17 years, are four times more likely to be out of school than children of primary age, and more than twice as likely to be out of school as those of lower secondary age.
“These new figures show starkly the size of the gap that needs to be closed to ensure universal access to education,” says UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “We need much more comprehensive and targeted approaches together with more resources to reach those children and youth who are denied the right to education, with a special emphasis on girls and on improving the quality of education for all. This is the greatest urgency for unlocking progress towards SDG4.”
The UIS figures confirm that across sub-Saharan Africa one in every three children, adolescents and youth are out of school - with girls more likely to be excluded than boys. For every 100 boys of primary age out of school, there are 123 girls denied the right to education.
The new data also highlight a gulf between out-of-school rates in the world’s poorest and richest countries, with an upper-secondary out-of-school rate of 59% across the world’s low-income countries, compared to just 6% in high-income countries.
According to Silvia Montoya, Director of the UIS, “Access to education is only part of the picture. We also have a learning crisis, with one in six children and adolescents not reaching minimum proficiency levels in reading or mathematics; the majority of them are in school. Education has to deliver for every child, which requires effective monitoring to ensure that all children are in school, and that they are learning what they need to know. That is why the UIS, which is the official data source for SDG 4, is developing new indicators on equitable education and learning outcomes.”
The new figures reinforce calls for far greater global investment in education at all levels to ensure progress towards SDG 4, including more resources for data gathering and analysis to monitor the pace and equity of that progress.
Mar. 2018
Progress for Every Child in the SDG Era - Report from UN Children''s Fund
The latest data on development progress for children shows over half a billion more live in countries where the SDGs are quickly falling out of reach.
Early assessment of progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals confirms an alarming lack of data in 64 countries, as well as insufficient progress toward the SDGs for another 37 countries where the data can be tracked.
The UNICEF report, Progress for Children in the SDG Era, is the first thematic report assessing performance toward achieving the SDG global targets that concern children and young people. The report warns that 520 million children live in countries which completely lack data on at least two-thirds of child-related SDG indicators, or lack sufficient data to assess their progress – rendering those children effectively “uncounted.”
Where sufficient data is available, the scale of the challenge posed by the SDG targets remains daunting. The report warns that 650 million children live in countries where at least two-thirds of the SDGs are out of reach without accelerated progress. In fact, in those countries, even more children could face bad outcomes in life by 2030 than now.
“More than half the world’s children live in countries where we either can’t track their SDG progress, or where we can and they are woefully off-track,” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director for the Division of Data, Research and Policy. “The world must renew its commitment to attaining the SDGs, starting with renewing its commitment to measuring them.”
The report tracks progress on five dimensions of children’s rights: health, learning, protection from violence and exploitation, a safe environment and equal opportunity. The report quantifies how far short of the global goals the world is currently expected to fall, measured in human costs. Projections show that between now and 2030:
10 million additional children would die of preventable causes before their fifth birthday;
31 million children would be left stunted due to lack of adequate nutrition;
22 million children would miss out on pre-primary education;
150 million girls will marry before their 18th birthday;
670 million people, many of them children, will still be without basic drinking water.
“Two years ago, the world agreed on an ambitious agenda to give every child the best chance in life, with cutting-edge data analysis to guide the way,” said Chandy. “And yet, what our comprehensive report on SDG progress for children reveals plainly is an abject lack of data. Most countries do not have the information even to assess whether they are on track or not. Children around the world are counting on us – and we can’t even count all of them.”
The report calls for renewed efforts to address the global data-deficiency, while recognizing that strong national data institutions and capacity take time and investment to develop. The report identifies three principles to underpin this work:
Building strong measurement into service delivery systems, whether in health or education, social services or border control;
Systematic and coordinated efforts to ensure all countries have minimum data coverage for children, irrespective of their resources and capabilities;
Establishing stronger shared norms on data concerning children, including common approaches to measuring emerging threats facing children, capturing missing child populations, and sharing data to enable vulnerable children to be more effectively identified, while protecting children’s privacy.
While each government is ultimately accountable to generate the data that will guide and measure achievement of the goals, the international community has an obligation to partner with them to make sure the SDG targets are met.
# Of the 44 indicators linked to nine SDGs specific to children, 39 were assessed for data availability and progress. On average, 75-80 percent of indicators in countries either have insufficient data or show insufficient progress.

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