We need to act urgently on inequality to get every child into school by 2015

By Pauline Rose, director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report

There are only 1,000 days to go until the deadline for the Education for All goals, but there are still 61 million primary school age children out of school. Half of those children live in just eight countries. The Learning for All Ministerial is bringing together their ministers of finance and education with leaders from development partner organizations in Washington on Thursday, to discuss how to accelerate progress, building on the momentum of the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative launched last September.

WIDE-iconMany of the children not in school in those countries – Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Yemen and South Sudan – miss out because of inequality linked to factors such as where they live, poverty, conflict, gender and ethnicity. We highlight those patterns of inequality in graphic form in a new booklet featuring fresh data from our World Inequalities Database on Education (WIDE), released this week to coincide with Learning for All Ministerial meetings in Washington.

Our data show that the factors keeping children out of school are different in each country – and that some countries have made much greater progress than others, demonstrating what can be achieved when effective policies aimed at reaching the marginalized are backed by political commitment.

Bangladesh, for example, has made great progress in getting children into school, and in gender parity. In most low-income countries, more boys than girls attend school, but in Bangladesh it’s the other way around, partly thanks to a successful cash stipend programme for girls.

Nigeria, by contrast, is a wealthier country than Bangladesh but has the world’s highest number of out-of-school children – 10 million. Nigerian children’s chances of entering and completing primary school vary hugely depending on where they live, and on whether their family is rich or poor. In northeastern Nigeria, almost three-quarters of the poorest children aged 7 to 16 had never been to school in 2008, whereas almost all of the richest children had.

Similar divides show up in Ethiopia, despite considerable progress in getting children into school over the last decade – and in rural areas, the nomadic lifestyle of pastoralists makes them particularly vulnerable, as our new data show. In Addis Ababa, the capital, almost all children now start school. By contrast, almost six out of 10 of the poorest children living in Afar, a predominantly pastoralist region, have never had a chance to go to school.

Ethiopia, 2011: Never been to primary school, aged 7-16

Ethiopia-2011-WIDEIn the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the most striking gap is between those who live in conflict zones and those who don’t. Almost all children aged 7-16 in the capital city, Kinshasa, have been to school, whether male or female. In the conflict-affected region of Katanga, the richest children have a similar chance of going to school as those in Kinshasa. But one in three of the poorest children have never been to school. The poorest girls in Katanga are the worst off of all: 44% have never been to school, compared with 17% of boys in the region.

Putting education first means that ministers of finance need to work together with ministers of education to tackle disparities such as these. The Learning for All Ministerial meeting, which will be co-hosted by Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group; Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general; and Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, are an opportunity to ensure this happens before the 2015 deadline for getting every child into school.

This entry was posted in Basic education, Equity, Gender, Out-of-school children, Poverty, Primary school, Rural areas. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to We need to act urgently on inequality to get every child into school by 2015

  1. In practical we are been supported by ESSPIN/DFID to strengthen community support to access and equity. The pilot LGEA‘s today are competing with school enrollement for inclusion. Challenge to inclusion is having girl child role to school. EFA is has done a lot but still need technical support to have ALL access to education.


  2. Akindolani Dayo says:

    On the comment of Northeastern Nigeria, poverty will not stop people there not to attend school but orientation/mindset of the parents because they will not want them to go to the formal school even though most of the government schools are free. I will not believe that it is because they are poor even the poor children in the southwest go to school.


    • Provident Dimoso says:

      Thanks for your comment Akindolani, but if it is not poverty, what else stop them from accessing education?


  3. Peter Mittler says:

    Once again, there is no mention of the fact that one third of the 61 million out of school children are children with disabilities who have not benefited from the first round of MDGs, despite evidence collected by UNICEF and UNESCO of successful examples of their inclusion in local schools in many countries.

    The first step is to insist on disaggrated data on children with disabilities in the WIDE data base now available for gender, poverty and location – in all of which disabled children will be disproprtionately represented.

    130 countries, some of them named in the article, have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which makes them accountable in international law to develop national plans to provide access to quality education and teachers trained and supported to meet their needs. Unless action is taken now, the rights of disabled children will continue to be overlooked.


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  5. sagam says:

    Its just do not happen like a wink.
    Poverty might be the major aspect one wish to eradicate to avoid gender inequality.


  6. Actually, the striken force within the region has nothing to do with poverty. What i belief is “ilitracy“. This resulted to bokoharam insungerncy.


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  9. Actually, to me i feel poverty is not and naver the issue of areas like the northeastern part. I feel issues like:
    * lack of williness by some parents who are already illitrate.
    * motivational through mobilization and awareness.
    * the litrate people contribute in the society‘s syndrom not wanting children to go to school so that nobody can challenge them.
    * prefer almajiri education to conventional system.
    That is why today we advocate for the introduction of conventional system of education integrated with the almajiri as supported by ESSPIN/DFID. As a facilitator on this initiative about 120,000 almajiri CHILDREN benefiting from this intervantion in KADUNA STATE.


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