Why Children Aren’t Making It To School

Every child deserves the right to an education. Education is the most valuable thing that a person can obtain because it is one of the few things that no one can take away from you. According to UNESCO, the latest global statistics for educational attendance, which was last reported in 2014, reveal that 263 million children did not attend school. This exceptionally low number is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by international governments.

15-year-old Jonathan, a Save the Children child rights campaigner from Uganda, shares his thoughts on the case of children not attending school: “Without education no one can get success…you will not understand, and you will be illiterate. So, you find that is very difficult.” The level of education offered to children is an investment into a country’s future. Therefore, if countries are not putting money towards their children’s education, they have blatantly accepted that they have diminished future prospects for their country.

Some leading and longstanding contributors to low attendance include a school building’s vulnerability to attacks, exposure to child labour, dangers of walking to school, high rates of pregnancy and a lack of funding. However, these issues are only the tip of the iceberg.

Atop of these longstanding issues, the recent complication of COVID-19 has greatly impacted the statistics. The number of children out of school in 2020/2021 skyrocketed to 800 million. Despite COVID-19 being an obvious contributing factor to these new statistics, it is likely that many of these children will eventually return to their usual schooling routines. The most pressing issue is those children who have never experienced the routine of attending school. Given the poor international efforts to facilitate this crisis, they probably never will.

The international response to these issues is not up to the standard that it ought to be.

International charities such as Save the Children and UNICEF are doing their utmost to help change these statistics by providing aid and donations that go towards building schools. However, this is not enough. The actions of UNICEF and Save the Children should be the responsibility of individual countries. The low level of international efforts cannot be tolerated. Countries are failing to see that their decisions to place funding in alternate areas of society will backfire on the future of their country.

This crisis requires a fundamental change on behalf of international governments and communities. They must manage their funding plan in order to support education systems. Children born in Western countries are among the most educationally privileged. Therefore, such countries should be the first to make a financial contribution to aid less fortunate nations.

Creating a mandatory annual international contribution tax for countries would be a step forward in building a world where free education is available for all. Countries may attempt to relinquish responsibility because this tax isn’t targeted specifically at children in their country. To this weak argument, we say that we are one world and one global community. We cannot expect to combat international issues such as climate change, global unemployment and poverty if we do not try to facilitate the root of these issues. We cannot create a future with uneducated, and therefore underprivileged, children.

Children will not go to school due to being forced to work in sweatshops, or because their journey to school puts their lives at risk. These two issues can be readily resolved by efforts from the Western world if there were to changes within their society. Child labour and precarious journeys to school, two of the most pressing reasons for low attendance, can be mitigated through international cooperation and contribution agreements. 

According to the International Labour Organization, more than 150 million children are victims of forced labour – which contributes to their absence from school. Not only are these children missing out on their education, but they are also exposed to trafficking, sexual violence and toxic substances. There are ways to change this, and this change calls upon the global community and international governments.

As opposed to sending the military into other countries to fight conflict, governments should implement an international quota of military guards. These guardians could be scattered across poorer countries to protect children from being exposed to forced labour.

These military guards would not only be alerted to search within sweatshops for child victims, but they will also facilitate escorting these children to schools. With this initiative in place, a global military arrangement will be able to combat not only the problems of child labour but they would also ensure the safety of children’s journey to school.

The instigator for the global community to enact this process would be for citizens to call upon parliaments to reform their government spending. There have been recent examples from governments that have highlighted the level of seemingly disposable expenditure. These resources could be used in an arguably more facilitative and meaningful area.

Recently, we have witnessed expenditure from governments that have gone towards unessential urban development. When a country is in a position where not every single child citizen is attending school because of financial reasons, their economic judgments should always prioritize these situations as opposed to, for example, erecting a biking bridge. Education should always be at the top of a government’s priority list. It is not until all children within a country are given the opportunity and are supported to attend school, that a government should allocate tax dollars on lucrative projects. Financing a child’s education should be paramount.

The world cannot move forward without the collaborative effort to implement international positive change, and less privileged countries will have little to contribute if their children are not educated. In countries in which children do not go to school, nations are at war and misogyny is rampant, the educational disparity will persist. Inequality will remain because the incoming uneducated generation will fail to present new ideas and opportunities to progress their countries. Failure to change this will create an ongoing cycle of international imbalance.

To those countries who are choosing to fork out millions of dollars in order to build a cycle bridge for their citizens, the world needs you to do better. Make a more educated decision. Prioritize children’s education above all else. Whether it is international or domestic, education must come first.

The global community, at the civilian level, must call upon our leaders for change. We are the sole drive that will combat this problem. Children in third world countries have suffered for too long and they need our help.

Bella Christie
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