A United Nations report published this week says that at least 250 million school aged children cannot read and that over 5 million new teachers are needed to teach them.
This follows a goal in 2000 of giving every child a primary school education by 2015. A goal which has been utterly missed with children still working, begging and lacking decent basic school opportunities.
Roughly half of those 250 million children were in very poorly staffed school; but the other half do not even attend school. As might be expected, the countries faring the worst are in Africa and the Middle East.
- About half the out-of-school children – over 50 million – live in conflict zones
- 14 countries had more than 1 million children out of school
- Sub-Saharan Africa is the region lagging farthest behind.
Who is to Blame?
Aside from a lack of government initiative and will, one reason for this appalling lack of basic education is put down to a lack of well trained teachers. In almost one third of countries studied, the great majority of teachers did not meet even the minimum national standards.
UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova said, “We need 5.2 million teachers to be recruited by 2015, and we need to work harder to support them in providing children with their right to a universal, free and quality education.”
And it is not just the students who suffer. Governments who fail to invest in basic education risk losing financially – up to $129 billion according to the report. A good standard of education in a country can increase the GDP by over 20 percent in 40 years.
Meanwhile the report highlighted the gender imbalance between male and female students. Almost two-thirds of girls in Arab states & Sub-Saharan Africa do not attend school; a figure far higher than with male students.
Researchers estimate that all male students in the richest countries will attend school by 2021; but that all female students in the poorest countries will attend school by 2086.
However, on the plus side, with effort something can be done. In the last 5 years Laos, Rwanda and Vietnam have all reduced their out-of-school population by over 85%. Things are by no means perfect in those countries when it comes to education, but it does show that with the right will something can be done, something which will improve the living standard in the country in years to come.