Back to school? The worst places in the world to be a school child in 2010

from Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children
Published on 20 Sep 2010 View Original
- New report shows Somalia and Haiti top list of global education hot spots

- Former UK Prime Minister Brown warns that a "generation could be condemned to poverty"

- Rich countries breaking their aid promises and using education funds for domestic universities

Somalia and Haiti have topped a list of the world's worst places to be a school child as a new report from the Global Campaign for Education, backed by organizations including Education International, Oxfam, Plan, Save the Children and VSO warned that poor countries are teetering on the brink of an education crisis with the growth in access to education now stalling.

The agencies, which are part of the Global Campaign for Education who authored the report shows how, despite promises from leaders across the world, chronic underinvestment in education means that 69 million children are still out of school. The key findings of the report titled "Back to School?" include:

- Economic Impact leading to cuts in education provision: Millions of children are becoming the victims of the financial crisis with poor countries' education budgets being cut by $4.6 billion a year. In the last twelve months Kenya had to delay the provision for free education to 9.7 million children due to budgetary constraints.

- Unequal provision of education: In Nigeria, the sixth biggest oil producer in the world, a lack of political will is a major factor in the country having the highest number of children out of school in the world. Gross inequality in the provision of education has led to 8.2 million children out of primary school with many more dropping out within the first year. Over half of these children are in the north of the country, with girls suffering the most with many receiving just 6 months of education in their lives.

- Secondary and tertiary education: While there has been progress in primary provision of education, only one country in Africa has more than 50% of its children in secondary school.

Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of Great Britain and recently appointed to the High Level Panel for the Global Campaign for Education said: "We find ourselves at an historic crossroads for global education. The momentum of the last ten years could still be harnessed to make education for all a reality within five years, an achievement that would surely rate among mankind's greatest. But, if education budgets are not protected from the ravages of the financial crisis all that progress could be jeopardized and generations will be condemned to poverty. For years the international community has acknowledged the fundamental role education plays in development. Today it must back these words with renewed action."

The report shows that education investment should form a significant part of the international community's global recovery package which will be discussed at the G20 in Korea in November. The dividend that education provides to people is clear as adults that complete an education earn 50% more than those that don't. New research from UNESCO estimates that 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if they left school just with basic reading skills.

In many countries, progress is being made as in Tanzania three million extra children are now able to go to and Mozambique has halved the number of children out of school. A number of countries in Africa, such as Rwanda have made strong efforts to ensure that there are enough professionally trained teachers, although others have resorted to hiring contract and unqualified teachers. The report shows that delivering education for all is highly achievable and brings other poverty dividends such as reducing HIV deaths by seven million and doubling child survival by 50% if mothers are educated.

Sadly some rich countries don't direct their aid budgets at the poorest countries or where inequalities are most extreme, but use their aid budgets to underwrite their University systems. Germany spends 50% of its aid to education on subsidizing its Universities allocating $927 million to its University system. France is guilty of the same practices and further misuses its aid budget to underwrite former colonies, with the island of Mayotte receiving $67 million of France's education budget - the equivalent to $1099 per child - while other children in Africa receive 50 cents.

GCE is calling on leaders meeting at the United Nations in New York this week to make funding for education a priority in order to meet the target of universal access to basic schooling by 2015. It argues that poor countries should spend 20% of their national budget on education, abolishing school fees and be supported to hire an additional 1.9 million teachers so that every child can have access to education.

In addition, rich countries must agree a 'step up plan' to reach the $16 billion per year needed to achieve Education For All with an immediate doubling of aid to basic education to $8 billion in 2011. They also should end the practice of reporting university costs and assistance to overseas territories as aid, agree a financial transaction tax which would contribute to the provision of education and ensure the World Bank and IMF pursue policies that promote investment in quality public education.

Kailash Satyarthi, President of the Global Campaign for Education said: "Girls are the real victims of the world's failure to invest in education with millions unable to enter school. The argument for prioritizing education is clear. If scientists can genetically modify food and NASA can send missions to Mars, politicians must be able to find the resources to get millions of children into school and change the prospects of a generation of children."

Notes to Editors

- Materials available for the media include photographs and case studies from Nigeria, a graphic which shows the amount of children out of school in the world and spokespeople ranging from 12 year old Nthabiseng Tshabala who advocated for 1GOAL and will be in New York to the President of GCE, Kailash Satyarthi.

- The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) is a coalition of over 100 organizations in 100 countries around the world that are campaigning to increase the provision of education for all children. This summer, GCE's 1GOAL campaign mobilized over 16 million people to show their support for getting all children into school.

- The countries have been ranked according to factors including: access to basic education; teacher: pupil ratio; and educational provision for girls. The bottom 10 countries are Somalia, Eritrea, Haiti, Comoros, Ethiopia, Chad, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Liberia. The report was produced by Education International, Plan International, Oxfam, Save the Children and VSO.

Contact Information

For information and interviews please call:

- John Coventry (London) +44 (0) 7816 165 279

- Sam Barratt (New York) +44 (0) 7818 406 050