In 10 countries with highest out-of-school rates, 40 per cent of children are not accessing basic education

 NEW YORK/ ADDIS ABABA, 1 September 2016 –In the top 10 countries with the highest rates of children missing out on primary education, nearly 2 in every 5 children – 18 million – are out of school, UNICEF said today.

Liberia is home to the highest proportion of out-of-school children with nearly two-thirds of primary-aged children not accessing school. The second highest is South Sudan, where 59 per cent of children are missing out on their right to a primary education and 1 in 3 schools is closed due to conflict. 

Afghanistan (46 per cent), Sudan (45 per cent), Niger (38 per cent) and Nigeria (34 per cent) also feature in the top 10 countries with the highest primary out-of-school rates, painting a clear picture of how humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises are forcing children out of school. 

The UNICEF data analysis, which comes as millions of children return to school this month, highlights the extent of an education crisis affecting countries already blighted by conflict, prolonged periods of drought, flash floods, earthquakes and high rates of extreme poverty.

UNICEF fears that without education, a generation of children living in countries affected by conflict, natural disasters and extreme poverty will grow up without the skills they need to contribute to their countries and economies, exacerbating the already desperate situation for millions of children and their families.

Education continues to be one of the least funded sectors in humanitarian appeals. In 2015, humanitarian agencies received only 31 per cent of their education funding needs, down from 66 per cent a decade ago. Despite a 126 per cent increase in education requirements since 2005, funding increased by just 4 per cent. Moreover, education systems equipped to cope with protracted crises cannot be built on the foundations of short-term – and unpredictable – appeals.

During the World Humanitarian Summit, held in May 2016, a new global funding platform, Education Cannot Wait, was launched to bridge the gap between humanitarian interventions during crises and long-term development afterwards, through predictable funding.

Though not one of the top 10 countries with the highest rates of out-of-school children, Syria is home to 2.1 million school-age children (5-17) who are not in school. An additional 600,000 Syrian children living as refugees in the surrounding region are also out of school. Recent, reliable data from countries including Somalia and Libya are not available either from administrative or survey sources partly due to the continuing conflicts. 

“For countries affected by conflict, school equips children with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their communities once the crisis is over, and in the short-term it provides them with the stability and structure required to cope with trauma. Schools can also protect children from the trauma and physical dangers around them. When children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation and recruitment into armed groups,” said UNICEF Chief of Education Jo Bourne.

kalkidan , a 4th grade student at the Arara Kidanemeherete Primary school attending her class.Ethiopia has made remarkable progress in the past two decades towards universal primary education. Primary school enrolment is up, and mobilization efforts are enrolling school‑age populations across all regions. However, the number of out-of-school children remains high, and only just over half of all students who enter grade one complete a full primary education cycle. The Government of Ethiopia has continued its strong commitment to ensuring accessible, quality schooling for all as captured in its Education Sector Development Plan 2015–2020.

Drawing on Education Management Information System (EMIS) data for 2014/15, over 2.6 million children are estimated to be out of school. These out of school children represent “the most difficult to reach” population comprising of the last 10 per cent of the eligible school population. 

In 2012, UNICEF commissioned a study on the Situation of Out-of-school Children in Ethiopia which led to a large media based ‘Go-to-school Campaign’ to reach to out-of-school children and accelerate their enrolment. In 2014 alone, the national campaign brought back 47,511 out of school children in the four developing regional states of Afar, Somali, Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambella.

UNICEF, through its programme of cooperation with the Government of Ethiopia, has supported the Ministry of Education in the establishment of over 1,600 Alternative Basic Education Centres (ABEC) which have enrolled 276,777 students in marginalized localities. In conjunction with other Development Partners, a national Strategy on Education for Pastoralist Communities has recently been revised and provides a strong basis by which children in remote areas will be able to better access relevant educational services.

Children need peace for education, and education for peace

By Wossen Mulatu

Nyamat Oactoct from Pagak village in Gambella.
“We need peace. If there is conflict, I cannot follow my education properly and there will be no development,” Nyamat. Her five year old younger sister and brother are abducted to a neighbouring South Sudan by the Murle tribe. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

GAMBELLA, Ethiopia,  25 May 2016 – On April 15, hundreds of heavily armed men stormed through Nyamat Oactot’s village of Pagak in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region, stealing cattle, shooting people and kidnapping children.

The 16-year-old girl’s younger brother and sister were taken by raiders believed to be from the Murle tribe from neighbouring South Sudan, and have yet to be recovered. In the aftermath, parents across this part of Gambella have kept their children out of school in fear of further attacks.

“We need peace, if there is conflict, I cannot follow my education properly and there will be no development,” Nyamat said.

Ruey Tut Rue,15, lost his mother and brother and wishes he could bury himself in his studies to keep from thinking about them, but instead he has been frustrated by three weeks of school closure.

“I feel upset and my mind is not focused,” he said. “Reading complicated subjects like biology and chemistry is now helping me to divert my attention from thinking about my mother.”

The attacks have also destroyed school materials making reopening the schools even harder, said Paul Puok Tang, the head of the Lare Woreda (district) education office.

“The dropout rates have also increased,” he said. “Through UNICEF and government  support, we are now trying to rehabilitate the schools and purchase school supplies for the communities that are affected.”

Gambella Region is one of the states in Ethiopia that is part of UNICEF’s Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme (PBEA), along with Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz and Somali regions.

These four regions suffer from neglect and frequent exposure to man-made and natural disasters such as drought and floods and because of their close proximity to conflict zones. Since 2014, annual disaster and risk response plans have been put in place to help them cope with major disasters.

Ruey Tut Rue, 15, and 7th grade student, Pagak village in Gambella.
Ruey Tut Rue, 15, and 7th grade student did not go to school for three weeks due to the recent abduction of large numbers of children in the Gambella Region of Ethiopia by Murle pastoralists from South Sudan ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

UNICEF has enlisted the support of the African Centre for Disaster Risk Management to come up with disaster and risk response plans at 31 schools in Gambella and 13 schools in Benishangul-Gumuz to develop the capacity of schools and communities to respond to disasters.

In the case of an attack like the recent cattle raid, villagers are taught to know when the raids come and what to do with their children during that period, said Omod Abela, Process Owner of Planning and Resource Mobilisation in Gog Woreda, Punido Kebele (sub-district),.

“We know that it is a seasonal occurrence – they come between March and May following their cattle and we teach communities not to send their children to herd cattle during this season, but to keep them at home and study,” he said. “Also, we teach parents that children should not play in isolation but surrounded by adult members of the community.”

PBEA seeks to strengthen resilience, social cohesion and peacebuilding in the four regions through strengthened policies and practices in education.

In Gambella, over 1,200 educational officials have been trained to promote peace and social cohesion within the region through disaster planning, peacebuilding, combatting school-related gender-based violence and promote child-friendly schooling.

“Parents and children need to understand the value of education,” explained Tok Bel from Lare Woreda Education Office. “Out of school children are more prone to be involved in conflict situations. Even during the recent Murle attack, most lives that were saved were those of children who were attending classes when the incident happened. Education saves lives.”

Ethiopia started the implementation of the PBEA in October 2012 with the Federal Ministry of Education and the four regional education bureaus.

The programme, which ends in 2016, is integrated across UNICEF’s US$60 million Learning and Development Programme and is a global initiative funded by the Government of the Netherlands.

“Where there is peace, education will go well. Without knowledge and education, there are no doctors and without doctors, many people will die,” said Gatiat Wal Rik, 15, a student from Bulimkum Primary School.

In South Omo, Education- a gateway for children but a competition for parents

By Zerihun Sewunet

Students attend class at Alkatekach primary school

DAASANACH, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR), 18 December 2013 – Omorate village in South Omo Zone of the SNNPR is a semi-arid area where the Daasanach tribes live. Their houses are dome-shaped made from a frame of branches, covered with hides and patch works. These houses are scattered along the site where the Omo River delta enters Lake Turkana of Kenya. Most tribes in South Omo are pastoralists. In Omorate too, the people’s lives are bound to the fate of their herds of cattle, sheep and goats that they raise.

Children play a critical role in the pastoralist lifestyle. Boys as young as 6 years old start to herd their family’s sheep and goats, while girls marry very young so parents get additional livestock through dowry. Therefore, parents do not send their children to school. In the Daasanach tribe, education is considered as a luxury. For teachers of Alkatekach Primary School this is their biggest challenge. They use the Alternative Basic Education (ABE) system to cater for the need of the children. The Alternative Basic Education system responds to the urgent need for an education that suits the special needs and constraints of pastoral life. It provides flexible school hours, allowing pastoral children fulfil their household responsibilities of herding cattle to find water and pastures while still finding time for school.

Meseret Chanyalew, Director of the school, explains there is an increase in the number of children from last year because of the continuous effort to enroll and retain students. “We enroll students throughout the year to encourage children to come to school. We also discuss with the community to create awareness on education by going house to house to convince parents to send their children to school.”

Located five kilometers from Omorate town of Kuraz district, the Alkatekach Primary school has only 79 registered students for the 2013/2014 academic year and the highest grade these students can reach is fourth grade. This is because there are no classes set up above the fourth grade.

The Lucky ones in the family go to school

Temesgen Qoshme, 14,  attends a class in Alkatekach primary school14 years old Temesegen Koshme is a third grade student in Alkatekach Primary School. He is sitting in a class exercising the conversion formula for different measurements. His favorite subjects are mathematics and social science. Unlike Temesgen, children his age are taking care of family cattle or are married off. “I prefer coming to school than looking after my parents’ cattle. Alkatekach is where I grasp knowledge,” says Temesgen, “When I go to school in the morning my brother and sister look after the cattle. After school, I go straight to the field to take over”.

Temesgen’s parents told him that his younger sister is waiting to be married off, “I tried to explain that she has to come to school, but they did not listen to me” says Temesgen concerned about his sister’s future. Temesgen is one of the lucky ones to be enrolled this year. For him school is his happiest place.

Agure Amite, a father of twelve, living in Omorate village, sends two of his children to Alkatekach Primary School. When asked why the others do not go to school he says, “Some of them have to look after my cattle and others are not ready for school because they are below 10 years old.” Some parents in the Daasanach tribe send their children to school when they reach age 10. However, nationally children start school at age 7.

Alternative Basic Education (ABE) accommodates the pastoral children

Children, not students, play at Alkatekach Primary SchoolThe 2012 study on situation of out of school children in Ethiopia shows that SNNPR has 46.5% of out of school children making it the third highest region after Oromia (49.2%) and Amhara (48.7%).

With the support of UNICEF and the generous donation of US$240, 000 received from ING the Daasanach tribe now has ABE centers close to in their area. In addition to the construction of ABE centers, ING’s support also helped to provide furniture, training for ABE facilitators and education materials to pastoralist and economically disadvantaged children. For Meseret and her colleagues at the Alkatekach Primary School, this means increasing the schools capacity up to sixth grade means that children like Temesgen will be able to receive education within their community for the next two years.

Time to radically enhance learning outcomes for children

By: Dr. Jim Ackers, Regional Education Adviser for UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office 

Pupils study at a library donated and supported by Unicef at Tutis Primary School
Pupils study at a library donated and supported by UNICEF at Tutis Primary School in Oromia State of Ethiopia 26 November 2013. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines education as a basic right for children. Education is key to achieving the MDGs, as well as to the attainment of the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of every child. While governments in the developing world are doing their best to increase enrolment in primary education, there is still a long way to go when it comes to improving learning outcomes and the quality of education.

The 11th Education for All Global Monitoring Report, launched in Addis Ababa on the 29 January 2014, provides some alarming figures, which call for the attention of all stakeholders involved in the education sector. The report reveals that poor quality education is costing governments US$129 billion a year. It also indicates that in many of the sub-Saharan African countries, only “one in five of the poorest children reach the end of primary school having learnt the basics in reading and mathematics.”  If we are not able to address the problem of poor quality education, it will take another century for all girls from the ‘poorest families in sub-Saharan Africa to finish lower secondary school”. These findings are not acceptable at all.

If poor quality education is costing governments billions of dollars and if it is leaving millions of children behind, then what should be done?  The Education for All Global Monitoring Report findings explicitly indicate that it is important to provide teachers with adequate training. Moreover, making teaching quality a national priority yields positive results.  Countries such as Ethiopia, Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania for instance include improving quality and learning outcomes as an explicit priority alongside expanding access.

Pupils attend a class at Tutis Primary School in Oromia State of Ethiopia
Pupils attend a class at Tutis Primary School in Oromia State of Ethiopia 26 November 2013. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose

Countries need to expand their teachers force and put in place mechanisms in which incentives will be provided to retain the best performing teachers. Ensuring the equitable distribution of teachers within countries has been a major challenge for many years, although some examples of effective policies are emerging.  Poor children, especially girls in more remote areas, as well as children in informal urban settings are often the most affected by lack of access to competent teachers. These same children are the most likely to drop out of education according to evidence gathered by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute of Statistics through the global Out of School Children Study Initiative. Even if they do not drop out they are the most likely to have poor learning outcomes according to global surveys such and the findings of regional surveys such as those of the Southern African Consortium for Measuring Education Quality. The learning needs of children with disabilities and those affected by emergencies also need to be much better served.

Teachers are a key component of quality education. Others are access to quality teaching and learning materials, school management, quality assurance, assessment and the curriculum. The curriculum should be relevant to the learner and delivered through a familiar language in early primary school if children are to attain the foundational skills required for life long learning. School infrastructure is also important, not least the provision of separate latrines for girls and boys – a goal to which UNICEF is very committed in its holistic vision of Child Friendly Education.

Life-long learning and the development of core skills for employability are critical imperatives in the development of individuals and nations. Early Grade Reading Assessments in many countries have demonstrated that many children are fated to long term illiteracy because they have not developed and may never develop these foundational skills. More attention should therefore be given to early childhood development and the prioritisation of early primary in terms of resource allocation. We have done much together as partners to address enrolment issues, and more remains to be done here. However there is now a global consensus that education without learning is of limited value. We are now committed, alongside our partner to putting much more emphasis on innovative ways to enhance the learning of all children to help overcome the global learning crisis which disproportionately affects the poorest children.

UNICEF has education programmes and experts on the ground in 20 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.  We support governments, preferably within the framework of sector wide approaches, to enhance equity and quality in all these countries. We also work closely with other partners, including UN sister agencies, not least UNESCO, other multi-laterals, various donors, civil society and the private sector (including the Schools for Africa initiative).  The African Union and sub-regional bodies such as the EAC, IGAD and SADC are key partners. UNICEF is a very active member of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, for which we recently developed two key papers on Teacher Education.

Tiye Fayissa of Unicef Ethiopia poses for photo with students at Oda Aniso Primary School in Oromia Region of Ethiopia
Tiye Fayissa of UNICEF Ethiopia poses for photo with students at Oda Aniso Primary School in Oromia Region of Ethiopia 26 November 2013. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose

A key focus for UNICEF is now on helping government to ensure that policies and plans actually work and impact on realities in schools and children.  The development of national minimum standards for all children is a critical area where we have engaged, as is the enhancement of learning assessment, including membership of the global Learning Metrics Task Force and support for SACMEQ.  But setting standards is not enough in itself. Quality development is required. Addressing teacher education and management issues on the ground is critical in this regard.  UNICEF has supported teacher education in most of the countries in which we work in Eastern and Southern Africa.  Results based management means that we talk of inputs, outputs and outcomes. But what really counts in the classroom is the process of learning.  A committed and competent teacher is critical to this process. Sadly didactic teaching is the norm in many countries. This also helps explain the learning crisis.

Notable recent examples of UNICEF support to governments on teacher issues are: development of an in-service training system and programme in Tanzania; enhancing co-ordination and mentoring in the teacher education system in Uganda, support to the training for teachers who work in the Alternative Basic Education system in Ethiopia. Our work with the Global Partnership for Education has also reinforced our focus on teacher education in countries like Zimbabwe, Somalia and South Sudan for example. UNICEF is also committed to enhancing the evidence base on what works in teacher education. Examples of previous publications are given below[1].

UNICEF is committed to enhancing its contribution to enhanced teaching and learning through strengthening partnerships at all levels – sub-national, country, regional and global through supporting innovative, scalable approaches to promote learning, not least for the most marginalised child. We are committed to working more closely with partners to ensure that systemic bottlenecks that affect actual service delivery on the ground are addressed and that we actually meet children’s and teachers needs and improve learning through enhancing classroom environments and processes.

Teach a girl, enrich the world

By Erna Solberg and Hannah Godefa, Special to CNN

See original content on CNN

Editor’s note: Erna Solberg is prime minister of Norway and co-chair of the U.N. Secretary General’s Millennium Development Goals Advocates. Hannah Godefa is UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia. The views expressed are their own. This is the latest in a series of articles ahead of a special GPS show from Davos this Sunday.

As the humanitarian crises in South Sudan and Syria and Central African Republic continue to unfold, girls are once again caught in the cross-fire. Murdered by soldiers, killed or sexually assaulted as they flee, their lives are being ravaged by wars they did not start. Once again, they are the victims of somebody else’s dispute, subjected to sexual violence by those hoping to achieve their military and political goals.

How much more are we willing to stand?

Currently 28.5 million children in conflict-affected countries are out of school, more than half of them are girls. It is not just their security, but their education and hope for a better life that are being ruined.

But these girls don’t need to be faceless, voiceless statistics. They can be victors, like Malala, who captivated us when she bravely stood up for her right to education, changing the way we think about young girls and their rights.

The key is investing in girls’ potential, something that can be a win-win for everyone – enabling female participation in local economies can accelerate the fight against poverty, inequity and gender disparity. When you educate a girl, you educate a nation.
This is one of the key messages we, the prime minister of Norway and a 16-year-old UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia, will deliver this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos as we encourage those gathered to “reshape the world” by putting young girls first. We will raise our voices to galvanize the crucial support needed to change attitudes and transform the lives of the countless Malalas, standing together to ensure that these girls are neither invisible nor forgotten.

We are two very different women from different generations, cultures and countries, but like millions of other women and men out there, we agree on this: invest in girls. The question is, is anyone really listening to such calls? After all, we’ve been talking about giving girls equal access to education, employment and healthcare for the past three decades. Will the international community – government, business and the general public – finally take much needed action?

Educated girls and women have smaller families and healthier children, are less likely to die in childbirth, are more likely to see their children survive past the age of 5, are more likely to send their children to school, and are better able to protect themselves and their children from malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, and sexual exploitation. Education empowers women, multiplying their economic choices and contributions, and increasing their political voice and influence across the board.

The numbers don’t lie. For every year a girl stays in school and learns, her future earnings increase hugely. An extra year of primary school education, for example, boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. A one percentage point increase in female secondary education raises the average level of GDP by 0.3 percentage points. Does anyone need more convincing?
In today’s hyper-networked world, we are witnessing unprecedented shifts in traditional power dynamics, and we will all end up impoverished if we remain complicit to girls being denied their right to a better future. Denying girls their rights – whether it be for social, cultural, or economic reasons – means that half the world’s population is prevented from fully contributing to its own economic growth and well-being and to that of local communities.

The voices calling for action are not just ours, but have been heard echoing around the world in the United Nations’ MY World survey on people’s development priorities, as well as in the action agenda laid out in the Girl Declaration. When girls and women across the developing world have been asked what they want for their future, the resounding answer is: education, jobs, healthcare and security.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been critical in galvanizing progress around gender equality and women’s empowerment, but we must build on this success. The clock is ticking: with close to 700 days to go until the MDGs deadline, the targets we set ourselves won’t be reached unless greater investment in girls’ empowerment is made. Without this, girls will continue to drop out of school for lack of safe and supportive learning environments. Women will still marry young, and will still die in childbirth each day for want of simple medical interventions.

As the old adage goes, you can teach a man to fish to feed himself for a lifetime. But if you invest in a girl, she feeds herself, educates future children, lifts up her community and propels her nation forward – charting a path that offers dignity for all in the process.