By Asmau Ahmad
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said new data shows that 98 million children and youth between the ages of six and 18 worldwide are still out of school in Sub-Sahara Africa.
This is as the new school year begins in many parts of the world.
UNESCO, in new data published online on Thursday, shows that Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the most children and youth out of school, with a total of 98 million children.
“It is also the only region where this number is increasing, out-of-school rates are falling more slowly than the rate at which the school-age population is growing.
“The region with the second highest out-of-school population is Central and Southern Asia, with 85 million,” it stated.
Globally, the new UNESCO data shows that 244 million children and youth between the ages of six and 18 worldwide are still out of school.
“No one can accept this situation,” Ms Audrey Azoulay, the UNESCO Director-General said, underlining the need to respect every child’s right to education.
“In view of these results, the objective of quality education for all by 2030, set by the United Nations, risks not being achieved,” she warned.
“We need a global mobilisation to place education at the top of the international agenda.”
Azoulay will renew her call at the landmark Transforming Education Summit on Sept.19, at UN Headquarters in New York.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has convened the Summit to mobilise action and solutions, including to reverse learning losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic
On a more positive note, the UNESCO data has confirmed that the difference in the rate of girls and boys out of school has closed worldwide.
Back in 2000, the gender gap was 2.5 percentage points among primary school age children, and 3.9 percentage points among their upper secondary school counterparts.
These gaps have been reduced to zero, although regional disparities persist.
Relatedly, four million boys and girls in Ukraine are facing the start of an uncertain school year, the head of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Thursday.
Catherine Russell concluded a three-day visit to the country, where she met students, parents and teachers scarred by the war, now in its seventh month.
“Children are returning to schools – many of which have been damaged during the war – with stories of destruction, uncertain if their teachers and friends will be there to welcome them.
“Many parents are hesitating to send their children to school, not knowing if they will be safe,” Russell said in a statement.
Thousands of schools across Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed due to the fighting, with less than 60 per cent deemed safe and eligible for reopening.
Russell visited a rehabilitated primary school that had been damaged during the early weeks of the conflict.
Only 300 students can attend at any one time due to the capacity of the school’s bomb shelter, representing a mere 14 per cent of the school’s pre-war capacity.