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Educating 57 Million Children

Educating 57 Million Children An Article about the stories, facts and figures around the millions of our children who have no formal education.

Poverty must not be a bar to learning and learning must offer an escape from poverty.
Lyndon B. Johnson

This is a Free Sample Resource
Categories: Article, Teaching & Learning, Other Subject, Educators

Tags: Global UNESCO Poverty
In the Land of the Learning Bus

"The under 5s have now been taken off the bus and are taught on carpets outside. They have simple drawing, painting, modelling and play activities that help them with their fine motor skills. It is so interesting to see the sheer lack of imagination and basic skills they have. Many of the children do not know what to do with a crayon and a piece of paper. They will sit there and just look at the paper. Once you interact with them they begin to pick up on what they need to do and they start to draw."

"Whilst we were waiting, Big Manoj got chatting to a boy (Rahul) who he used to teach on the bus. He was washing one of the motorbikes outside the clinic. Rahul is 12 years old and now attends school but neither of his parents are able to work. This means that he has to earn his own money to pay for his schooling. He does this by washing motorbikes. He is trying to save up to buy himself a school uniform, his school books, a bag and a geometry set. All of that costs about 750 rupees. I then found out that he earns 300 rupees (4 pounds) a month for washing motorbikes. 4 pounds a month - I was shocked! It would take him 3 months just to earn enough to buy all the things he needed for school. This would result in him missing some of school (which will start on Monday ) so he can earn more money."

- a snapshot from teacher Andy Robson's Vision Rescue blog. UK-based, Andy spends his holiday time in India training teachers. The charity he works for runs its work out of old buses. Read Andy's blog here.

Individuals like Andy, large and small charities, governments and corporations are working round the world and round the clock to educate our poorest children. It's having an impact but the task is phenomenal:

  • The number of primary age children out of school in 2011 was estimated to be 57 million 
  • It's estimated that 1.6 million additional teachers will be needed to get them into learning
  • In 2011 an estimated 69 million adolescents were out of school
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the richest boys will achieve universal primary education in 2021, but the poorest girls will not catch up until 2086 
(UNESCO, 2014)

More Than School

The challenge is only beginning when those children start to attend school. Their success is wholly dependent on the quality of teaching that they experience once there. UNESCO recommends four strategies to enlist the best teachers for this immense task:

  • Teachers must be selected to reflect the diversity of the children they will be teaching
  • Teachers must be trained to support the weakest learners, starting from the early grades
  • Inequalities in learning must be overcome by allocating the best teachers to the most challenging parts of a country
  • Governments must provide teachers with the right mix of incentives to encourage them to remain in the profession
(Bokova, 2014)

More Than Teaching

And even when the right teachers are working in the right schools there comes the challenge of maintaining and sustaining daily learning. Half of the 57 million reside in countries marred by conflict. Unstable governance, political, religious and social forces can all conspire to prevent or disrupt quality learning once it's taken root. But these are the very same forces that can be brought to bear on success. Political will through ethical strategies; the hope, love and hands-on approach offered by religion; the power of social change and raised aspirations can all come together to keep the fires of learning alight.

Creative Solutions

Imagine you have 10 years to get 57 million children into sustainable, quality education - whether that's in an actual school building, or accessing their learning using technology, mediated by professional educators. How would you do it? How would you start? How would you know you'd done it? and How would you celebrate afterwards? I suggest you pose this problem to your pupils, the younger the better. And when they come up with that whacky, left-field idea that just might work, write a letter to UNESCO to let them know.

Related Resources:

Danger Thinking


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