758 million adults, two-thirds of whom are women, remain illiterate*, while an estimated 57 million children of primary school age are being denied their right to education** due to disasters, disease, distance and poverty. Even for children who have a desire to learn, having to take long and dangerous journeys to school are a huge deterrent to attending school regularly or at all.
For those who do make it to school, the low quality of education means that they are not able to be nurtured to their fullest potential. This leads to high repetition and school drop-out rates.
*United Nations, 2016
**United Nations, 2013
Most children in Africa have never owned a book of their own.
Cleopatra, or better known as Cleo by her friends, is 8-years-old and lives in Zambia. She knows that education is a “good thing” as everyone says, but there is no way she could get educated because her village never had a school.
“There is a school in the next village but there are lions and other wild animals in the area. Trying to access education meant that children have to walk about 24 kilometres crossing streams,” says the village headman, Safi.
“In the process, some children drowned to death while crossing the streams. Allowing their children to go to school has become a life and death decision,” adds Safi. “Most parents in this village would never allow their precious children to risk their lives for an education in this way.”
Thankfully, two youths from another district came to Cleo's area offering to hold classes under the trees for children in her village. These two youths, even though they are untrained teachers, greatly inspired Cleo. “I want to finish school and become a teacher,”she says with conviction. “I like the way teachers teach and give knowledge to us children.”
Cleo’s dream of wanting to become a teacher is an extraordinary overture given that her village has no known educated individual.
However, Cleo struggles to learn how to read, write or count as the two youths have little resources to teach them the little that they know. It is common for these village schools to have over 100 students per “classroom” all sharing three books.
“We sit on planks that are put on blocks. The seats are not stable, they shake and we do not even write well,” says Cleo, a World Vision sponsored child. One of the teachers discloses that under-tree classes are prone to disturbances as children cannot concentrate whenever there is a simple distraction including people passing by.
Safi says his community has lagged behind because of not having educated individuals. We want children to be educated so that they bring development. We know that in education, there is development,” he says.
Globally, two-thirds of children – or 262 million – are in school and will reach the last grade of primary school but will not achieve minimum proficiency levels in reading. About 60% or 137 million adolescents are in school but not learning.
(Source: UNESCO, 2017)
Inaccessibility of Schools
In order to reach the nearest school, children in rural areas walk as long as two hours under dangerous conditions such as mountainous terrain that gets slippery when it rains, or forests where they might get abducted.
Rural schools are often poorly maintained, which means that roofs leak when it rains, classrooms are dark and toilet conditions are unsanitary. There are also insufficient tables and chairs for students to use when writing.
Poor Quality of Education
Traditional teaching methods like rote learning are ineffective in delivering learning objectives and student engagement levels are low. Teachers in rural areas lack training in better pedagogy.
It is hard for poor families to prioritise education when they are struggling to meet their daily needs. Parents would rather have their children work to supplement family income, but this traps children in low wage and unskilled jobs in the future.
53 percent of primary school age children who cannot go to school are girls. They are at a disadvantage as cultural norms often dictate that they should stay home and help with household chores.