1 in 3 girls from poor households never attended school: Unicef

Special Correspondent

21 January, 2020 12:00 AM printer

1 in 3 girls from poor households never attended school: Unicef

— UNICEF Photo

Nearly 1 in 3 adolescent girls from the poorest households around the world has never been to school, according to a new UNICEF paper.

Poverty, discrimination due to gender, disability, ethnic origin or language of instruction, physical distance from schools and poor infrastructure are among the obstacles that continue to prevent the poorest children from accessing quality education. Exclusion at every step of education perpetuates poverty and is a key driver of a global learning crisis, said the paper.

The UNICEF paper was launched on Monday as education ministers gather at the Education World Forum and as leaders prepare to convene at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The paper was released simultaneously from Davos, Geneva, New York and Dhaka on Monday ahead of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting beginning today (Tuesday).     

Looking at 42 countries with available data, the paper finds that education for children from the richest 20 percent of households are allocated nearly double the amount of education funding than children from the poorest 20 percent of households.

Ten countries across Africa account for the highest disparities in education spending, with four times as much funding allocated to the richest children compared with the poorest. In Guinea and the Central African Republic -- countries with some of the world’s highest rates of out-of-school children -- the richest children benefit from nine and six times, respectively, the amount of public education funds than the poorest children.

In Bangladesh, percentage of public education resources going to children from the poorest households versus that spent on children from the richest households is 15 percent and 27 percent. The paper notes that the lack of resources available for the poorest children is exacerbating a crippling learning crisis, as schools fail to provide quality education for their students. According to the World Bank, more than half of children living in low- and middle-income countries cannot read or understand a simple story by the end of primary school.

The paper sets out clear guidelines for governments:

Within domestic resources allocation, funds must be distributed so that children from the poorest 20 per cent of households benefit from at least 20 per cent of education funding.

Prioritize public funding for lower levels of education -- where the children from the poorest households are most represented -- and gradually increase allocations to higher levels when coverage is close to universal at lower levels.

Provide at least one year of universal pre-primary education for every child. Pre-primary education is the foundation upon which every stage of schooling relies.