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50 Key Facts for Older Students

Why do we say every child has the right to go to school?

  1. Every child should have the chance to go to school, but many do not. 
  2. Education is a human right, included in international frameworks like the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 
    *  This means that governments have a duty to ensure that every child is able to realize this right to receive a free basic education.
  3. The world's governments also committed to the promise that by the year 2015, they would make sure that every child in every country has the chance to finish primary school (known as elementary school in the U.S.).  They also promised to achieve equal numbers of girls and boys in both primary (elementary) and secondary (middle and senior high) school.
    * These promises are part of the six Education For All Goals , to which 164 countries committed at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000.
    *  They are also part of the Millennium Development Goals  for reducing global poverty by the year 2015, to which 189 countries committed.

    Are we keeping the promise to make sure every child goes to school?
  4. No. Today more than 100 million children around the world do not attend school at all.  More than 95% of these children live in developing countries and the majority is girls.
  5. Another 150 million children will drop out before they finish primary school.  In the United States, virtually all children finish elementary school.
  6. The majority of countries are not meeting the Education for All and Millennium Development Goals for education. 
    *  94 countries, out of 149 for which there is information, missed the first goal: to achieve gender parity (the same number of girls and boys) in both primary and secondary schools by 2005.
    *  Right now, 67 countries are unlikely to reach the goal, set for 2015, of having every child complete primary school. 

    Which groups of children don't attend school?
  7. Some of the children who have the hardest time attending school are poor children, girls, orphans, children with disabilities, child laborers, and children forced to leave their homes because of war or a natural disaster. 
  8. Nearly 55 million of the children who don't go to primary school are girls, and more than 40 million of the children who don't go to primary school live in Africa. 
    *  In Africa, 54% of all girls drop out of school before they finish primary school, and only one out of every five go to secondary school.
    *  In Chad, an African country, only 10% of secondary school-age girls had completed elementary school.  In Burkina Faso, only 20% had.
  9. Education is also very difficult for children in South Asia.  There are 25 million children in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh alone who do not go to school.
  10. The situation is worse for orphans and other vulnerable children, who may have to drop out of school to help care for their brothers and sisters or to work, or who can't afford the fees and other costs of attending school.
  11. Conflict and natural disasters keep millions of children out of school.
    *  In 2002, 27 million refugees and other affected young people ages 5 to 17 had no access to formal schooling.
    *  Only 6% of children who have fled their country as refugees are enrolled in secondary school.  Going to school is even harder for people who have been forced to leave their homes, but who still live in their original countries.

    Why is school important?

    Reducing Poverty
  12. Countries where more people go to school and become literate are able to grow their economies more quickly and become less poor.
  13. No country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40% of its adults being able to read and write.
  14. People who have attended school are able to earn more money to support their families.
    *  Studies show that a single year of primary school increases the wages people earn later in life by 5-15% for boys, and even more for girls.  A single year of secondary school increases wages by 15-25%.
  15. Education even improves farming, increasing the amount that people are able to grow and harvest.

    Improving Health
  16. A single year of education for girls can help decrease the chance that their children will die as infants by 5-10%.
  17. Mothers with an education are 50% more likely to make sure their children receive vaccines they need to protect them from deadly diseases. 
  18. In Africa, children whose mothers received an elementary school education are 40% less likely to die before the age of five. 
  19. Educating girls is the best way to reduce fertility resulting in smaller families.  This makes it easier for parents to provide for and care for their children

    Fighting HIV/AIDS
  20. Education may be the single best way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
  21. Women with education beyond primary school are five times more likely than illiterate women to know the basic facts about HIV/AIDS.
  22. A study in Swaziland showed that more than 70% of young people in school were not sexually active, while nearly 70% of those out of school were sexually active.
  23. Among young people living in rural Uganda, those with no education are three times more likely than those with a secondary school education to be HIV-positive.
  24. A Zambian study found that HIV/AIDS spreads twice as fast among uneducated girls as it did among girls who were educated.

    Strengthening Democracy
  25. Education helps people, particularly women, to speak up and get involved in their communities and their governments.  This makes democracy stronger, and helps make sure men and women are treated equal.
  26. A recent study found that educated women in Bangladesh are three times more likely to participate in political meetings than uneducated women.

    Why don't some kids go to school?
  27. In many countries, families must pay fees to send their children to school. These fees can be as much as a month's worth of wages for the family. 
  28. Many poor families do not have enough money to pay these fees, or to buy the required uniforms or textbooks.
  29. Many children must work-either at home or at a paying job-to help their families survive.  They cannot afford to take time to go to school instead.
  30. Sometimes schools are very far apart, so children must walk long distances to get to school.  In rural areas, schools might be five or ten miles apart.
  31. The walk to school can be unsafe, especially for girls.  For children in countries with high levels of violence, any walk at all can be dangerous.
  32. In some schools, there may be no bathrooms for students to use. This is especially hard for female students, who can face sexual harassment and often do not have private places to use the bathroom.  
  33. In some places, there may be up to 150 children in each classroom, and not enough teachers or textbooks. 

    What about the role of teachers?
  34. Many countries just don't have enough teachers.  In Zambia, there is an average of 64 students to every primary teacher.  The international goal student-teacher ratio is no more than 40 students per teacher.
  35. The United Nations estimates that at least 15 million more teachers will be needed to meet the goal of getting all children to complete primary school by 2015.
  36. It is especially important that many of these teachers are women.  Hiring more women teachers can help increase the numbers of girls that go to school, and can help make sure girls and boys are treated equally in the classroom.
  37. Many teachers in developing countries don't have the experience and training they need to teach children effectively.
    *  In Uganda, 50% of primary teachers have no formal training at all.
    *  There is an international trend of hiring "volunteer" teachers, who receive very little training and less pay.
  38. Teachers' jobs in poor countries are especially difficult, due to large class sizes, few textbooks and other materials, and schools that do not have bathrooms or other important facilities.

    What should developing countries do to put all children in school?
  39. Countries must make school free for all children.  When governments eliminate school fees like they did in Kenya, Uganda and Malawi, millions of new students turn up at school, as much as doubling the number of students.
  40. Governments must make special efforts to help children who face the hardest time getting into school, including poor children, girls, orphans, children with disabilities, and children forced to leave their homes because of war or a natural disaster.
    *  For instance, governments can pay for the uniforms or textbooks of the poorest and most vulnerable children, or could give their families money if they send their children to school.
  41. Governments must build more schools in more places so children don't have to travel as far to get to schools.
  42. Countries must hire and train more teachers.  They must make sure that these teachers are women as well as men.
  43. Schools must provide a quality education that actually teaches children the skills they need.

    What can rich countries and international organizations do to help developing countries meet their goals?
  44. Rich countries should increase their aid to poorer countries to help them improve their school systems.  Many donor countries do not contribute their fair share to fund basic education.
    *  Rich countries now give $2 billion each year to help poor countries pay for basic education.  They need to give $10 billion more each year to put all children in school by 2015.
    *  The United States, for example, gives a total of $465 million each year-the approximate cost of building just 17 U.S. high schools.
  45. Rich countries can forgive the debt that poor countries owe them.  Debt payments have kept many poor countries from spending money on important things like education, but debt relief has made a huge difference in those countries that have received it.
    *  Niger is using 40% of the money it would have had to repay to other countries to fund its universal primary education program.

    What can I do to help?
  46. Participate in the 2006 Global Campaign for Education "Send My Friend to School" Week  (April 24-30, 2006). 
  47. Make a poster  or a cutout "friend" that helps "Make the Case" for why all children should go to school, and send your poster or friend to Washington, D.C.
  48. Host a Congressional-style hearing  in your classroom, school, or community to discuss these issues and educate your classmates, teachers, and politicians or other public figures.
  49. Write a letter to your members of Congress asking them to do more to put all children in school.
  50. Tell your friends and family about what you've learned!