Education International stands with UNESCO in its urgent call to action for the international community to invest in sustained aid to provide quality education for the most marginalized and poorest learners worldwide.
In their comprehensive annual report on progress towards the Education For All (EFA) goals, independent researchers warn that the global economic crisis threatens the significant progress that has been made in the decade since the world agreed to work towards the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Their EFA Global Monitoring Report 2010, entitled Reaching the marginalized, is to be released 19 January at the United Nations in New York.
While rich countries have “moved financial mountains to stabilize financial systems,” they have failed to respond to the needs of the 1.4 billion people who survive on less than $1.25 a day. “Ultimately, the world economy will recover from the global recession, but the crisis could create a lost generation of children in the world’s poorest countries, whose life chances will have been jeopardized by a failure to protect their right to education,” the report states.
“Education is indeed at serious risk,” said Education International General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “The economic crisis, coming on top of the food crisis, is pushing millions more into deeper poverty, forcing families to make wrenching choices between nutrition, health and education.”
Without an effective international response, van Leeuwen predicted an increase in child labour as families struggle to survive. Widespread malnutrition also has grave implications, even for those who will be able to keep their children in school. As the report states: “Hunger not only threatens lives, but also undermines cognitive development and affects children’s future capacity to learn.”
Significant progress has been made in the last decade: 33 million more children are in school now than in 1999. But much remains to be done: 72 million children are still denied their fundamental right to education, 54% of them girls. Beyond the gender gap, indigenous children, other ethnic or linguistic minorities, disabled children, rural dwellers, those with HIV: all these groups suffer marginalization in education.
“We must use the crisis as opportunity to effect fundamental change, to create quality education systems that include all,” van Leeuwen said, adding that EI intends to continue working along with UNESCO and the Global Campaign for Education to energetically advocate for increased investment in education central to economic recovery.
Teachers are key to any solution: 1.9 million more teaching posts are needed to meet universal primary education by 2015, the report states. It urges governments to deploy skilled teachers equitably and to target financial and learning support to disadvantaged schools.
"The elites of the world have always educated their children well. The real proof of our humanity and our commitment to democracy is how well we educate the poor, those with disabilities, minorities, refugees – in short, the marginalised of our societies," van Leeuwen said.
“EI urges governments everywhere, but especially those in the G20, to heed the call in this important and comprehensively-researched report. It shows the way forward to a more just world, one in which every child would have the fundamental right to education enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”