Education International
Education International

As the Day of the African Child is celebrated, 30 million children remain out of school

published 16 June 2014 updated 18 June 2014

Around the world, thousands are mobilising at events marking the Day of the African Child to shed light on global education for all, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where quality education continues to be threatened.

International organisations, including Education International (EI), UNESCO and UNICEF, global NGOs, such as A World at School and Girls not Brides, and teachers and students in 45 countries are making a statement on the 16th of June to stress the importance a quality education has for those living in some of Africa’s poorest and hardest hit regions.

Over 100 global events are embracing this year’s theme, “A child-friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa,” to throw the spotlight on the difficult realities facing the more than 30 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who do not have the opportunity to go to school, and countless others who must endure poverty and violence in pursuit of an education.

Together, UNICEF and UNESCO have compiled hard data through their Out-of-School Children Initiative to illustrate how dire the situation in some countries is. Figures showing that in sub-Saharan Africa, 60 percent of illiterate youth are girls, only 18 percent of children have access to pre-primary education, and among primary school teachers in West and Central Africa, less than two thirds are trained. The organisations hope the information will help sway governments to make greater efforts toward reversing the troubling trends.

For those who do have the chance to go to school, they must face the daily risk of violence.

The UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, sent a stark reminder of how real the threat of an education is to those who fear and oppose it. “Young people throughout the world have dedicated today, Day of the African Child, not only to education, but in solidarity with the 287 school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram,” he said.

With the majority of the Nigerian school girls still missing, Education International’s General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, stressed that efforts to find the school girls must not stop until they have all returned home safe.

“As a member of the Emergency Coalition for Global Education Action, and of Gordon Brown’s Safe Schools Initiative, Education International knows first-hand the importance that safe school environments are to making quality education a reality,” he said. “We must continue our work to ensure that every child can go to school, and that every teacher can enter the classroom without fear of violence.”

Celebrated every 16th of June since 1991, the Day of the African Child honours the hundreds of boys and girls who were gunned down by security forces over two weeks in 1976 as they marched through the streets of Soweto, South Africa to protest the poor quality of their education and to demand the right to be taught in their native languages.

photo credit: UNICEF