Archive | January, 2014

In Bangladesh, learning why children are out of school

By Matthieu Cretté

This year – the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – UNICEF challenges the world to think differently about how to drive change for the world’s hardest to reach and most vulnerable children.

UNICEF’s celebration of the CRC kicked off on 30 January with the release of the State of the World’s Children in Numbers. This flagship publication is the premier source of data and information on child well-being around the world. Starting in 2014, the standardized statistical tables will be released each January, followed by a narrative report released in November to mark the date the CRC was adopted.

Data alone do not change the world, but they make change possible by providing an evidence base for action, investment and accountability.

In Bangladesh, where dropout rates are among the highest in the world, gaining a clearer understanding of why children leave school is a key to getting them back into school.

DHAKA, Bangladesh, 30 January 2014 – Jibon is 12 years old and works at a fish market in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. He lives alone with his mother, who works in a garment factory.

The little money Jibon makes is essential for the survival of his family. For this reason, Jibon dropped out of school after only the second grade. In all likelihood, he will never have the opportunity to go back to school.

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2013/Crette
Jibon, 12, works at a fish market in Dhaka to help support his family. Millions of children like Jibon are out of school in South Asia.

“I don’t have a father. My mother has to work, but her income is not enough for me to go to school,” Jibon says. “Yes, I want to go to school, but I cannot, because we don’t have enough money.”

Jibon shares the same fate with millions of children in South Asia. According to a recent study on out-of-school children published by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics under the Global Out-of-School Children Initiative, 17 million children of primary-school age and 9.9 million children of lower secondary-school age are out of school in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – placing South Asia as the region with the second-highest number of out-of-school children in the world.

Better data, better policy

Poverty, gender, social and cultural norms, disabilities, conflict, natural disasters and inefficient education policies – all of these are factors keeping children out of school or pushing them to drop out early.

“If we believe that South Asia can be a prosperous part of the world where every child can contribute when they grew up, then learning is of importance,” says Karin Hulshof, Regional Director of the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia.

The goal of the Out-of-School Children Initiative is to gather data about who out-of-school children are and what socio-cultural barriers are keeping them out of school, and then to use the data to design policies that make education for all a reality.

“Without accurate data, we cannot have good policies and good interventions that help to make sure that children realize their right to education,” explains Friedrich Huebler, Programme Specialist at the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Governments in the region are starting to expand and strengthen alternative pathways to education for children. For example, in Bangladesh, local authorities are working with organizations such as BRAC, an international development NGO based in Bangladesh, which is targeting disadvantaged students left behind or pushed out from the formal education system. BRAC schools are free of charge and mostly situated in low-income neighbourhoods.

An opportunity to learn

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2013/Crette
Children at a BRAC school in Dhaka. Local authorities in Bangladesh are working with organizations such as BRAC to provide free schooling for disadvantaged students.

“We have to realize that, particularly in developing countries, it is just difficult, if not impossible, for the government to reach all the children and bring them back to school and provide them good quality education” says Safiqul Islam, Director of the BRAC Education Program.
Ten-year old Mithila is a student in a BRAC school in Karail, one of Dhaka’s largest slums. In terms of educational opportunity, girls like Mithila are among the most disadvantaged in South Asia.

“When I see other young girls like me who still do not go to school, I tell them about this school and I ask them to come here,” Mithila says.

Thanks to the second-chance education programme in Bangladesh, thousands of children have been given an opportunity to learn – and a chance to escape the cycle of poverty.

“If we study, we can be successful in life, we can get better jobs,” says Mithila. “I want to study more to become a teacher in the future. I want to teach other poor children like me.”

Read the study on Out-of-School Children in South Asia

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After floods in Gaza, critical supplies help children recover and return to school

By Sajy Elmughanni

© UNICEF State of Palestine/2014/El Baba
With the help of Palestinian civil defence members, families evacuate after their homes were flooded during the recent winter storm in Gaza.

Following severe flooding in Gaza, UNICEF is supporting relief efforts for thousands of families who were driven from their homes and lost their possessions.

GAZA, State of Palestine, 30 January 2014 – In December, powerful thunderstorms and four days of torrential rain hit Gaza. Hundreds of families were stranded in their homes, inundated by rising waters, while others were forced to abandon their houses and seek safety on higher ground.

The flooding was so severe that many houses could no longer be accessed on foot, and some 10,000 people had to be evacuated to temporary shelters and relatives’ homes across Gaza.

For 9-year-old Anas Al-Jadba, what started as a regular family dinner turned into a frightening experience as he and his family had to be rescued from their flooded home late in the night.

“We have lost all our belongings,” Anas says. “I saw my clothes and books floating away in floodwater.”

It has been a month since the storm ended, but its effects still linger. Anas lives with his family of eight in a single bedroom at his grandparents’ home.

He recently visited the family’s flood-damaged house, which is still uninhabitable.

“It was awful and smelled like sewage,” he says. “There was no running water and no electricity.”

To help with relief efforts, UNICEF support, made possible by funding from the Bank of Palestine, has reached out to affected children and their families with essential hygiene supplies and children’s clothing to protect their health and to keep them warm.

© UNICEF State of Palestine/2014/El Baba
'We have lost all our belongings,' says Anas Al-Jadba, 9. 'I saw my clothes and books floating away in floodwater.'

Today, Anas is back at school, one of the many students who lost everything to the floods. In cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Higher education, and with funds from the Government of Japan, UNICEF has distributed school bags with stationery supplies such as pens and notebooks to 3,000 children across the coastal enclave.

“This distribution comes to restore the sense of normalcy in the lives of children who were directly affected by the storm,” says Pernille Ironside, Chief of the UNICEF Field Office in Gaza. “Children should feel that education must continue no matter what the circumstances are. This is especially important, as life was already dire before the flood.”

Densely populated Gaza is currently affected by one of the most serious energy crises in recent years. Access to safe drinking water also remains a concern in the coastal enclave, where half the population is under 18.

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Press release: A staggering 27 million children are out of school in South Asia

© UNICEF/BANA2013-01239/Kiron
Children from grade 2 attend outdoor classes at Bairy Harin Mary Government Primary School at Palashbari, Gaibandha on 5 September 2013.

Kathmandu, 28 January 2014 - A new study released today by UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) finds that a staggering 27 million children between the ages 5-13 are out of school in four countries of South Asia.

The “Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children – South Asia Regional Study covering Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka” shows there are 17 million primary school-age children who are not in school in these four countries. Another 9.9 million lower secondary school-age children are also not attending school bringing the total to 27 million.

Despite such figures impressive achievements in improving basic school enrolment rates have been seen in these countries over the past decade, notably in Sri Lanka where there are only 70,000 children out of school.

The study is part of the global initiative launched in 2010 by UNICEF and UIS. The goal of the initiative is to make a significant and sustainable reduction in the number of children out of school around the world.

Out of the 26 participating countries globally, the four South Asia countries took part in the first phase of the initiative. The South Asia study aims to understand the scale of the problem in the four countries and in the region.

“Children who are not in school lose the opportunity to learn and this takes a huge toll on the rest of their lives. No school, no school records and therefore invisible children for decision makers,” said Karin Hulshof, Regional Director of UNICEF in South Asia.

“We hope this study will equip countries with the knowledge and methodology to better understand who the children excluded from education are, eventually resulting in better solutions to the problem. If the underlying inequalities are not addressed, the problem will continue to grow worse and millions of children will be denied a chance of a better future,” she added.

© UNICEF/BANA2013-01238/Kiron
Children from grade 2 attend outdoor classes at Bairy Harin Mary Government Primary School at Palashbari, Gaibandha on 5 September 2013.

The study shows that deeply entrenched inequalities are the main roadblocks keeping children out of school in South Asia. Reasons for children being out of school include poverty, social and cultural norms, conflict, emergencies and disasters. Children from rural areas, particularly girls, and from urban slums, ethnic minorities, children with disabilities and child labourers face the greatest risk of being denied their right to education. This information is crucial for making informed policies and decisions to reach these excluded children.

“By better identifying who these children are and the challenges they face, we can take concrete and effective steps to reach them,” said Albert Motivans, Head of Education Indicators and Data Analysis at the UIS.

Based on findings, the study urges policy makers to:

• ensure that children out of school or at risk of dropping out receive special attention and more resources from the Ministries of Education

• ensure sufficient and quality education programs in which children out of school can participate

• ensure more and better schooling together with social protection schemes such as scholarships to address multiple barriers to schooling

The release of the study coincides this year with the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). On this occasion, UNICEF will also launch the State of the World’s Children 2014 in Numbers: Every Child Counts – Revealing disparities, advancing children’s rights. These publications are valuable references and drivers for change for the hardest to reach and most vulnerable children.

Read the full report here.
Read the Executive Summary to the report here.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

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For more information, please contact:

Jean-Jacques Simon, Regional Chief of Communication, UNICEF South Asia; Tel: + 977-9801030076;

Shailendra Sigdel, UIS Statistical Advisor for South Asia, UNESCO New Delhi, Tel: +91 11 2671 3000 ext. 308, Mobile 0091-9717625974

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By Rudina Vojvoda

After decades of reporting on the human cost of war, Janine di Giovanni can clearly articulate the way forward. “We have to shine the light in darkness, and that light is education,” she says in the latest Beyond School Books podcast.

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By Miriam Azar

“A child in school is a child protected.” – UNICEF Representative in Lebanon Annamaria Laurini

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In the Philippines, children ring in the new school year

By Diana Valcarcel

The official reopening of schools is a positive step towards recovery in parts of the Philippines still struggling to cope with the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

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