Out-of-school Children: A Promise Yet To Be Fulfilled

by Sheena Bell, Friedrich Huebler, and Quentin Wodon

Today, as the Millennium Development Goals draw to a close and the development community is thinking of new development targets, many children are not learning in school. But, in addition, more than 120 million children and young adolescents still remain out of school. That is almost one in ten children of primary school age, and one in seven children of lower secondary school age. For these children, the right to education remains a distant dream.

Perhaps, most alarmingly, data show a steady downturn in the momentum to reach these children. Between 2000 and 2007, substantial gains were made towards universal basic education as tuition fees were abolished, schools were built, and teachers were hired. In absolute numbers, much of the progress achieved in reducing the number of children excluded from school was driven by a small number of countries. In India alone, the number of out-of-school children fell by 16 million between 2000 and 2011, the latest year with available data. Another set of ten countries – Algeria, Burundi, Ghana, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Yemen and Zambia – were also key contributors. Together, these 11 countries account for more than one-half of the reduction in the global number of out-of-school children since 2000.

But, today, 58 million children between the ages of about 6 and 11 years remain out of school and an additional 63 million adolescents (roughly between the ages of 12 and 15 years) are not enrolled. Since 2007, progress in reducing the global numbers has stopped. As shown in the figure below, the rate of out-of-school children has also remained virtually the same since 2007. Girls, children in poverty, and those living in rural or remote areas are the most affected.

Global out-of-school rate for children of primary & lower secondary school age, 2000-12
Global out-of-school rate for children of primary & lower secondary school age, 2000-12

The latest statistics on out-of-school children are available in a report published in January 2015 by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and UNICEF. While presenting a range of indicators to better identify these children, the report also identifies several barriers to their education. To begin with, one-half of the children out of school live in conflict-affected countries. Gender discrimination continues to be a major factor to the detriment of girls in many countries (although in some countries, especially in the Caribbean, boys lag behind girls). Child labor is also identified as a major problem, while the language of school instruction can be a barrier in many countries, especially for indigenous populations. Children with disabilities continue to be excluded in education systems ill-fitted to meet their needs. All of these factors are exacerbated by poverty. In many countries, low-income households cannot afford the direct costs of sending their children to school (e.g. fees, uniforms or books) or the indirect costs resulting from the lost wages or household contributions of their sons and daughters.

The report is complemented by an innovative data exploration tool that goes beyond the absolute numbers to highlight the critical factors that drive exclusion. In particular, it shows the extent to which factors like gender, location (rural versus urban) and poverty can affect a child’s likelihood to start school late, drop out or even set foot in a classroom. Developed by the UIS, the data tool clearly identifies priorities for any effective policies or interventions to reach these children.

The UIS-UNICEF report provides the most updated information available on out-of-school children globally. It advocates for a combination of supply- and demand-side interventions as well as system-wide policy reforms to help ensure that all children are indeed in school, and calls for a stronger commitment from governments and donors to keep the promise of education for all.

Note: this post was first published on February 23, 2015 on the World Bank Education for Global Development blog.



Training for People with Disabilities through Horticulture

by Divya Wodon, Naina Wodon, and Quentin Wodon

In 1963-65 Earl Copus from the Upper Marlboro Rotary Club served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brazil. He has not forgotten this experience! Today, he co-leads Working with Green, a Rotary global grant and multi-tiered program similar to the Melwood model which through horticulture provides training for people with disabilities in Goiania, Brazil. The project is located in a 10-acre nursery facility and the funding provides therapy for those with the most severe disabilities, skills training for those with milder disabilities, and vocational instruction for those with employment prospects. The project’s partners include Rotary clubs in Brazil, Japan, and the US, as well as the State of Goiania Agricultural Department and other agencies.

April Issue - Brazil-Melwood

Apart from helping its direct beneficiaries, the project also helps the environment by saving Brazilian endangered trees and it contributes to improving the health of families through better diets and the availability of medicinal plants while advising residents on their proper use. Brazilian project members recently visited Japan to study their rehabilitation programs, and a team of Japanese rehabilitation professionals is scheduled to visit the Brazilian project site. The construction of a work pavilion with accessible restroom accommodations is also under way.

Working with Green has been a successful project, but this required planning. According to Earl “the project’s greatest strength relates to having committed partners. I would encourage other Rotarians having, or considering having, international projects to build project partnerships consisting of local, national and international supports”. Throughout the preparation of the grant, there have been challenges. One of the biggest was to understand and appreciate a different culture. As Earl puts it – and this is his advice for fellow Rotarians: “This brings into focus the challenge of capacity building for the project’s staff and the need to be able financially to employ a capable social/business person as the project’s full time director. This is especially important for a project that is combining a social mission (helping those in need) within an entrepreneurial framework (creating project income and jobs) as our project does”.

Note: This story is reproduced with minor changes from a book published by the authors entitled Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).