Says UNICEF, “Education is a fundamental human right: Every child is entitled to it. It is critical to our development as individuals and as societies, and it helps pave the way to a successful and productive future. When we ensure that children have access to a rights-based, quality education…we create a ripple effect of opportunity that impacts generations to come…[Education] ends generational cycles of poverty and disease and provides a foundation for sustainable development.”
Education is, of course, vital to healthy living; it is a means through which the impoverished can improve their quality of life. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), education is the “key to social and economic development.”
UNICEF‘s education statistics (as of 2004) for sub-Saharan Africa:
- Net primary school attendance ratio: male 60%, female 57%
- Primary school entrants reaching grade 5: 66%
- Net secondary school attendance ratio: male 22%, female 20%
- Adult literacy rate: 60%
When I was in Uganda, I noticed that most small children attended school, but few older children were enrolled. A number of factors complicate the situation, one of which is school fees. Though public schools exist, the teachers are generally indifferent to their students’ success, which decreases students’ chances to pass secondary school entrance exams. For many parents, the only other option is to send their children to private school, which costs a considerable amount of money that they often don’t have. As an American, I was constantly solicited to sponsor students.
Clearly, the education situation in Africa is far from ideal. The solution? Programs like UNESCO’s Education For All, in which governments, development agencies, civil society, and non-governmental organizations partner to improve worldwide access to education. UNICEF also takes initiative to educate children globally, but is largely supported by public donations.