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A Child's Access To Education in International Community

Updated on October 2, 2014

Do Children Really Have Access to A Universal Education?

While UN and domestic efforts in various developing and underdeveloped-states have made strides in making universal primary education a reality since the UN Millennium Development Goals were drawn up, there are still some children and various states left behind. Therefore, it leads one to really question whether or not the world can comfortably say that children have access to universal primary education?

To be honest, there are a multitude of ways to answer this question, depending upon your expertise, theoretical perspective, and whether or not you're a state or non-state actor in relation to this issue. However, because this article is meant to be an introduction to this subject, let us just say that there's one simple answer and one primary complicated explanation. The simple answer is that for some children, access to a universal education is a reality while others still do not. The complicated primary explanation as to why this is so, to put it simply, is that in cases where universal primary education is not a reality, the problem can lie either in the social structure of the said state, the accepted cultural and/or social norms before the UN Millennium Development Goals were established, the enforcement of the rule of law related to the written laws about universal primary education, and the quality of the education and resources offered at the primary education institutions currently offered. This article will explore this simple answer and explanation as to why universal primary education is a reality for some in order to discover what could be done to remedy this issue.

Book Donations To Schools in Senegal

This is a picture of a donation of books the Sama Tata Foundation received about a year and a half ago.  The books were given to two schools in the Dakar-area in need of such materials.
This is a picture of a donation of books the Sama Tata Foundation received about a year and a half ago. The books were given to two schools in the Dakar-area in need of such materials. | Source

Why Universal Education Is Available To Some and Not All

As mentioned earlier, the simple answer behind a child's access to universal primary education is that some children have that access while others do not. The good news is that United Nations' efforts and those of various states and political leaders have helped to increase the amount of children. According to a recent fact sheet released by the United Nations about the UN Millennium Goals on making universal education possible, the enrollment rate in primary schools rose from 83% to 90% between 2000 and 2011. Literacy rates have also risen, for example 68% to 89% in the North African region and from 60% to 81% in the Southeast Asian region. Furthermore, UN-affiliated organizations like UNICEF have worked in countries like India, Senegal and Bangladesh to encourage girls to go to school, which has helped to increase their attendance numbers by c. 3-4% from 2000 to 2011. Other UN-member states, like Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia and Guatemala have established internationally recognized programs that are helping to educate the rural, impoverished, ethnically-marginalized children in their countries, and most importantly, allow girls the access to a primary education. Furthermore, political figures like Michelle Obama are leading initiatives such as the Global Primary Education Initiative, with the specific intention of making access to universal primary education for the world's children.

However, despite these positive strides towards improving the access to universal education for children, one has to remember that these programs are their infancy, so they still haven't reached all children. Furthermore, just sending more children to primary school is not enough to remedy a child's access to universal education. The UN even admits that one of the most vital ways for children to have a better access to primary education and succeed is if the international community can improve the quality of education for children when they go to school. It is known that not all schools, even public or government-owned schools, are unequal in regards to the quality of textbooks, curriculum, and teachers they offer to work with students. Depending upon the location of the school, the amount of money the government has to put forth towards education, and the training available to prospective and current teachers will determine whether or not a child will be able to read, do arithmetic, and will be prepared for matriculation into a secondary school. I know that my non-profit, the Sama Tata Foundation, has encountered schools in Senegal that have told us they don't have enough books, or money to run their schools. CONFEMEN, a major non-profit that works with West African countries to improve primary and secondary school education institutions in the region, have mentioned in their research that one of the reasons why schools in the region have problems is because the teachers are not properly trained and/or lacking qualifications, there is a lack of basic school materials like textbooks and computers, and lack of funds available to keep the school running. Therefore, part of the problem behind access to a universal primary education is the quality of the schools and the resources these schools have access to. However, resolving this problem seems to be very complicated and does't have a very simple answer. Nonetheless, it will have to be resolved so that children around the world can truly have access to universal primary education.

Another major issue is overcoming the traditional perspective that girls do not need to receive an education. Despite efforts over the last 200+ to advance and empower women, it is still taboo in many parts of the world for a girl to receive an education and work alongside her male counterparts as she grows up. True, more and more girls are gaining access to an education, thanks to efforts by UNICEF, specialized non-profits around the world geared to educating girls, activists like Mulala, and program initiatives like Abriendo Oprotunidades in Guatemala, which encourages indigenous girls to attend. Nevertheless, there is still a gender gap between the attendance of boys versus girls in the world's primary schools, in particular, throughout the developing and under-developed world. Take for example, Senegal, which is a fairly economically prosperous state located along the western coast of Africa. This is one of many places around the world where women are traditionally viewed as homemakers, and all girls are future homemakers; therefore, it is not vital for them to receive an education, especially if you are talking about a young girl living in a rural area. However, despite the fact that the Senegalese constitution promises universal education for all children and adult, no matter what their age, gender or ethnicity, there are normally 10% or even 20% less girls attending primary schools in Senegal, with even higher percentages demonstrating the marginalization of girls in secondary schools in comparison to their male counterparts! This is also alarming, considering the fact that UNICEF has a strong presence with encouraging girls and access to primary education, and Senegal's dedication to the UN Millennium Development Goals related to education over the past 11+ years! The only explanation that I've been able to come with through research and information I have gained from my volunteers on the field in Senegal is that the universal education laws are not being enforced strongly, schools are not receiving the financial support they need, and most importantly, women and girls are still viewed as homemakers by many still in Senegal. Therefore, the value for education is not seen for them at all. Whether this is something we can ever remedy will have yet to be seen, however if the international community is to make universal education accessible to all, we must change perceptions that as girls grow up, they can contribute economically to their communities equally to men, and an education can help girls do that. There is also the concept that including more women in the work force would help to resolve issues related to poverty, because of the estimation that 50% of the world's population is female and not properly being used as resources of economic, intellectual and social enrichment for the states they live in. Therefore, if we are to see changes in countries like Senegal, Bangladesh, or Guatemala, we will need to educate our girls so that they can grow up and become active members in the work force.

Last but not least, another major issue that i personally find disturbing are the UN member states who have agreed to improve universal education, and promise that in their constitutions yet very little progress has occurred. However, this once again, goes back to the economic abilities of a certain country versus the cultural and social norms that have already been accepted. Evidently reforms and steps need to be made in order for laws related to universal primary education can truly become part of the rule of law. However,it will take cooperation, and maybe assistance from the community and other non-state actors, like non-profits, to help make universal primary education a reality in these cases.

Universal Primary Education Poll

What Do You Think Needs to Be Improved in Universal Primary Education

See results

Tell Me What You Think About Universal Primary Education!

You've read most of the article, now is your chance to express what you think! I have created this poll so that you can select what you think needs to be done to make primary universal education a true reality for all children worldwide. No matter where you live or what language you speak, this issue affects you and the children in your community! i have selected the most common responses people might have to this issue, but if you don't find your answer you can mention something down in the comments section!

Short Summary of Important Points

  • Change perspectives on the role girls and women are supposed to play in society so that girls add to higher attendance rates in primary schools
  • Improve and/or establish quality schools in rural areas
  • Emphasize the importance of education for girls and boys towards their future as working, social-economically contributing adults
  • Improve the quality of materials and teachers for schools around the world
  • Communities should pressure on their governments to close the gap between the rule of law and enabling universal education for all if the government already promises it

How Should the International Community Improve A Child's Access to Universal Primary Education?

In conclusion, a child's access to universal education is a reality to some who couldn't say that 10 years ago. Nonetheless, not all children can say they have access to a universal primary education, nor can their parents, or their communities say so. In order to make this possible, first, I suggest that the United Nations and its member-states need to expand their programs for enabling universal primary education further. Second, non-profits and other non-state actors need to either place pressure on their local and/or national governments to dedicate more resources to education in order to properly enforce the rule of law related to universal education issues with the aspiration that an educated child is more likely to grow up into a working, socially-economically contributing adult in the future. Third, we're going to have to change traditional perspectives regarding the roles girls and women play in society, so that girls can add to the higher enrollment rates of children in primary school and beyond. Fourth, non-state actors and rural communities need to work together to make education more accessible to the poor and regionally rural children. Currently, children who are located in rural and poor areas do not have the same access to education s those in urban, affluent areas. In order for this to change, schools will have to be established in these areas, the quality of the schools already in existence has to be improved , and the hard yet important part, to get rural, poor communities to realize that educating boys and girls can help resolve their economic issues in the future.

Comments Section!

I do welcome comments/thoughts on this article in the hopes that you can give me food for thought for others! However, if you comment please be:

  • Kind
  • Thoughtful of Others
  • Keep Emotional Comments to a Minimum, Especially if They are Negative
  • Stay Away from Hateful, Rude Comments About Myself, the subject or any political/government entity
  • You can disagree, but do so in a polite, objective, adult manner, as you would if you were in a classroom at your local university or at work
  • No foul language...remember this is a public website on the internet!
  • Don't bother commenting if all you have to say are very rude, hateful, negatively emotional comments or anything that has nothing to do with primary school universal education around the world.

So that's all I can think of, as for right now, thanks for reading and i look forward to hearing from all of you soon!


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