Globally 78.2 million children out of school: UN report

Over half the out-of-school children are girls, data shows

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Thursday 23 June 2022
Globally 78.2 million children out of school: UN report Photo: iStock

The number of school-aged children in crisis-impacted countries who require educational support has grown to 222 million at present from 75 million in 2016, according to a new report.  

Of them, 78.2 million are out of school due to often protracted conflicts and emergencies, the report by the United Nations published June 21, 2022 added.

Around 54 per cent of the out-of-school children are girls, 17 per cent are children with functional difficulties and 16 per cent forcibly displaced, according to the analysis titled Global Estimates: Number of Crisis-affected Children and Adolescents in Need of Education Support.

The report by Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, highlighted the number of girls and boys missing out on a quality education due to armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate-induced disasters and protracted crises is alarming.

Around 119.6 million children living in crisis-prone areas attended school but did not achieve minimum proficiency in mathematics or reading, the findings showed.

Another 24.2 million are in pre-primary, primary or secondary school achieving minimum proficiency in mathematics or reading but still affected by crises and need support, it flagged.

The report also noted that 84 per cent of the fully out-of-school children or 65.7 million were living in areas with protracted crises. Of these 65.7 million, about two-thirds live in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Pakistan and Yemen.

Children in sub-Saharan Africa were hardest-hit by the learning crisis, another report by non-profit Save the Children, observed. 

The gross enrollment at secondary level education for refugees around the world in 2019-2020 was 34 per cent, according to a recent report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 

Before the pandemic, only 9 per cent of crisis-affected children achieved minimum proficiency in mathematics and only 15 per cent of crisis-affected children achieved minimum proficiency in reading in the early grades, the analysis showed. 

The global crisis has been exacerbated by prolonged school closures due to COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, experts said.

The latest study proposed a new methodology that leverages the latest, most granular available data on crisis severity, children with functional difficulties, forcibly displaced children, out-of-school rates. 

Data from UNICEF’s multiple indicator cluster surveys, International Student Assessment for Development and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study databases should also be used to estimate the number of out-of-school children in emergencies as well as those who may not be learning, and hence need urgent educational support, the authors suggested. 

A limitation of this methodology is that it mainly relies on correctly estimating the proportion of people who can be considered as crisis-affected. In several large crises-affected countries, data on out-of-school rates for children aged 3-4 years and for those in the year prior to primary school is not available, the report noted.

To respond to this pressing global education crisis, ECW and strategic partners launched the #222MillionDreams resource mobilisation campaign in Geneva June 21, 2022. 

ECW called on donors, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and high-net-worth individuals to urgently mobiliwe more resources to scale up the organisation’s investments, which are already delivering quality education to over 5 million children across more than 40 crisis-affected countries. 

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