News and Press

UNESCO on Gender Imbalance in Global Education

12 Mar 2014  |  News and Press - Related News

By Lusha Chen

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 12 2014 (IPS) - In order to go to school, Sarah, a girl living in rural Ethiopia, escaped the village and an arranged marriage at 14, returning to her home at age 23, when she could finally enter a classroom again. In a conversation with a youth advocate for education, named Chernor Bah, Sarah asked, "Why does it have to be so hard for me, just because I'm a girl?"

Sarah used to be one of the 100 million women, mostly from least developed countries (LDCs), who could not read.

According to a report by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), titled Education for All Global Monitoring Report, over 15 million young girls out of school are never expected to enroll for classes.

These figures have stirred a number of concerns over gender imbalance in global education, as the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) got underway.

"There are serious setbacks," said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, "which will affect all sustainable efforts for development to the international community."

The gender disparity in education is "unacceptable," said Bokova. As stated in the report, "If recent trends in the region continue, the richest boy will gain universal primary completion in 2021, while the poorest girl will not be able to catch up until 2086."

Such slow pace in developing education equality is largely resulted from two factors: war and poverty.

About half of the world's out-of-school population lives in conflict-affected countries, which are usually low and lower middle-income countries that lack early childhood care as well as access to education.

As conflict and poverty bar girls from education, cultural and social perceptions also hinder access and allow for illiteracy to grow.

Without enough female teachers or male teachers trained with gender sensitive courses, girls in the Arab States witness a greater disadvantage. Nearly 60 percent of females are out of school compared to 57 percent in South and West Asia and 54 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women called the efforts on girls' education the "investment that could get the best return ever," because girls, "represent the whole humanity."

Mlambo-Ngcuka called for more attention to education from member states and agencies. She said the "issue (of education) is not central enough in the UN".

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One Billion at Risk of Extreme Poverty

12 Mar 2014  |  ROOT - News and Press

Joe DeCapua
Last updated on: March 10, 2014 11:32 AM

Climbing out of extreme poverty -- and staying there – can be very difficult. A new report warns up to one billion people are at risk of extreme poverty by 2030 unless more is done to support them in hard times.

Unemployment, poor health, high food prices, conflict and natural disasters – these are some of the things that can drive people below the poverty line of $1.25 a day.

Listen to De Capua report on extreme poverty

The Overseas Development Institute and the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network have released the Third Chronic Poverty Report. Network Director Andrew Shepard -- the lead author -- warns of poverty's "revolving door."

"People fall into poverty as well as escape it. And once they've escaped it they can fall back in again."

He said there are three legs of poverty that must be addressed.

"You can be poor the whole of your life, chronically poor. And policies, generally speaking, don't deal very well with that. You can become poor. You can be impoverished. Policies are beginning to address that a little bit better than they did 10 years ago, but there's still a long way to go on that, especially in Africa, and actually also in Asia. And then once you escape poverty, you need to keep on in an upward trajectory. You need to keep on moving away from poverty because you can easily fall back in again," he said.

It's estimated there were 1.2 billion people in extreme poverty in 2010. That's a decline of 700 million since 1990. Shepard says that's good news, but the trend may not continue.

"People who are chronically poor, they're poor over their lifetimes for reasons and those reasons can be quite hard to tackle. For example, they might be discriminated against. And some countries now have good policies against discrimination, buy many countries don't yet or they don't implement them."

Shepard said that the most frequent cause for falling back below the poverty line is ill health.

The report recommended three approaches to – what it calls -- zero poverty.

"The first of these is providing some sort of cash relief, if you like -- cash transfers or an employment guarantee. Something which provides a safety net. The second thing is a massive investment in education because education works to help people out of poverty – to keep them going in the right direction. And education, of course, works to sustain peoples' escapes out of poverty provided that you can get them up to a high enough level," he said.

Primary and secondary education levels are a must, he said.

The third step to reduce poverty is called "pro poorest economic growth."

Shepard said, "You need jobs, of course. And those jobs can be agricultural, non-agricultural, but jobs also need to be decent. They need to pay some kind of minimum wage. That can be underpinned by an employment guarantee. And you need health and safety provisions."

The report called on all countries to have universal health coverage and good disaster risk management to deal with the weather extremes of climate change.

It also said international aid "will continue to be extremely important in low-income countries." However, it adds, "few donors have displayed real interest in tackling chronic poverty."

"The report does an analysis, which shows that there are about 44 countries which spend a total of less than $500 per person per year. That's on everything. And the report also indicates that quite a few of those countries – I think it was 19 – won't be doing very much better by 2030," he said.

Shepard said countries also can find more money to help tackle poverty by doing a better job of collecting taxes.

He said some of the success stories in reducing poverty in recent years include China, Vietnam, Brazil, Ethiopia, Nepal and Bangladesh.

The issue of chronic poverty is expected to be addressed as the international community decides how to replace the Millennium Development Goals. They come due next year.

Last October, the World Bank reported the number of people living in extreme poverty had declined sharply in the past three decades. But it warned about 400-million children continue to live in "abysmal conditions."

Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the goal of ending poverty -- and boosting shared prosperity -- can be achieved, but only if nations "work together with new urgency." Those efforts, he said, must include education and health care for children.

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UN: 2.8 Million Syrian Children out of School

12 Mar 2014  |  ROOT - News and Press

By JOHN HEILPRIN Associated Press

Nearly half of Syria's school-age children — 2.8 million and counting — cannot get an education because of the devastation and violence from a civil war now entering its fourth year, the U.N. children's agency said Tuesday.

Most of those — 2.3 million Syrian children who should be in classes — remain within Syria's borders, as education and health services collapse and classrooms are bombed or used as shelters and military barracks, UNICEF said in a new report that shows the tragically expanding effects of a conflict on the region's youngest victims. In total, 40 percent of all school-age children in Syria are out of school, the report said.

Agency officials told reporters in Geneva that another 300,000 Syrian children are out of school in Lebanon, along with some 93,000 in Jordan, 78,000 in Turkey, 26,000 in Iraq and 4,000 in Egypt.

"When one says that it is the worst place to be as a child, in Syria, for now, I would agree," said Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF's deputy representative in Syria's capital Damascus. "Children are missing from education, they are out of school. Children have the hidden wounds, and these wounds form scars."

UNICEF estimates 2 million children affected by the fighting are in need of psychological support or treatment. Thousands have lost limbs, parents, teachers, schools, homes and virtually every aspect of their childhood, according to agency officials. And those are the ones lucky enough to be alive.

More than 10,000 children have been killed in the violence, the agency said, and 1.2 million are now refugees living in camps and overwhelmed neighboring communities where clean water, food and other basic items are scarce.

Overall, the number of children suffering from the civil war has more than doubled to 5.5 million in the past 12 months alone, UNICEF said. Many are forced to grow up fast: One in 10 refugee children is now working, the agency estimates, while one in five Syrian girls in Jordan is forced into early marriage.

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Equipping Young People With Workplace Skills

4 Mar 2014  |  News and Press - Related News

Corinne Woods
Director, United Nations Millennium Campaign

There are many problems facing the world of education today but one that must be urgently addressed is its failure to equip young people with the skills they need to move into the workplace. A recent study has found that nearly one in four IT opportunities worldwide had gone unfulfilled in 2012 because of a lack of candidates with the relevant training or experience.

Add to this that IT is one of the fastest growing industries in the world today and it can be seen that if we are losing 25 percent of its job opportunities, in a global economy where job opportunities are already scarce, we are in big trouble.

And this skills gap is a massive problem not just in IT but in all areas of employment. Today, half of all jobs require some degree of technology skills and, according to Microsoft who shared this research, experts say this will rise to 77 percent in the next decade.

So when the millionth vote was cast for education in the MY World survey, a joint collaboration between the UN, the Overseas Development Institute and NGOs around the world, last month, it was important not to just focus on that single issue. And sure enough, right behind education are significant votes, more than 780,00 in fact, for better access to jobs.

Not only are people overwhelmingly voting for a better education, they are also asking for better opportunities to use that education -- in the workplace. They don't just want a job, they want one that pays well and in which they can work their way up the ladder to better opportunities. A Pew Research Center study two years ago found that less than half (45 percent) of 18 to 34-year-olds in employment say they have the education and training necessary to get ahead in their job or career. Indeed Time Magazine found that the fewest young adults in 60 years have jobs at all.

The issues of employment encompass so many issues of education. Education has multiple root problems -- from basic availability of physical schools, to shortages of trained teachers, to societal attitudes including opposition to the education of women -- but as well as tackling these issues, we need to focus on this skills gap as a matter of urgency. The new 2015 development agenda, into which the MY World survey is designed to feed, must be part of this.

Education goals need to be far broader than just boosting primary school enrollment, as in the current Millennium Development Goals. They need to be tailored to encourage education that is meaningful, enduring and ultimately leads to an opportunity to get a job and get ahead in the workplace.

New ways of learning and technologies, such as eLearning, must be embraced and a stress put on people gaining life long skills, which can help them grow and succeed when they leave school or higher/further education. It is clear that primary school is where an education best begins and where continued attention and efforts should go, but enrollment is a start in learning that must continue throughout life.

Indicators should record not just primary school enrollment, but primary school completion, a move to secondary school, secondary school graduation and ultimately a successful move to the workplace. The goals beyond 2015 must be bold. They must grasp the new opportunities the Internet provides and make sure education is both far-reaching and relevant.

We all know that poverty is a complex beast made up of and influenced by so many different factors. Part of the solution is education, part access to jobs. The two issues go hand in hand.

People want to help themselves, not be helped by others. Our development approach must be reassessed. People want better education, healthcare and job opportunities so they can improve their own lives. It is time to recognize that part of the solution is to close this ever-widening skills gap.

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How to … collect data on child poverty

27 Feb 2014  |  News and Press - Related News

How do you find out how many victims there are of female genital mutilation or use technology? Unicef UK's chief advises on how to map out the needs of the world's children

David Bull
Guardian Professional, Thursday 27 February 2014 06.03 EST

Globally in 2012, about 40% of all babies born were not registered at birth – meaning they do not officially exist. Every child deserves the right to be counted and data is one of the most powerful tools we have to save children's lives, build their futures and influence social change.

Read more: How to … collect data on child poverty

Challenging child marriage in India

27 Feb 2014  |  News and Press - Related News

By Devex Editor on 27 February 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: Changing ingrained traditions like child marriage India is not easy, and many challenges remain. A new program is trying to overcome these obstacles and give these girls a new life, an official from Landesa writes in a blog for the Center for Global Development.

Read more: Challenging child marriage in India

INTERVIEW - "For me, one rape is too many," says U.N. representative on sexual violence in conflict

27 Feb 2014  |  News and Press - Related News

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 27 Feb 2014 07:33 AM

Author: Lisa Anderson

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Warring factions in conflicts around the world continue to use rape as a weapon of war, often more effectively than guns, to shred societies and destroy lives. It is Zainab Hawa Bangura's job to disarm them.

Read more: INTERVIEW - "For me, one rape is too many," says U.N. representative on sexual violence in conflict

Education is central to ending FGM

18 Feb 2014  |  News and Press - Related News

A practice that demeans, dehumanises and injures is not a tradition, it's a human rights violation. Headteachers can help stop this.


Read more: Education is central to ending FGM

Gordon Brown: It's time to fund schools for Syrians

13 Feb 2014  |  News and Press - Related News

By Gordon Brown
February 13, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)

Editor's note: Editor's Note: Gordon Brown is a United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education. He was formerly the UK's prime minister. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Gordon Brown.

(CNN) -- I had to act. A frail 18-year-old Syrian refugee girl had pleaded: "Why have you abandoned us?" Her apartment in Homs, Syria, had been bombed, her family made homeless, her wheelchair-bound sister thrown out on to the streets with no shelter and no food but also no medical help and no schooling for the girls.

I discovered that before the civil war the girl excelled in sport and chess, had led a youth group and sang with her church choir. Now she had lost her home and her school, and she was rapidly losing hope. She had written in a private letter: "Everything is lost. I feel like I should show you so you will believe me."

And so because of recognition from the Syrian supporters in a school in Wales, she was offered the chance of a scholarship to study in the UK. She has now been here for six months and is thriving.

She works hard because she dreams that one day she can return and make a difference to her war-ravaged country.
Today, UNHCR figures show there are 3 million Syrian children displaced by the conflict, more than 1 million of whom have had to flee their country in what is now a disaster of biblical proportions.

Some years from now the world will look back and ask why so many of us did so little, faced with a catastrophe that has made more people permanently homeless than in the world's worst recent natural disasters, like the Asian tsunami of 2004 and the Haiti earthquake of 2010.

Of the 1 million exiled Syrian children, almost half of them in beleaguered Lebanon, and the mantra of 50 of the world's top anti-poverty advocacy groups and international institutions is simple. "Education cannot wait."

On best estimates they are likely to spend 10 years in camps or temporary shelters. They need food not only when starving, shelter when destitute, medical drugs when faced with the risk of polio. They also need hope -- hope that there is a future worth preparing for. If they are not to lose their childhoods -- a loss that can never be replaced -- the one way to deliver hope is by ensuring they can resume their education.

Amid the chaos there is a plan, a plan conceived in Britain. It puts existing Lebanese schools on double shifts -- starting earlier and finishing later to give more lessons for more pupils -- and offers all 435,000 refugees spread across the country the chance of formal education.
The annual cost is $400 dollars per pupil which is cost-effective because we do not have to create new facilities.
Proof that the double shift system works, albeit on a smaller scale, can be found in a north Lebanese village called Akroum. In a unique effort volunteer Syrian teachers, local Lebanese school heads and a small Scottish charity called Edinburgh Direct Aid, are operating the local school on a timeshare basis outside of normal school hours.

Almost immediately boys and girls who have fled from burnt-down and bombed schools and who were a few weeks ago child laborers or even beggars have started to recover their lost childhood and now have hope that there is something to live for.

The country-wide Lebanese plan can be operational within weeks. And what has been achieved for a few hundred children in Akroum can be now achieved for all 435,000 Syrian child refugees in Lebanon -- if we urgently adopt the plan.

My frustration is that an idea conceived eight months ago, negotiated with the Lebanese Prime Minister six months ago and the subject of two in-depth reports -- one by the respected Overseas Development Institute and another by UNICEF and UNHCR -- is still sitting on a table waiting implementation while children spend a winter walking the streets begging, some now trafficked into prostitution and some even forced into marriage as child brides.

This week the Lebanese prime minister, Najib Azmi Mikati, travels to London to make a plea for his nation and its people. One of the world's smallest countries, Lebanon has been left to shoulder the biggest burden of the crisis and it is unable to cope without international support.
Almost 25% of its entire population are now Syrian refugees. It is the equivalent of 15 million refugees arriving on the shores of the United Kingdom.

The U.S., Norway, Denmark and the UAE have backed the plan, which would cost $195 million dollars a year to secure schooling for the 435,000 children. Now with 50 of the world's top international aid agencies making an urgent plea, today all countries with aid budgets should come on board.

An important principle is at stake. More than 100 years ago, the Red Cross established the principle that the right to health care transcends borders.

Now we can establish that even in war zones children can learn. Some good can yet emerge out of the ruins.

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First UN report on children in Syria’s civil war paints picture of ‘unspeakable’ horrors

6 Feb 2014  |  News and Press - Related News

4 February 2014 – Syrian children have been subjected to "unspeakable" suffering in the nearly three years of civil war, with the Government and allied militia responsible for countless killings, maiming and torture, and the opposition for recruiting youngsters for combat and using terror tactics in civilian areas, according to the first United Nations report on the issue.

Read more: First UN report on children in Syria’s civil war paints picture of ‘unspeakable’ horrors