Back to School

Children and youth are missing out on their right to an education

Summer vacation is over. For most children, this means going back to school, but millions of children worldwide have no school to go to. Natural disasters, poverty, and armed conflicts are some of the factors contributing to children being out-of-school. According to a new set of UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) indicators, over 263 million children and youth between the ages of 6 and 17 are out of school globally. This includes 61 million children of primary school age (6-11 years), 60 million youth of lower secondary school age (12-14 years), and 142 million youth of upper secondary school age (15-17 years).

Armed conflicts and violence are forcing millions of families to flee their homes, and children consequently miss out on exercising their right to an education—in some cases for years. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), half of primary school-age refugees are not in school. Thirty-five percent (21.5 million) of the out-of-school children around the world live in 32 countries that are affected by armed conflict. A child’s life in Syria has become more dangerous than ever, and, according to UNCIEF, Iraq is the most dangerous place to live for a child. Due to decades of conflict, violence, and insecurity, Iraq missed most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including targets for reducing child death before age 5, increasing school enrollment, and ensuring access to safe drinking water.

To ensure that all children, adolescents, and youth can attend school, and meet their basic human rights and needs, the international community must work together. It is essential to accelerate the progress in reaching the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. If not, the new global education goal, SGD4, which covers a range of targets including the pledge to ensure that all children complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education, will not be met by 2030.

For more information:

UNESCO. (2016). Leaving no one behind: How far on the way to universal primary and secondary education? Policy Paper 27 / Fact Sheet 37, July 2016. Download the paper here.

UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) collects, analysis and disseminate data needed to monitor progress and better target policies and resources. Please go here to read more about UIS.

UNICEF. (2016). No place for children: The impact of five years of war on Syria’s children and their childhood. UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa.

Anne Bauer