ExpertsConnect Ep. 33: The Shocking Truths about Access to Education
ExpertsConnect Ep. 33: The Shocking Truths about Access to Education

ExpertsConnect Ep. 33: The Shocking Truths about Access to Education


According to the 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report, “Education makes an essential contribution to building inclusive and democratic societies, where differences of opinion can be freely expressed and where the wide range of voices can be heard, in pursuit of social cohesion and in a celebration of diversity.”

On this episode of the ExpertConnect podcast, host Kadian Davis-Owusu PhD will be revealing the shocking truths about access to education. She first discusses the barriers to education that children in poverty face and later shares her perspectives on what Governments, NGOs, corporates, Philanthropies, and the general public can do to improve access to education.

Unesco asserts that about 258 million children and youth are out-of-school, according to their UIS data at the end of the 2018 school year.

  • 59 million - are of primary school age
  • 62 million - are of lower secondary school age
  • 138 million - are of upper secondary school age

What’s preventing our children and adolescents from having access to education?

Phineas Rueckert, a Global citizen author discussed a number of barriers to education that children living in poverty face.

  1.  The lack of funding for education.
  2.  Insufficient teachers and shortage of learning materials.
  3.  No classroom, lack of basic facilities such as lack of toilet and running water.
  4.  Exclusion of children with disabilities ( eg., in 10 low- and middle-income countries, children with disabilities are 19%, less likely to achieve minimum proficiency in reading compared to their counterparts without disabilities). Global education monitoring report 2020.
  5.  The Gender gap:  Unicef reveals that 132 million girls are out of school. Child marriage is also an issue when you consider the gender gap, especially in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Shickingly, 117 countries still allow child marriage.
  6.  Living in a country with conflict.
  7.  Distance from home and school.
  8.  Hunger and poor nutrition.

International Labour Organization implicates that child labour is a major barrier to education, many of them working in hazardous working conditions.

  • In Africa, 72.1 million are estimated to be in child labour. 31.5 million in hazardous working conditions.
  • In the Arab States, 13.4 million are child labourers.
  • In the Asia Pacific, 650 million between 5-14 years are working in the region.
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean, 5.7 million with the largest share of boys and girls working in high risks sectors such as mining, dumpsites, domestic labour, fireworks, manufacturing, and fishing. 

Let's address Conflicts.

Unicef asserts that 27 million children (primary and lower secondary school age) are out of school in 24 conflict-affected countries.

For example, “in the latter part of 2018, more than 1,000 schools were closed in Afghanistan, half a million children were out of school (Munns, 2019). In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, school closures doubled between 2017 and 2019 due to growing insecurity, disrupting education for more than 400,000 children (UNICEF, 2019b).” – 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report

The Impacts of War on Children

  • Psychological Scars
  • Children are being killed e.g., in the recent Israel and Palestine conflicts.
  • Children are raped in war — eg., in Tigray girls eight and women 72 are being raped. This rape is conducted in public, and their family, husbands, and the general public are first-hand witnesses of this tragedy. They suffer physical abuse too as their legs and their hands are being cut.
  • Unaffordable food prices and children face malnutrition. 
  • Poor Sanitation in this Guardian Report, 40-65 people are sleeping in one room. There is also limited access to food and medicines, and water is not readily available.
  • Sonia Khush, Syria Response Director of Save the Children states: “two out of every three children in northern Syria are out of school.  Meanwhile, attacks on schools continue, as does their use for military purposes.” - UN Press Release 

What can Governments do to improve children's access to education?

  • As Unesco suggests,  Inclusive education should be embedded in the laws of the land. Thus, education should be accessible to all regardless of age, gender, race, social-economic status, state status, disability, religion, and culture etc).
  • Governments need to allocate more funding to primary and secondary education. Prioritize access to funding for education infrastructure e.g., more classrooms, more toilets, access to clean water, science laboratories, and libraries etc.
  • Build more schools in rural areas and build and implement the necessary infrastructure (roads and access to safe and reliable transportation e.g., school buses)  to get help our children get to school.
  • Build accessible schools to support children with disabilities.
  • Going back to Infrastructure the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of education yet many developing countries are still lagging behind.
  • To prompt innovation in education, I believe the recommendations by the US Dept. of Education are useful. Kindly see the diagram below. 
Adapted from US Department of Education
  • Make teaching more attractive financially and intellectually appealing.
  • There is a need for an increased corporation with NGO’s, philanthropies, and the corporate sector to promote and finance inclusive education.
  • Governments should impose harsher penalties for child labour.
  • More public policies to stop child marriages for boys and girls, where more girls are disproportionately impacted. Thus there is a need to implement policies to increase the enrollment of girls in school. This report highlighted a number of factors that could be useful to stop child marriages. 
    • Make more funding available for access to higher education so that girls can delay marriages and attain an education so they can access more sustainable careers. 
    • Provide other alternatives to education especially for our girls who are already married, or had to drop out of school due to teenage pregnancy or had to work because of family obligations.
    • Have more re-entry policies to help pregnant teenage girls to re-enter the school system so that they can complete their education without stigma.

What can the general public do to improve children's access to education?

How to Address Conflicts 

Through education, we can reduce conflicts and stop terrorism 

  • Governments can control access to illegal weapons or address the general control of arms.
  • Exercising diplomacy.
  • Address the root cause of wars.
  • Assess the role of the mainstream media and social media in war.
  • This article suggests that sometimes nations go to war because of intolerance, prejudices, and ideological differences. While this sounds like a utopia, we should not be prejudice against people who hold a different ideological or religion or ethnic background. 

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YouTube Credits

Published By
Kadian Davis-Owusu (PhD)
Kadian has a background in Computer Science and pursued her PhD and post-doctoral studies in the fields of Design for Social Interaction and Design for Health. She has taught a number of interaction design courses at the university level including the University of the West Indies, the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) in Jamaica, and the Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. Kadian also serves as the Founder and Lead UX Designer for TeachSomebody and is the host of the ExpertsConnect video podcast. In this function, Kadian serves to bridge the learning gap by delivering high-quality content tailored to meet your learning needs. Moreover, through expert collaboration, top-quality experts are equipped with a unique channel to create public awareness and establish thought leadership in their related domains.... Show more