Many children across Canada are getting ready to head back to school soon. But that’s not reality for 258 million children around the world.
Plan International is determined to make quality education accessible for all children – but that looks different for each community, family and child.
Plan International believes that education should be available and accessible to all girls and boys. Every child must be able to access and complete an inclusive, quality pre-primary, primary and secondary education in order to meet the Global Goal for education by 2030.
Before we discuss how Plan International makes quality education accessible for millions of children around the world, we must talk about what’s preventing children from being in school or staying there.
Barriers to Education
Where a child lives determines what barriers are most pressing for them, but these are some of the most common barriers that out-of-school children face:
- Poverty – parents or guardians do not have the financial capacity to send their children to school or to afford school uniforms and supplies. In some of the communities where Plan International works, a lack of schools, access to clean water and health facilities also impacts children’s ability to exercise their right to education.
- Gender Inequality – in some cultures, boys and girls are valued differently. Boys’ education is often prioritized because they may be seen as future earners but depending on the family’s situation they may have to drop out of school early to financially support the family. Boys are also more vulnerable to being lured into gangs or becoming child soldiers. When girls are allowed to go to school, they may drop out because of menstruation, child marriage, household chores, gender-based violence and more.
- Emergencies – when disasters like earthquakes hit, families may become displaced and unable to prioritize or access education for their children. 75 million children and youth, predominately girls, are out of school in 35 crisis-affected countries.
So how do we help millions of children learn and pursue their dreams through education? Here are 3 ways:
1. Getting children into school
Getting children back into school or into a classroom for the first time takes more than just building a school. Here are a few ways in which we improve access to education:
- Building schools – long distances to school can prevent children from going. Based on research, community needs and with the input of community members, Plan will build or renovate schools.
- Improving access to clean water – when children live in water scarce communities, they may be tasked with the chore to walk miles to find that water and bring it home before they go to school. This responsibility often falls on women and girls but lack of clean water at school impacts all children. No access to water means no place to wash hands or use the washroom.
- Training teachers– Plan International works with teachers to sensitize them on the barriers children may be facing when trying to access school and equips them with the knowledge and tools to address them. In some communities, teachers have been critical in stopping child marriages and advancing equality for girls.
2. Skills Training
For youth who have never been to school or may have missed too many years to catch-up, Plan International provides skills training that helps youth learn a new income-generating skill so that they are in a better position to decide their own futures. Youth may be trained to become plumbers, hairdressers, tailors, chefs, make and sell their own sanitary products, etc.
Learning a specific skill gives youth the freedom to support themselves, their family members and pursue the future they envisioned for themselves. Based on research and with the help of our local staff and partners, we identify skills that are gender neutral, market relevant to the community in which the youth live and those that are resilient in the face of changes in the job market.
3. Youth groups
There are a few different ways in which we bring children and youth together to learn about their rights, gender equality, decision-making and to grow their self-esteem. Children of the same gender and a similar age group are brought together in safe, gender-sensitive spaces to discuss a diverse array of subjects. The same children or youth will then be brought together so that they can learn from each other’s lived experiences. These discussions and the knowledge gained help children and youth better navigate the barriers they face in their community and stand up for their rights.
Plan International also facilitates Youth Savings and Loans groups to help build financial literacy and a savings culture among youth. These groups cover budgeting and finances to better prepare them for future economic stability.
Knowledge is power
Children and youth need access to information in order to learn, lead, decide and thrive. Whether that’s in school or through a youth group, Plan International is committed to helping all young people recognize and unleash their power and potential.