The right to education is one of the most fundamental rights a human being is entitled to. However, the reality is a far cry from the ideal world that we print neatly on our papers. Out there, there are millions of children who do not attend schools, for a variety of reasons. While some simply do not have the facility, others may not be sent by their parents. Even more regretfully, some who get to schools, are not rewarded with proper education. Either the teachers are missing or they are not interested.
Last week, a most frightening incident shook the world when around 21 children died in India due to the school meals provided to them. I had spent my childhood in that region and know enough to state that the region is mired in corruption, much like other places. Such levels of negligence are shameful and terrifying. That free school meals have become dangerous is an immensely discouraging development and will deter parents from sending their kids to school. Some 57 million children, across the globe remain uneducated which includes countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, India and many more. The child of today is who the world will depend on tomorrow. And that is a reason perhaps more relevant to us and makes it more than just a human rights issue. But what is it that is holding education back from poor children worldwide and how can this be addressed?
It is not that the government policies shall be blamed, in fact they are in place. It is the execution that lets them down. Widespread corruption; societies where people take whatever money they can get their hands on works against these noble causes. Everyone is concerned about themselves and themselves only. Besides that, in poor rural families, education for girls is highly unfavoured. Girls have to stay at homes, learn household chores, later get married, and then stay at home and raise their kids – this is how the thoughts run in poverty, and in societies where women and their rights are not socially encouraged. A shift in mental attitude regarding this would mean more girls being sent to school. It would be fair to say that the situation is progressing and over time the social taboo will diminish.
Yet another important barrier to providing education is the lack of teachers and it needs to be addressed urgently. There can be little doubt that teachers and teaching have run out of fashion. Not many want to become teachers, especially in poor countries. Why? Because it does not command a handsome pay. To cut the story short, there is little incentive for people to teach, and this has to be addressed if the target of global education is to be met. And perhaps the biggest challenge in poorer countries is to make education affordable. It all comes down to money, if it is available and affordable, it would encourage parents to send their kids over to study.
Education is the path to an endless ocean. It preaches, provokes and enlightens. Poverty and vast social inequalities, which are the trademark of poor countries, is the disease whose remedy is education.
UNESCO video on global education – http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ft5sDJG054w