Developing Countries and the Global CrisisFebruary 7, 2021
Universal Access to Education has been declared a Basic Human Right. Indeed, education is vital. And yet, in one of the modern world’s greatest failures, not everyone has access to it.
some parts of the world, on week-day mornings, parents wake their
youngest children and take them to daycare. In those same parts,
older kids and teenagers enter through the gates of their educational
institutions — some of them eagerly, others less so, leaving their
books at home, forgetting about their homework, and just waiting for
the day to end. Then, there are students studying in libraries and
fervently taking notes in the classroom, for the rat race is becoming
more and more real for them from one day to the next.
In other parts of the world, however, there is no daycare. There are no schools or other educational institutions, let alone universities. Some people in these parts do not even know that such establishments exist. The chances for learning are slim – if there are any at all. These are the places frequently forgotten by the developed world. The places left behind.
By Maruša Romih
Situation in Numbers
Speaking as someone who never had to worry about going to school and enjoyed almost all the lessons there, I consider myself lucky. Now that I am more aware of educational conditions around the world, even more so. The world is striving after constant development, but we seem to be forgetting that access to education is the vital foundation of it, irrespective of the field of expertise. We also seem to be forgetting that there are people to whom school books were not handed out on a silver platter.
are areas with a major lack of basic literacy. To align with the
developed areas, let’s focus on the youth who are the first whom we
connect with the educational process. Literacy of the youth around
the world is estimated at 91 %, which does not seem so bad until the
percentage is turned into numbers. The remaining 9 % represents 102
million young people who do not know how to write nor read.
numbers get worse in conflict areas where the conditions for
providing education are extremely challenging. There are 75 million
children who live in places devastated by violence, which means that
educational institutions find themselves under attack and students
and teachers get hurt. Additionally, people with low and middle
income in certain areas also represent a critical group.
in many other spheres, there is no equality for women in education
either. Of all the world’s illiterate population, women represent
two-thirds, according to data from 2014. Uneducated girls are more
often victimized by child marriage and give birth before the age of
18. The saddest part is that those whom these statistics concern
would not understand them because they are not familiar with letters
nor with numbers.
Than Half of all Refugee Children are Out of School
According to the UN Refugee Agency report from August, 2019, 3.7 million refugee children do not attend school. The UNHCR figures show that in August of last year, only 24 % of refugee children were enrolled in secondary school, while scarcely 3 % attended university.
Survival is the primary concern for refugees. Hence, access to education is often overlooked and its importance degraded. The displacement of refugees usually lasts from 10 to 20 years. In a worst-case scenario, this can lead to a 20-year-old or older person without any education or the will to pursue it. It often shows that age is a huge barrier in pursuing education, especially elementary. The older people get, the less confidence they have in themselves when it comes to learning.
refugee children does not result in any ‘instant’ benefit. It
does not provide shelter nor does it feed hungry mouths. But it
brings hope and gives purpose to children. In many countries,
educating refugees is a difficult task as they are frequently
stationed in parts where the countries in question are struggling
with educating their citizens. Still, some refugee camps offer basic
schooling. It may not be of the greatest quality, but it helps with
igniting interest in learning. Studying can provide a daily
structure, which is, in the misplaced life of a refugee child, of
high importance. Many of them are alone, not accompanied by their
families, and learning in classes with other children provides not
only foundations for further education but also the comforting
company of others.
in the educational system is not only important for refugee children,
but also for society as a whole. Education gives children a sense of
normality and teaches them about life outside of their current,
vulnerable environment. “Educated children and youth stand a
greater chance of becoming adults who can participate effectively in
civil society in all contexts,” states the UNHCR in one of its
education briefs. Going to school allows easier integration into the
approach to educating refugees has started changing. Turkey, for
example, offers courses of learning Turkish, so the refugees can
integrate more easily. Knowing at least the basics of the language,
children feel safer going to school. They feel more included and have
some sense of belonging, while they can also follow the classes
Access to Education in Remote Areas
distant, rural parts of the world too often do not get enough
attention or even stay unnoticed. Developing areas are struggling
with problems that we in developed areas have long forgotten.
Unfortunately, schooling and education are often not the primary
concern. In remote areas, children often have to stay at home and
help with whatever tasks come along. Many families live in
independent, self-sufficient households, which means working in
fields, taking care of the cattle, chopping wood, etc. This means an
abundance of work for every member of the household. Educational fees
are often too high and schools too distant for children who live in
remote villages or isolated properties. In many developing areas,
girls are often made to feel shame because of their menstrual period,
which embarrasses them and too often makes them skip classes or even
drop out of school. All of this makes obtaining an education that
much more difficult.
that, we have to understand that even though we are trying hard to
bring schools and educational options closer to the developing areas,
our ‘westernized’ model of schooling might not be the best idea
to begin with. While reading Wordsworth’s poems and learning about
the world’s highest peaks stimulates the brain and raises the
desire for learning, the knowledge obtained is not practical. It does
not help people to better fertilize their fields and grow crops. It
does not warm their houses nor feed their animals. In all aspects,
rural life is different, and as such it needs a different approach.
developing areas, there are no jobs where they could use the
knowledge provided by the previously mentioned model. Generally, this
type of education takes too long, it costs too much, and fails to
provide the student with knowledge and skills that will be useful to
them when they reach adulthood. The basics such as writing, reading,
and mathematics should remain compulsory, but, from here on out,
adjustments are necessary. Hence, there is some need for redefining,
inventing, and introducing new educational models. Focus on practical
knowledge can lead to a great and much-needed shift.
might be a good idea to start by introducing knowledge that leads to
skills that would help people with improving their current lifestyle.
Improvement brings better options, possibilities, and faster
development in multiple areas. Later on, such progress will call for
better-educated people, marking the beginning of an era that demands
finer knowledge and in which particular and in-depth knowledge is
useful. This is the stage at which the educational model changes,
gives new knowledge, and offers an upgrade. With better living
conditions, people would desire higher qualifications as
possibilities for better-educated individuals would appear. Now,
there are no such positions, and it is only natural that the low
budgets of rural families cannot allow for funding higher education.
Basic Human Right
Access to education is a basic human right. So, useful or not, knowledge should still be easier to access. Those who want to learn should be able to do so. This is especially true now, in the 21st century, the era of digitalization. Many valuable teaching tools and curricula can now be stored online, which solves a major problem of the scarcity of learning materials in critical and isolated areas. Of course, this does not solve the question of available electricity, devices powered by the latter, notebooks, and pens and pencils – for children need to learn how to write as well. The physical presence of a teacher is equally important, and the lack of those is an ongoing issue in the aforementioned areas.
situation is better than it was years ago, but there is still a lot
of space for improvement. We cannot expect any major change in the
world if we do not seek to provide for the better in every part of
it. There are many nonprofit organizations to which we can donate,
and individuals heading out to risk-related areas whom we can
support. There are a lot of people who leave the comfort of their
homes and countries just to help and teach children who probably
never saw a book in their lives. Many support such a greater cause,
but not everyone can, not even in developed countries.
Education empowers, enlightens, and gives protection. Maybe not everyone is fond of the classic schooling system of their own country, but no one can deny the power of learning – and this is what we should stand for. Access to education is not something to take for granted as we who are more fortunate often do. In the eyes of someone who was never given a chance to learn, there is little difference between a professor with a PhD in philosophy or a self-made freelance graphic designer. What they see is that they both had a chance to learn, either in a classroom or by taking online courses.
This a very generalized comparison, but the developed world offers numerous chances of educating oneself. There are no such chances in the villages of Himalayas, the slums of southern Mexico, and refugee camps all around the world. If there are, they are rare. So, if nothing else, try to make children aware that going to school is not a right but a privilege and that by studying hard they might have a chance to change something for the future generations of those who have no chance to learn.