'Education for all' is still far from a reality

Teachers need the backing of the international community for all children to prosper

epa08830301 Underprivileged children attend an outdoors class at the Sangharsh Vidya Kendra school, at a slum area on the outskirts of Jammu, India, 18 November 2020 (issued 20 November 2020). World Children's Day, originally called Universal Children's Day, is celebrated annually on 20 November since 1954 and promotes awareness among children worldwide as well as the improvement of children's welfare. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the education system with scores of children from poor areas and remote regions across India moving to online schooling or dropping out. The change to online schooling proved beneficial only for a limited number of children, mostly in towns, cities and urban areas. The vast majority - comprising millions of children from underprivileged families - have been struggling to continue their education due to their limited access to technology.  EPA/JAIPAL SINGH
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It is no small gesture to part with a big chunk of $1 million. And Ranjitsinh Disale, who won this year's Global Teacher Prize, has given away half of his prize money to the nine other teachers shortlisted for the prize. "Teachers always believe in sharing and giving," said the 32-year-old winner from Solapur in the Indian state of Maharashtra, whose efforts at a primary school in the village Paritewadi, in his home state, are helping disadvantaged girls receive an education.

Being thus empowered, the girls of Zilla Parishad Primary School are better equipped to stave off illiteracy as well as the threat of early marriage. Education, there is no doubt, gives them a chance at a better life.

In what has been a bleak year for schoolchildren across the world amid the Covid-19 crisis, Mr Disale, his fellow nine finalists (from Brazil, Nigeria, Kenya, Malaysia, South Africa, US, UK, Italy and India) and indeed, millions of educators working against enormous odds to teach future generations accomplish something quietly essential: they offer hope to us all.

By April, close to 1.6 billion were out of school, according to the UN. And nearly 369 million who rely on school meals had to get their daily nutrition elsewhere.

The fallout of the pandemic has affected underprivileged children the worst – not least, the 3.7 million refugee children worldwide who are out of school.

A Unicef report in October found that children in the poorest countries lost nearly four months of schooling since the start of the outbreak. Comparably, children from higher-income countries lost six weeks.

When these gaps in opportunities and learning are not narrowed, the resulting cumulative effect can be catastrophic. Children from low-and middle-income countries lacked access to remote learning, as per the report that surveyed 150 countries between June and October.

The learning loss of underprivileged children was least likely to be monitored, it said. Poorer schools suffer from a long list of problems. Inadequate funding creates a heavy ripple effect, the weight of which ultimately is borne by the significant population of under, or poorly educated, children, ill equipped for adulthood, with bleak future employment prospects. To correct this cannot be the sole responsibility of a handful of teachers, no matter how committed.

The fallout of the pandemic has affected underprivileged children the worst

The world needs more global organisations to band together.

Stefania Giannini, Unesco assistant director-general for education said: “At the Global Education Meeting convened by Unesco with Ghana, Norway and the UK on 22 October, some 15 heads of state and government, close to 70 education ministers and development partners committed to protect education funding and act to safely reopen schools, support all teachers as front line workers and narrow the digital divide. This holds us all to account.”

As part of the recovery plans world over, it is the moral duty of multilateral organisations to allocate funds to make education accessible to every child.

Over the years, the UAE has supported multiple education causes in developing nations. Last year,  Abu Dhabi Fund financed 129 projects in the education sector amounting to Dh2.5 billion. Benefiting 14 developing countries, these projects have contributed to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Efforts to improve education across the world are not new for the country. This May, the Fund also provided $15 million to fund education supplies in Sudan, which included seating for 400,000 students.

If other countries and multinational stakeholders do their bit, the world could be on track to achieve the target for education delineated in the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 4: "By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education."

When the dedication of a single teacher – such as Mr Disale – to help children in the most trying circumstances is boosted by international efforts to make primary education a reality, young people will prosper and the world will likely be a more equitable and prosperous place.