Kampala- Uganda is in danger of failing to hit the 2015 Millennium Development Goals on education for all, with the latest statistics showing that 700,000 children have no access to school.
According to a latest United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) report, Uganda ranks 11th in the world with the highest number of children out of school.
Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova has expressed concern that many children will never start school while those who do are at risk of dropping out before completing the primary cycle.
“The lack of progress in reducing out of school numbers confirms our fears – there is no chance, whatsoever, that countries will reach the goal of universal primary education by 2015,” Ms Bokova said.
“We cannot meet this news with further inertia. On the contrary, we must sound the alarm and mobilise political will to ensure that every child’s right to education is respected,” she added.
Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children at 8.7 million, followed by Pakistan with 5.4 million, Sudan (2.8 million) and India (1.4 million).
The report shows that 58 million children aged six to 11 are still out of school today worldwide, showing little overall improvement since 2007.
Dr Yusuf Nsubuga, the director of basic education at the Ministry of Education, yesterday said all stakeholders, including the learners, schools, teachers, communities and parents needed to put in efforts to improve the situation.
“If we don’t have these areas harmonised, we can’t get it right. For us to meet the MDGs and maintain the standard, people should stop looking at government only but also contribute to changing the current situation,” Dr Nsubuga said.
At least 17 countries reduced their out-of-school populations by almost 90 per cent after they invested positive actions like abolishing school fees, introducing more relevant curricula and providing financial support to struggling families.
In Nepal, for instance, 24 per cent of children were out of school in 2000, but this rate fell to 1 per cent by 2013.
Morocco’s out-of-school population fell by 96 per cent over the same period. The Unesco Institute for Statistics (UIS) produced the new global out-of school figures which were released yesterday in Brussels during a pledging meeting organised by Global Partnership for Education.
Donors and countries were expected to renew their commitment to get all children in school and learning.
The findings indicate that about 43 per cent of those out of school – or 15 million girls and 10 million boys – will probably never set foot in a classroom if current trends continue.
Ms Kate Redman, the Communications and Advocacy Specialist, EFA Global Monitoring Report, Unesco said in a statement that the lack of global progress is because of high population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, now home to more than 30 million out-of-school children.
Despite these numbers being so high, Uganda’s aid to basic education reduced from $87 million (about Shs224b) to $34million (about Shs87b) from 2010 to 2012.
“Most of these children will never start school and those who do are at risk of dropping out. Across the region, more than one in three children who entered the educational system in 2012 will leave before reaching the last grade of primary school,” reads Redman’s statement.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 21 million out-of-school adolescents and their numbers will continue to grow if current trends continue.
Like Uwezo reports released before, Unesco also faults the quality of education, saying a number of children in the school system are unable to get basic skills.
But Dr Nsubuga warned that teachers must adopt the 21st century methods of teaching like exploring the use of technology to attract learners to school and keep them there.
Children out of school (in millions)
South Sudan 1
Burkina Faso 0.9
South Africa 0.7
Source: UNESCO Institute of Statistics