United Nations’ Education, Science and Culture Organisation
Providing Educational Facilities for Children Living in Poverty
Low academic achievement is inextricably linked to poverty at any level. Education allows families and communities to break free from the vicious cycle that ensnares them from generation to generation and enables social mobility. A quality basic education gives children and youth the knowledge and skills they need to face daily life challenges and take advantage of economic and lifelong learning opportunities.
Considering that 92% of school-age children in low-income countries will not reach minimum proficiency levels in reading, it would come as no surprise for the cure to cancer to be trapped within the mind of someone who is illiterate. Thus, the international community has yet to recognize the full potential of education as a catalyst for sustainable development.
Children and youth in disadvantaged areas face many barriers to obtaining equitable schooling, if any at all. These range from:
- being the “wrong” gender: poverty forces many families to choose which of their children to send to school. Girls often miss out due to the belief that there is less value in educating a girl than a boy;
- the exclusion of children with disabilities: a combination of discrimination, lack of training in inclusive teaching methods among teachers, and a straightforward lack of disabled accessible schools leave this group uniquely vulnerable to being denied their right to education;
- distant, overcrowded or unsafe schools;
- school fees, uniforms and supplies that millions of families are unable to afford;
- poor quality of teaching, irrelevant curriculum and learning materials;
- the pressure for children to work to support the family.
All of these factors create a serious drawback for children growing up in poor households. They are likely to leave school without the skills needed to earn a decent living in a rapidly changing economy.
Measures to overcome these constraints include focusing resources on school facilities and inputs in poor rural communities, targeting subsidies conditional on school attendance for the very poor, community participation in school decisions, subsidies and incentives for secondary and tertiary education, adapting curricula to local needs, media/public information campaigns on inclusion of girls and disabled and vulnerable groups, and programs to mainstream disabled people, street children, and orphans.
Ultimately, the UNESCO committee will strive to find the most effective solutions to this worldwide issue and therefore offer each child a chance to a better life.
Questions to keep in mind:
- To what extent do families (including extended families) provide the first line of defence against individual poverty, and what are the limits and geographical variations of this support?
- What are the most effective methods of increasing involvement and support for the education of children among their parents or guardians?
- What works to radically improve the quality of underperforming schools in deprived areas?
Combatting Violent Extremism
Over the last decade, humankind has seen the rise of violent extremism all around the world. Even though there is no clear definition of the term, it is more commonly referred to as supporting and/or using violence with the goal of achieving radical views in fields such as religion, politics, gender relations, etc. However, it must be noted that terrorism is not synonyms with extremism, but it is rather a branch of extremism. One must firstly be an extremist in order to be a terrorist.
Keeping in mind that no one is born a violent extremist, but they are sooner made and fuelled by socio-economic, psychological and institutional factors or, more generally, pull factors, push factors and contextual influences. Security – as a short-term solution – has been used, but the issue persists, the only effective means of tackling the matter being through education.
Contextual factors offer a prolific environment for violent extremist groups to appear, which explains the strong bond between these and The Pull factors. They include the lack of rule of law, corruption, criminality and residing in a fragile state. Signs of potential radicalisation have been found to manifest under changes in behaviour, as follows:
- Sudden distancing from friends, family and other close ones;
- Abrupt dropping out from school and other violent/vulgar encounters;
- Behavioural changes in regards to food, clothing and appearance.
The Pull Factors mainly consist of the existence of well-organised violent extremist groups that claim to provide a sense of belonging, employment, income in exchange for the membership and devotion of all individuals joining. Among such groups are the IS, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, etc.
The Push Factors are undeniably avoidable through education and integration in society, still, some individuals are pushed towards radicalisation by their social backgrounds, environments and people around them – who are failing to support them in their right beliefs.
As educators, we have a key role to play to prevent violent extremism, let us not miss this opportunity to make a difference.
Questions to keep in mind:
- How can the pull factors be combatted, so as to lower the number of people who join violent extremist groups?
- How can the member states diminish the likelihood of factors to take effect?
- What are the key elements to erasing the causes of extremism?
- How can the UN encourage people to adopt cultural, racial and religious diversity?