School year is an exciting time for parents as their children go through a formal education system which is a vital component of acquiring skills required to understand the world and also for assisting children to find their own niche. The importance of reading and writing in our age and time cannot be over looked as it provides a stepping stone to either prevent or come out of poverty. In a world moving towards meritocracy and creating knowledge based societies, education should ideally be a right of every child; however, it is still a privilege in many parts of the world, especially in the underdeveloped countries. The millennium development goals seek to ensure that children across the world complete their primary education by 2015. The success of this objective is measured by the number of children enrolled in primary education.
In some developing countries, primary enrolment has increased since 1990’s, for example in Ethiopia number of children out of school has dropped to 2.7 million from 6.5 million in 1999 and in Tanzania majority of school going children are now able to attend primary school. It is also estimated that by 2015, countries like India and Kenya will see a massive decrease in the children out of school. However, a report issued by UNESCO entitled, Teaching and learning: Achieving equality for all, states that 57 million children still remain without schools and at the given rate of primary education provision by aid agencies, it will be 2086 by the time poor rural African girls get access to primary education. The report also highlights that around half of the out of the school population lives in conflict zones. In addition, out of 650 primary school goers, 250 million children are unable to read, write and do basic mathematics and the cost of these 250 million children not learning basics is equivalent to US$129 billion. The report estimates that by 2015, only 48% of the countries will reach the universal primary education target. The report suggests that the government should spend at least 6% of the GDP on education to achieve universal primary education goal by 2015.
There are number of hindrances due to which children in the underprivileged countries have no access to education. Many of these obstacles are well known amongst common men living both in the developed and underdeveloped countries. Poverty and unwillingness of state government are major factors that prevent children from attending schools. Other factors include cultural barriers, adequate school facilities like water and sanitation, long distance walk, unsecure environment and poor quality of teaching. Many NGOs endeavour to overcome these impediments by working with the communities and state authorities. People donating to charities for such noble cause are also keen to play their role in helping communities gain access to knowledge. However, there are certain factors which are generally out of civil societies’ and public’s control. These issues include civil conflicts, natural disasters and wars. The biggest challenge of our time is the massive human movements as Internally Displaced Persons, refugees and immigrants due to insecure social and political environment. In such circumstances, education not only helps children to secure their future but also provides them a sense of normalcy is their lives. Providing education in conflict zones is a challenging task as humanitarian efforts are constantly hampered by intractable factors.
Another major reason which is failing world leaders to achieve the Millennium development goal for primary education is the poor quality of teaching in the poorer countries. The 11th Education for All Global Monitoring Report indicates that poor quality education has caused ‘global learning crises’. One in four children in poor countries is still unable to read a single sentence. The report highlights that good teachers are essential to overcome this challenge and move towards improvement in giving primary education to children in the disadvantages communities. Good quality workshops, regular training sessions and attractive salaries for teachers become inevitable to address this key issue of learning crisis which will affect the current generation and many generations to come. Although there is always room for improvement and more needs to be done to improve the teaching quality, Muslim Aid offers regular workshops and training sessions for teachers in countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Bosnia and Pakistan where they have been implementing education projects for over 25 years.