Every 1st of June, the world gathers to celebrate International Children’s Day. Although it is not an official day registered by the UN or other international organizations, schools around the globe organize unique events for their young students. It is a day filled with dancing, laughter, and singing, providing the perfect opportunity for children to indulge in some candy and enjoy an early dismissal from classes. This exciting moment brings joy to the children and creates heartwarming memories for the adults who once experienced the magic of this day.
Schools play a vital role not only as educational spaces but also as places of community and celebration. They serve as one of the primary environments for children’s development. Many of us can fondly remember our school days and their significant impact on our childhood.
However, it is crucial to recognize that this is not the case universally. The challenge of ensuring inclusive and equitable access to quality education continues to persist, highlighting the need for ongoing efforts to address this issue.
In recent years, various factors have contributed to the persistence of the existing educational challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic, as one of the most recent crises, has profoundly impacted education worldwide. According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), approximately 1.5 billion students were forced to discontinue attending school, significantly disrupting learning. This crisis has highlighted the vulnerability of education systems and the need for resilient solutions.
In addition to the pandemic, other factors such as armed conflicts, political instability, and natural disasters have also caused massive migration movements, further disrupting the educational cycle and limiting access to suitable learning environments.
These challenges are just a glimpse of the extensive list of drivers that hinder progress toward achieving the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) related to education.
However, the most significant obstacle that exacerbates these crises is poverty. As stated by UNICEF, “poverty remains one of the most stubborn barriers” and acts as a pervasive force that permeates other interconnected areas, negatively impacting children’s access to education. Poor infrastructure, inadequate learning materials, the prevalence of diseases, hunger, and child labor are just a few examples of how poverty intertwines with education and creates a vicious cycle of disadvantage. Addressing poverty and its multifaceted effects on education is crucial for breaking the cycle of disadvantage and achieving inclusive and equitable education for all.
But an underlying question remains: where do we start?
Let us start with everything. Access is just as important as quality, and quality is just as important as equity. Recognizing that we have numerous challenges to overcome, it is equally important to acknowledge that we also possess the necessary resources and a global community capable of making a difference.
We can create a transformative impact by comprehensively approaching the challenges of poverty and education and investing in multiple areas simultaneously. It requires a collective effort from governments, international organizations, communities, and individuals to work together towards a common goal of providing inclusive and equitable education for all children, regardless of their socioeconomic background.
Celebrating children inherently involves celebrating the importance of education.