For nearly 60 years, since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, world leaders have promised all children that they have the right to go to school and receive education. In 2000, world leaders made new promises-the Millennium Development Goals-including education for all children by 2015.
Yet, 77 million children are out of school globally. More than half-39 million-live in conflict-affected countries. Despite the vulnerability of these children, only 23 percent of the global basic education aid goes to these conflict and post-conflict areas. Without urgent action at least 30 million children will still be out of school in 2015, most in conflict-affected countries.
Education is essential to break the cycle of poverty and conflict. It can protect children during a conflict, help communities heal afterwards, and build peace and prosperity. However, the world's richest donors, despite pledging to ensure every child receives an education by 2015, are selecting more stable countries to receive aid for education over those affected by conflict, effectively leaving those countries with little hope of breaking the cycle of poverty and conflict.
The current trend of providing education for more than four million children a year is not enough to reach the 2015 education target the world set itself in 2000. Although the total number of out-of-school children is declining, those who are still out-of-school are proving ever harder to reach.
The Global Monitoring Report 2007 states that 698,000 children in Nepal are still out of school.
Media coverage on the status of Nepal achieving the Millennium Development Goals on Education for All has cited the lack of infrastructure, financing, and management affecting the quality of the programmes being implemented. Over and above this is the post conflict scenario through which the country is trying to break away from.
Yet, Nepal stands out from other conflict affected countries, where education systems collapsed. Despite the decade-long conflict, the education sector in Nepal continued to somewhat function and deliver services as per the government's commitment to the Education for All campaign. Opening avenues for international and national non-governmental organisations to work in the education sector, in areas the government could not access, allowed the campaign to gain momentum steadily. As schools were run by the parents and local authorities, initiatives taken to ensure protection of schools and children as zones of peace were successful to some extent in demanding respect from both warring sides. Barring a few closures due to political interference, most schools in Nepal continued to provide for children the minimum basic services.
In today's changed context, the pace of work to fulfil the requirements and achieve the targeted goals is picking up, with the ministry urging to formulate strategies to reflect the changes in political situation. However, there is an urgent need to meet the gaps in funding for Nepal, to allow qualitative as well as quantitative implementation of education programmes to reach those children still out of school from marginalised communities.
To do this, we need to increase financing and better coordinate between the government, donors and INGOs to mobilise funds for effective and holistic delivery of education services to children in Nepal. Save the Children is implementing its Rewrite the Future programmes in 27 districts to increase access to education for children out of school, improve the quality of education to help keep children in school, ensure protection of schools, and advocate for financing of education in conflict-affected areas. Nepal has a unique possibility to reach the MDGS on education.
Let's do it.
Gunnar Andersen is Country Representative in Nepal of Save the Children Norway.