78 million children not in school at all, UN chief warns, calling for action

Photo credit: Pascale THEOPHILE


More than 78 million girls and boys around the world today are not in school at all because of conflict, climate-related disasters and displacement, while tens of millions more receive only sporadic education," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his message to the High-Level Conference on Financing Education Without delay in Geneva from 16 to 17 February.

Antonio UN 768x511 1Education as a fundamental right

In his message to the High-Level Conference on Financing Education Without delay in Geneva, the Secretary-General welcomed the fact that since its creation in 2017, the fund has trained 87,000 teachers and given seven million children in crisis situations "the education they deserve". This is a significant support, but it does not cover the scale of the current situation.

Indeed, it is estimated that more than 222 million children are experiencing educational deprivation, Mr. Guterres noted.

Education is a fundamental right because "no matter who you are, where you live, what obstacles stand in your way, you have the right to a quality education". It was a call for commitment, effort and support from the Secretary General to ensure that vulnerable children and young people have the chance of a better future.

Testimonies and speeches from the conference describe the dire global situation in which many children, women and girls live around the world.


Some testimonies on the current educational emergency

Somaya Faruqi, from Herat in western Afghanistan, is currently studying mechanical engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in the US. With her own painful story of education in crisis in Afghanistan, she explained that although she fled the country when the Taliban took over in August 2021, many of her 'sisters' were left behind.

"I feel a deep sense of responsibility to support my sisters who are still in Afghanistan. Every day I stay in touch with them, even if their situation is not good.


"I listen to their stories, offer words of encouragement and help them find resources when I can. It's heartbreaking to see the struggles they face, but it only strengthens my resolve to fight for their rights and help build a better future for all Afghan women.


"Afghanistan was a place I called home where I could pursue my dreams and contribute to the development of my community. However, since the Taliban took control, the situation has become dire.


"For me, school was not just a place of learning, but a sanctuary where I could be myself, make friends and dream big.


"But more than that, school was the place where I made the most meaningful connections of my life - with my friends who shared my passion for knowledge. We laughed together, cried together and supported each other against all odds. Being with them made me feel whole, alive and free.


"Going to school and spending time with friends should not be a privilege, but a basic right. I will always cherish these memories and work to create a world where every girl has the chance to experience the same magic I did.

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