The Global Education Crisis
Quality education is the civil rights struggle of our time. The challenges are enormous and its almost like a jigsaw puzzle with so many pieces like infrastructure, availability of teachers, quality of teaching, management, etc. But what are we dealing with? 263 million of the world’s children are out of school (UNESCO, 2016). Most people do not realise this global education crisis and that another crisis is creeping upon us — the “learning crisis”. Today, 330 million are in school not learning (i.e they cannot read, write, do simple math and lack basic life skills). The most recent official estimate puts the global shortage of teachers at 69 million. Without learning, education will fail to deliver on its promise to eliminate extreme poverty and create shared opportunity and prosperity for all. Schooling without learning and future readiness is a wasted opportunity.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4
How do we achieve SDG4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”? Even with an increase in domestic public expenditure on education by governments in some developing countries, UNESCO conservatively estimates that the financing gap for delivering quality universal education through to junior secondary levels by 2030 in these countries will be $10.6 billion on average, between 2015 and 2030. This value is over four times the level currently provided by official donors and this gap continues to widen as education’s share of official development assistance has fallen from 13 percent to 10 percent since 2002.
With the global COVID-19 pandemic, the gap is definitely widening. For today’s students, it means a huge loss of learning time, with potential repercussions for their schooling and careers in the years to come. According to UNESCO, it is easy to see how COVID-19 will push SDG 4, and quality education for all, further out of reach of those most at risk. As ever, low-income countries are the most vulnerable.
What is the hope for children in developing countries to receive quality education, especially those from a low-income families? For instance, Sub-Saharan Africa has 36,611,245 school-age children who are not attending school, more than any other region in the world, according to World Bank (2016). Nigeria unfortunately accounts for the highest percentage in Sub-Saharan Africa with recent total out-of-school children figures estimated at 13.2 millon (UNICEF), even though the Former Minister of Education, Adamu says this figure is 16 million (SAHARA Reporters). From access to enrollment and school completion rates, from quality to equity, infrastructure and resources often in short supply, curriculum is largely obsolete and content-focused, a survey of the Nigerian educational scene reveals a series of disparities. Despite all of these, only 6% of the 2020 national budget is spent on education, compared to 15%-20% recommended by UNESCO.