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  • Nikki Brown

Barriers to Education that Children Living in Poverty Face

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Education is a vital part of any child's life. Learning can open up doors to careers and help to define their future. In the developing world, a good education could determine whether a child will break out of the poverty cycle or not. Lack of education can affect individuals and their future earnings as well as whole communities. Sadly, in many poorer countries, children still face a lot of barriers when it comes to education, which is why we're so passionate about helping children reach their true potential.

To help give you are a clearer picture, we're discussing just some of the barriers to education that children in Cameroon face.

A lack of funding for education

One of the biggest and most obvious barriers to education across the world is a lack of funding. It's a common perception that schools in poorer areas suffer from a lack of supplies, resources and struggle to attract the best teachers compared to wealthier areas. Now imagine this in a developing country like Cameroon.

Developing countries rely on foreign aid and overseas funding for their education system as they often do not have the finances to support it themselves. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) reports that less than 20% of educational aid goes to low-income countries. However, it costs an average of $1.25 a day to provide a child with a full 13 years of education. The GRE has set a goal to provide all children with quality education by 2030; however, right now, there is a $39 billion shortage in funding. With a lack of money behind education systems, it's no wonder that schools and children in the developing world are struggling; and this lack of funds leads to other problems which prevent children accessing a well-rounded education.

Lack of facilities

Because of a lack of funding for schools in the developing world, many children are forced to learn without appropriate classroom settings. The right environment can be pivotal to a child's education; it improves concentration and houses the materials that can aid their learning. However, across developing countries, poor classroom facilities mean children often find themselves in overcrowded classrooms, buildings that are falling apart or having to learn outside. These environments are not only dangerous but can hinder the education a child receives significantly.

Plus, for many, it's not just a lack of a classroom but basic facilities like running water and toilets. If a school has a bathroom at all in a developing country, it's usually shared between genders. Having clean and safe toilets increases the amount of time that children can be in school. Not having access to private bathrooms means that children can miss a lot of schools should they become ill with a stomach bug, for example. It particularly affects girls who get their period, forcing them to miss school as there is a lack of hygienic facilities available.

Global teacher shortage

We're currently in the middle of a global teacher shortage, which is unsurprisingly a huge barrier to education for many. Right now, there simply are not enough teachers to provide a universal primary and secondary education for all, which results in untrained teaching staff having to take the helm at many schools. This shortage of teachers means that many children are not receiving a proper education, particularly in the developing world as untrained teachers simply lack the knowledge, experience and skills to deliver. In fact, reports show that globally there are 130 million children in school who are not learning basic skills like reading, writing and maths. If children are not taught the basics of reading and writing, it has a ripple effect on their ability to learn in other subjects. This, in turn, causes many children to drop out of school without a full education, limiting their options in later life.

Lack of learning materials

As well as a lack of trained teachers, schools across the globe also lack basic educational resources such as textbooks, exercise books and worksheets are in short supply in poorer countries as well as stationary that the developed world takes for granted. Teachers too, have fewer materials to help them plan lessons which affect the quality of what children learn. In countries like Cameroon, there's often no internet connection to help assist with lesson plans, research or learning. In the classroom, children are often left sharing outdated and worn materials as they learn. For example, in Cameroon, one reading book is shared between 11 primary school pupils, and in one school, the mathematics textbook is shared between 13 students in grade 2. As you can imagine, this affects the quality of education each child receives.

Distance from home to school

In developing countries, it can be much more difficult for children to get to school. With no school bus and a lack of educational facilities, it's not uncommon for children to have to walk for 3 hours just to get to their school and then walk for another 3 hours to get back home. For most children, this is unmanageable. However, for children living with a disability, those suffering from malnutrition or illness, or those who are required to work and help around the house to support their families, it's almost impossible. The journey to and from school can be long, hazardous and dangerous for many children, especially in countries experiencing conflict or with wild animals. No child should have to set off for school at 5 a.m. and not return until 7 p.m especially those who are hungry through poverty.

The exclusion of children with disabilities

Education is a universal human right; however, shockingly, there are still 93 to 150 million children with disabilities being denied access to school across the world. In the world's poorest countries, up to 95% of children with disabilities are currently not in education, raising concerns for their future.

It's reported that in developing countries, students with disabilities have lower attendance rates than other pupils and are more likely to leave school before completing their primary education if they're in the education system at all.

This approach to disability is a result of discrimination, less understanding, lack of training in inclusive teaching methods, and having no accessible schools for disabled pupils. With a lack of resources and understanding to help these children reach their full potential, this group is becoming even more vulnerable. Being denied their right to education, combined with a disability, severely damages their chances of breaking the poverty cycle.

Being born female

It's hard to believe in the 21st Century, but gender is still one of the biggest reasons why children are denied an education. In 30 countries, fewer than 90 females for every 100 males complete lower-secondary school. Although there have been considerable advances in educating young girls and many organisations are fighting for girls' right to attend school, over 130 million young women around the world are still not currently enrolled in a school. A lack of female teachers and girls having obligations to leave school to support their families once they hit puberty are just two of the reasons for such injustice.

It's reported that one in 3 girls in the developing world marries before the age of 18, and in many cultures, marriage and childbirth means the end of a girl's formal education.

The impact of conflict

It seems quite obvious to say that war will be a barrier to education, but it's still important to acknowledge its impact. No child can focus on education if their country is at war and they're worried about their families, homes and future. The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon began in 2017 and is nowhere near a resolution, which means it has had a devastating impact on many children. Conflicts like The Anglophone Crisis can mean that teachers and students have to flee their homes for their safety, interrupting learning as children do not know when they'll return or if they'll be able to find another school to take them. In total, 75 million children have had their education disrupted by conflict or crisis, including natural disasters that destroy schools and the environment around them.

Accordiing to the UN Refugee Agency, less than half of the world's refugee children are enrolled in school. Education is, unfortunately, a low priority in humanitarian aid to countries in conflict and government's priorities lie elsewhere, meaning education takes a back foot in times of conflict. Without support, conflict-affected children lose out on the chance to reach their full potential, rebuild their communities and carve a better future.

Hunger and poor nutrition

Lack of food has a significant impact on education in the developing world. If children are suffering from starvation and malnutrition, they will not be able to reap the benefits of quality education. Malnutrition affects brain development in many children; an estimated 151 million children worldwide under the age of 5 have been prevented from growing or developing properly due to a lack of food. Reports claim that malnourished children are less likely to be able to even read by the age of eight! Hunger also leads to a lack of focus and concentration, not to mention illness which will cause children to miss school. For many families in countries such as Cameroon, sending a child to school is the one way to guarantee a nutritious meal for them. However, due to lack of funding in schools, this cannot be a certain element of a school day.

Expense of education

While many countries are striving to make education free for all children, the cost of an education can still be a huge barrier for many families. Education is not free everywhere, and sometimes to access the best schools families have to pay. In Cameroon, primary education is currently free for all children; however, secondary school and anything higher comes at a cost. There are tuition fees of about $60.00 per year for day students and around $600.00 per year for boarding students. For many families in poverty, this is not affordable, and children are forced to leave school after their primary education which has a ripple effect on communities throughout Cameroon.

Even if schooling itself is free, and children have access to education, families can struggle to send their child to school financially. Sometimes the cost of supplies, uniform and travel too and from school is too much for families to reasonably afford.

If you'd like to help a child access quality education and improve both their quality of life and future prospects, visit our child sponsorship page.

If you have any questions about volunteering online with us or our work, leave a comment below!

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