The number of out-of-school children between 6 to 13 years has come down from approximately eight million in 2009 to six million in 2014. Sixty nine million children under age five will die from mostly preventable causes, 167 million children will live in poverty, and 750 million women will have been married as children by 2030 across the globe if current trends continue, a Unicef report released on Tuesday warned.
Notably, the year 2030 has been set the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The State of the World’s Children, Unicef’s annual flagship report, portrays a grim picture of what is in store for the world’s poorest children if governments, donors, businesses and international organisations do not accelerate efforts to address their needs.
“We have a choice: Invest in these children now or allow our world to become still more unequal and divided,” said Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake.
In the Indian context, the report focused on education. It noted that India has achieved much, particularly in ensuring children’s access to school through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and implementation of the Right to Education Act.
The number of out-of-school children between 6 to 13 years has come down from approximately eight million in 2009 to six million in 2014. Yet challenges remain, it said.
Releasing the report, Unicef Representative in India Louis-Georges Arsenault said, “The early years are foundational and children who start behind stay behind. There are long-term consequences, particularly for the most marginalised children, when they enter school without a quality preschool education. The gaps between disadvantaged children and other children become harder to bridge at later points in their education,” he added.
In India, the highest percentage of children not attending pre-school education is from the Muslim community (34 per cent), followed by Hindus at 25.9 per cent, the report showed.
“In India, out of the 74 million children between 3-6 years, about 20 million were not attending any preschool education in 2014, and it is the children from the poorest families and marginalised communities who are often left behind,” the report said.
The report pointed to the evidence that investing in the most vulnerable children can yield immediate and long-term benefits. “On average, each additional year of education a child receives increases his or her adult earnings by about 10 per cent. And for each additional year of schooling completed, on average, by young adults in a country, that country’s poverty rates fall by nine per cent,” it said.
The release of the report saw participation of senior officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, other central ministries, academics, and civil society activists.