For most New Zealanders, classrooms, teachers, friends, playgrounds, and school lunches are synonymous with childhood, however for the hundreds of millions of children denied an education, going to school is not a feature of their childhood.
As of March this year, it was estimated that globally around 605 million children are out of school due to the impact of Covid-19 and conflict-related closures.
Going to school is the right of every child. Without an education, children struggle to achieve basic skills like literacy and numeracy needed for everyday life. Without these skills, children are inherently more vulnerable to exploitation such as, child labour, domestic servitude, early pregnancy, child marriage, and sexual exploitation.
Around the world, children are feeling the impacts of disrupted or halted education. While conflict, disaster, discrimination and poverty have long prevented children from going to school, Covid-19 has exacerbated the situation, interrupting the education of an entire generation.
Close to home, in the Pacific, the impacts of poverty, discrimination and disasters mean when schools are destroyed by cyclones, it can take years to rebuild. Children suffer from a lack of educational progress, and many children will end up in child labour without the means to return to school. Girls are extremely vulnerable to child marriage when they are not in school, with girls as young as 14 years old being married in some nations.
Children in Nepal and Bangladesh are similarly affected by these barriers, and for some poverty and discrimination will prevent them from returning to school after the Covid-19 enforced lockdowns are lifted.
Here in New Zealand, we are not immune to the barriers that impact the education of our children. The recent Child Poverty Related Indicators Report revealed the stark impact of poverty on poor education attendance. Children in homes with the lowest incomes regularly attend school just 42 per cent of the time compared to children in the wealthiest homes who report an attendance rate of 77 per cent.
Housing unaffordability and increased transience along with high rates of food insecurity directly contribute to these poor attendance rates.
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That's why this week we're launching the global movement Save our Education where over 100 Days of Action Save the Children is empowering children, parents, and communities to make their voice heard and demand governments take action in prioritising education.
Through our work with the New Zealand Aid programme and everyday Kiwis, we're supporting programmes that aim to build a strong education foundation for children in the Pacific, Nepal, Laos, Bangladesh, Yemen and Syria.
Education is a fundamental human right. Without it, a child loses their chance at independence and a fulfilling life.
Education turns mirrors into windows and opens doors to a future of hope and potential.
• Jacqui Southey is Save the Children's advocacy and research director.