According to the latest report from UNESCO and UNICEF, in Latin America and the Caribbean, over 22 million children either do not go to school or are at risk of dropping out. Cuba, as usual, despite the inhumane sanctions imposed by the United States of America, is the exception.
According to the report "Finishing School. A Right for Children's Development, A Joint Effort" (*) drawn up by UNESCO and UNICEF, of the c. 117 million children and adolescents enrolled at pre-school, primary and secondary basic education establishments, 6.5 million of these do not attend and 15.6 million (around 5%) and 15.6 million are one or two years behind the normal age for their grade (c. 13%).
Groups most at risk identified
While the report highlights the progress made in recent years in terms of school coverage, it also identifies five dimensions of exclusion which create barriers against a sustained and successful experience in education. These dimensions are the following:
Dimension 1: boys and girls of primary age not in primary or secondary school, distinguishing between those who have never attended primary school, those who have started school late, or those who have participated for a restricted amount of time and who drop out without completing the whole level.
Dimension 2: boys and girls of primary age not in primary or secondary school, distinguishing between those who have never attended primary school, those who have started school late, or those who have participated for a restricted amount of time and who drop out without completing the whole level.
Dimension 3: boys, girls and adolescents of basic secondary school age not in primary or secondary school.
Dimension 4: boys and girls in primary school but at serious risk of dropping out.
Dimension 5: boys, girls and adolescents in basic secondary school, but in serious risk of dropping out. (*)
At greater risk of exclusion or repetition are boys and girls in rural areas, children with disabilities, from indigenous areas or Afro-descendants. In some regions, around 50% of secondary school-age children were not attending school. 22% of students did not complete the primary cycle on time.
Conclusion and suggestions
The report concludes that sectors should stop blaming each other and instead should work together to find the tools to guarantee the right to education, namely "National and sub-national government bodies, development agencies, teachers unions, the media, families, communities, universities and research centres".
Bernt Aasen, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, states in the report: "Education is the key to confronting the deep inequities in our region, and therefore we must work from all sectors so that all children and adolescents can complete their schooling. Efforts made in the education sector must be coordinated with those in the social protection, health and nutrition sectors, as well as with families and communities. UNICEF actively works to make this form of coordination a reality."
"Improving educational quality for children and adolescents, equipping them with pertinent and relevant knowledge, giving them the possibility to develop with dignity and with a sense of belonging to their societies is an essential requirement of our educational system if we
aspire to make completion of these levels of education a universal occurrence".
Jorge Sequeira, UNESCO Regional Director of Education.
Author's note: Yet again we see evidence of exclusion based upon ethnic origin, we see city/countryside divides, we see white children more likely to have a future than black or indigenous children. If after thousands of years our societies and Humankind collectively still has not addressed these basic developmental issues, then something is seriously wrong with the model.