Liberia has the highest proportion of children missing out on primary school education with nearly two-thirds of its children never stepping inside a classroom, the United Nations said yesterday.
African countries hit by conflict featured prominently in UNICEF’s first global out-of-school ranking, with South Sudan coming second with Eritrea on the list. In both countries, 59 percent of children are out of school.
Last month UNICEF said a spike in the forced recruitment of child soldiers in South Sudan could be imminent amid fears that the East Africa nation was on the brink of renewed civil war.
Although school is vital for children living in crises, education is one of the least funded sectors in humanitarian appeals, the UN children’s fund, UNICEF, said in a statement.
“For countries affected by conflict, school equips children with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their communities once the crisis is over,” UNICEF’s chief of education Jo Bourne said in the statement.
“Schools can also protect children from the trauma and physical dangers around them.”
Classroom routines can help children psychologically after witnessing atrocities, as well as safeguarding them from abuse, experts say.
A crisis fund was launched in May at the World Humanitarian Summit to increase funding for children missing out on school due to war and natural disasters.
Liberia, which emerged from two civil wars in 2003, temporarily shut its schools to stop the spread of the Ebola epidemic, which ended in June.
The 18 million children in the 10 worst countries for access to primary school account for almost one third of the world’s 61 million primary school-aged children who are out of school, UNICEF said.
The top 10 countries in the world with the highest proportion of children missing out on primary school are: 1, Liberia – 62 percent; 2, South Sudan – 59 percent; 3, Eritrea – 59 percent; 4, Afghanistan – 46 percent; 5, Sudan – 45 percent; 6, Djibouti – 43 percent 7, Equatorial Guinea – 42 percent; 8, Niger – 38 percent; 9, Mali – 36 percent and 10, Nigeria – 34 percent.