When it comes to educating our children, the global community has made great strides in recent decades. Global primary school enrollment rates are higher now than they were 25 years ago, and the literacy rate for children and youths is on the rise. More girls are now enrolled in school than ever before anytime in the past 15 years, and two-thirds of nations in the developing world have now achieved gender parity in education.
But millions of boys and girls around the world are still being left out. As of this year, 57 million children worldwide who are of primary school age aren’t enrolled in any kind of school program at all. Children who live in the world’s poorest regions are most likely to be deprived of educational opportunities. In the developing world, children from the poorest households are four times less likely to be enrolled in school than those from the richest.
Traditional education development campaigns often focus on raising funds to buy school uniforms or school supplies—like textbooks, notebooks, and pencils. However, these campaigns often overlook the underlying social, economic, and health issues that cause children to drop out of school in the first place. And more often, these campaigns are not modeled on evidence-backed interventions that have been proven to boost school attendance and enrollment rates.
Education should be a right for all children—not just those who live in the developed world, or those who come from wealthier families. Our recommended charities do innovative work across several development areas to help keep children in school for years to come.
According to Innovations for Poverty Action, school-based deworming programs have been demonstrated to reduce school absenteeism by 25 percent. Schistosomiasis Control Initiative dispenses cost-effective deworming treatments through school-based programs. Not only do these low-cost pills keep children safe and healthy, but the evidence now shows that deworming might also be one of the best ways to boost school attendance.
One study found that children who experienced five or more malaria attacks scored 15 percent lower on school-based standardized tests than those that had contracted malaria three or fewer times—even after controlling for family education levels and wealth. These findings indicate that malaria infection has a direct impact on school performance in children. The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) distributes low-cost insecticide-treated bed nets to help prevent malaria transmission. An AMF net costs just $3 and can protect up to two people for up to four years. To date, AMF has distributed more than 5 million nets and has plans to distribute 6 million more.
There are 600 million schoolgirls in the developing world, and millions do not have access to contraceptive options. Each year, 15 million adolescent girls become mothers. For girls who drop out of school, studies show that pregnancy is the reason in more than 50 percent of cases. According to Population Services International (PSI), in some sub-Saharan regions, adolescent pregnancy causes 10 percent of school dropouts among teenage girls. Providing contraceptive access through innovative programs like the ones run by PSI is one of the most cost-effective ways of keeping our girls in school, which translates into enhanced economic wellbeing in adulthood.
When disaster strikes, children from affected regions often find it difficult or dangerous to continue attending school. Oxfam International rebuilds infrastructure, so that children can return to school quickly and continue their educations. In the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak, Oxfam is petitioning for $60 million from the Liberian government to help reopen the nation’s 3,500 schools—of which more than half have no water supply and only 43 percent of which have basic toilets.
The Life You Can Save is a movement of people fighting extreme poverty. We hold that an ethical life involves using some of our wealth and resources to save and improve the lives of those less fortunate than us.
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