Destructive impact of conflict on education highlighted in four-country African youth survey
by UNICEF U-Report initiative
20 November 2017
Despite progress, 180 million children face bleaker prospects than their parents.
Despite global progress, 1 in 12 children worldwide live in countries where their prospects today are worse than those of their parents, according to a UNICEF analysis conducted for World Children’s Day.
According to the analysis, 180 million children live in 37 countries where they are more likely to live in extreme poverty, be out of school, or be killed by violent death than children living in those countries were 20 years ago.
“While the last generation has seen vast, unprecedented gains in living standards for most of the world''s children, the fact that a forgotten minority of children have been excluded from this – through no fault of their own or those of their families – is a travesty” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy.
UNICEF is commemorating World Children’s Day, which marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with global children’s ''take-overs'', high-profile events and other activations of children in over 130 countries to give children their own platform to help save children’s lives, fight for their rights and fulfil their potential.
“It is the hope of every parent, everywhere, to provide greater opportunities for their children than they themselves enjoyed when they were young. This World Children’s Day, we have to take stock of how many children are instead seeing opportunities narrow and their prospects diminish,” added Chandy.
Assessing children’s prospects in escaping extreme poverty, getting a basic education and avoiding violent deaths, the UNICEF analysis reveals that:
• The share of people living on less than $1.90 a day has increased in 14 countries, including Benin, Cameroon, Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This increase is mostly due to unrest, conflicts or poor governance.
• Primary school enrolment has declined in 21 countries, including Syria and Tanzania, due to such factors as financial crises, rapid population growth and the impact of conflicts.
• Violent deaths among children below the age of 19 have increased in seven countries: Central African Republic, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen – all countries experiencing major conflicts.
• Four countries – Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen – witnessed a decline across more than one of the three areas measured, while South Sudan has experienced declines across all three.
“In a time of rapid technological change leading to huge gains in living standards, it is perverse that hundreds of millions are seeing living standards actually decline, creating a sense of injustice among them and failure among those entrusted with their care,” said Chandy. “No wonder they feel their voices are unheard and their futures uncertain.”
A separate UNICEF survey of children aged 9-18 in 14 countries also released today shows that children are deeply concerned about global issues affecting their peers and them personally, including violence, terrorism, conflict, climate change, unfair treatment of refugees and migrants, and poverty.
Key findings from the survey include:
• Half of children across all 14 countries report feeling disenfranchised when asked how they felt when decisions are made that affect children around the world.
• Children in South Africa and the United Kingdom feel the most disenfranchised with 73 per cent and 71 per cent respectively reporting feeling that their voices are not heard at all or their opinions do not make a change anyway.
• Children in India report feeling the most empowered with 52 per cent of children believing their voices are heard and can help their country and that their opinions can affect the future of their country.
• Children across all 14 countries identified terrorism, poor education and poverty as the biggest issues they wanted world leaders to take action on.
• Across all 14 countries, violence against children was the biggest concern with 67 per cent reporting worrying a lot. Children in Brazil, Nigeria, and Mexico are the most worried about violence affecting children, with 82 per cent, 77 per cent and 74 per cent respectively worrying a lot about this issue. Children in Japan are the least likely to worry, with less than a quarter of children surveyed (23 per cent) worrying a lot.
• Children across all 14 countries are equally concerned about terrorism and poor education with 65 per cent of all children surveyed worrying a lot about these issues. Children in Turkey and Egypt are the most likely to worry about terrorism affecting them personally, at 81 per cent and 75 per cent respectively.
By contrast, children in the Netherlands are the least likely to be concerned that terrorism would affect them directly, at just 30 per cent. Children in Brazil and Nigeria are the most concerned about poor quality education or lack of access, with more than 8 in 10 children worrying about this affecting children across the world.
• Around 4 in 10 children across all 14 countries worry a lot about the unfair treatment of refugee and migrant children across the world. Children in Mexico, Brazil and Turkey are the most likely to worry about unfair treatment of refugee and migrant children across the world, with nearly 3 in 5 Mexican children expressing fear, followed by more than half of children in Brazil and Turkey. Around 55 per cent of children in Mexico are worried this will personally affect them.
• Nearly half of children (45 per cent) across 14 countries do not trust their adults and world leaders to make good decisions for children. Brazil has the highest proportion of children (81 per cent) who do not trust leaders, followed by South Africa at 69 per cent. Children in India have the most confidence in their leaders, with only 30 per cent not trusting.
• Watching TV featured as the number one hobby of choice in 7 out of 14 of the countries.
World Children’s Day is a day ‘for children, by children’, when children from around the world will be taking over key roles in media, politics, business, sport and entertainment to express their concerns about what global leaders should be focusing on, and to voice support for the millions of their peers who are facing a less hopeful future.
“World Children’s Day is about listening to us and giving us a say in our future. And our message is clear: We need to speak up for ourselves, and when we do, the world needs to listen,” said Jaden Michael, 14-year-old activist and UNICEF child advocate.
# The 37 countries in which prospects for children are declining in at least one key respect are: Benin, Bolivia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Côte d''Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guatemala, Guyana, Guinea-Bissau, Jordan, Iraq, Kiribati, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Paraguay, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tonga, United Republic of Tanzania, Ukraine, Vanuatu. Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
For the survey, UNICEF polled more than 11,000 children aged between 9 and 18 years old in 14 countries about their concerns and attitudes on global issues including bullying, conflict/war, poverty, terrorism and violence against children. The countries surveyed were: Brazil, India, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Destructive impact of conflict on education highlighted in four-country African youth survey.
Unsafe or damaged schools, absent teachers and dangerous journeys to class are among the destructive ways that conflict is impacting the learning prospects of young Africans according to a new UNICEF survey carried out in four countries.
Based on polling among 128,000 young people in Central African Republic (CAR), Uganda, Chad and Nigeria, the survey findings were presented at a special dialogue event in Brussels ahead of the forthcoming African Union – EU Summit. The event was organised by UNICEF and the European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.
Disruption to education as a result of conflict was reported by up to 76 per cent of survey respondents in Nigeria, and as many as 89 per cent in parts of northern Uganda. Schools that had been forced to shut or been damaged were the factor cited by almost 50 per cent of respondents overall. A lack of teachers and unsafe journeys to school were the other main ways respondents said violence had undermined their opportunities to learn.
Similar results were registered in CAR, where an estimated 80 per cent of the country is under the control of armed groups.
Over half of respondents said that while education was vital in providing them with skills and opportunities, learning also played a vital role in promoting peace.
Youth representatives at the Brussels meeting said the call for more resources to be dedicated to education should be heard loud and clear at the African Union – EU summit, which is being held in Cote D’Ivoire on November 29-30 with the theme of “investing in youth.”
“Young people in Africa represent so much dormant potential,” said Ubanwa Oyudo from Nigeria. “They represent the future, but to secure that future, investment is needed.”
19 year old Judith Sankagui said children in Central African Republic needed support “if they are to contribute, like those in other countries, to the future of this planet.”
“What this survey shows is that conflict is blighting the lives and hopes of an enormous number of young Africans,” said UNICEF Nigeria Representative Mohamed Malick Fall. “At the same time, it demonstrates that for those same youth, the issues of education and peace are tied closely together.”
The survey also underlined the huge importance young Africans attach to the role of technology in their education. 96 per cent of respondents agreed that technology could support their learning prospects.
The survey was conducted among youth from the UNICEF-supported U-Report initiative, a real-time social messaging tool that enables communication between young people and decision makers on issues that they care about. ‘U-Reporters’ respond to polls, report issues, support child rights and work as positive agents of change on behalf of people in their country. Today there are over 3 million U-reporters in more than 30 countries. http://ureport.in/
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The world is losing the fight against Child Labour
by IPS, FAO, ILO, Kindernothilfe, agencies
The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, which drew nearly 2000 delegates from 190 countries to the Argentine capital, left many declarations of good intentions but nothing to celebrate.
Child labour is declining far too slowly, in the midst of unprecedented growth in migration and forced displacement that aggravate the situation, said representatives of governments, workers and employers in the Buenos Aires Declaration on Child Labour Forced Labour and Youth Employment.
The document, signed at the end of the Nov. 14-16 meeting, recognises that unless something changes, the goals set by the international community will not be met.
As a result, there is a pressing need to “Accelerate efforts to end child labour in all its forms by 2025,” the text states.
In the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), target seven of goal eight – which promotes decent work – states that child labour in all its forms is to be eradicated by 2025.
“For the first time, this Conference recognised that child labour is mostly concentrated in agriculture and is growing,” said Bernd Seiffert, focal point on child labour, gender, equity and rural employment at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
“While the general numbers for child labour dwindled from 162 million to 152 million since 2013, in rural areas the number grew: from 98 to 108 million,” he explained in a conversation with the news agency Inter Press Service (IPS).
Seiffert said: “We heard a lot in this conference about the role played by child labour in global supply chains. But the majority of boys and girls work for the local value chains, in the production of food.”
The declared aim of the Conference was to “take stock of the progress made” since the previous meeting, held in 2013 in Brasilia.
2014 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Kailash Satyarthi said he was “confident that the young will be able to steer the situation that we are leaving them,” but warned that it would not make sense to hold a new conference in four years if the situation remains the same.
Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in his country, India, in defence of children’s rights, and in particular for his fight against forced labour, from which he has saved thousands of children.
“We know that children are used because they are the cheapest labour force. But I ask how much longer we are going to keep coming to these conferences to go over the same things again. The next meeting should be held only if it is to celebrate achievements,” he said.
Junko Sasaki, director of the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division at FAO, said “the increase in child labour in the countryside has to do with informal employment. Most of the children work in family farming, without pay, in areas where the state does not reach.”
“We must promote the incorporation of technologies and good agricultural practices to allow many poor families to stop having to make their children work,” she told IPS.
According to the ILO, as reflected by the final declaration, 71 percent of child labour is concentrated in agriculture, and 42 percent of that work is hazardous and is carried out in informal and family enterprises.
“There are also gender differences. While it is common for children to be exposed to pesticides that can affect their health, girls usually have to work more on household chores. In India, for example, many girls receive less food than boys,” said Sazaki.
Children were notably absent from the crowded event, which brought together government officials and delegates of international organisations, the business community and trade unionists.
Their voice was only heard through the presentation of the document “It’s Time to Talk”, the result of research carried out by civil society organisations, which interviewed 1,822 children between the ages of five and 18 who work, in 36 countries.
The study revealed that children who work do so mainly to help support their families, and that their main concern is the conditions in which they work.
They feel good if their work allows them to continue studying, if they can learn from work and earn money; and they become frustrated when their education is hindered, when they do not develop any skills, or their health is affected.
“We understand that children who work have no other option and that we should not criminalise but protect them and make sure that the conditions in which they perform tasks do not put them at risk or prevent their education,” said Anne Jacob, of the Germany-based Kindernothilfe, one of the organisations that participated in the research.
For Jacob, “it is outrageous that the problem of child labour should be addressed without listening to children.”
“After talking with them, we understood that there is no global solution to this issue, but that the structural causes can only be resolved locally, depending on the economic, cultural and social circumstances of each place,” she told IPS.
The participants in the Conference warned in the final declaration that armed conflicts, which affect 250 million children, are aggravating the situation of child labour.
Virginia Gamba, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, explained that “modern armed conflicts use children as if they were disposable materials. Children are no longer in the periphery of conflicts but at the centre.”
In this respect, she pointed out that hundreds of thousands of children are left without the possibility of access to formal education every year in different parts of the world. Her office counted 750 attacks on schools in the midst of armed conflict in 2016, while this year it registered 175 in just one month.
“To fight child labour and help children, we have to think about mobile learning and home-based education. Education must be provided even in the most fragile situations, even in refugee camps, since that is the only means of providing normality for a child in the midst of a conflict,” said Gamba.
Nov 16, 2017
Ending the Business of Child Labor, by Kailash Satyarthi.
Advocates fighting to eradicate child labor had once hoped that globalization would help. But recent evidence shows that little progress has been made, suggesting that in addition to strong legal frameworks, robust accountability mechanisms are needed to guarantee that child labor is not used in supply chains.
New Delhi – In October 1997, when global leaders gathered in Oslo to strategize how to end child labor, we brought a huge ambition and a deep commitment to change. Through improved collaboration and planning, we sought to protect children from exploitation, and to develop “new strategies to eliminate child labor at the national, regional, and international levels.”
Now, 20 years later, it is time to ask: how have we done? Poorly. Since that first meeting, the world has not even halved the number of children in the workforce. In the last five years, the international community has managed to reduce the number of employed children by just 16 million, the slowest pace of reduction in decades.
Of the 152 million children working today, some 73 million are doing jobs considered hazardous. Even “safe” child labor affects victims’ physical and physiological wellbeing long into adulthood.
Worse, according to the most recent data from the International Labor Organization, the world has made the least progress in protecting two of the most at-risk populations: children between the ages of five and 11, and young girls.
The problem is not that we have failed to learn anything during our four global gatherings (the most recent one, held in Buenos Aires, wrapped up earlier this month). The problem is that we have failed, and are failing, to take our own advice.
Even as we talk, disturbing global developments have added a sinister twist to child labor and trafficking. This was supposed to be the century of empowerment for the most marginalized. Instead, we are witnessing globalization of the most perverted kind, with children becoming victims many times over.
Because traffickers can easily prey amid chaos, children in conflict zones are particularly vulnerable. Syria has commanded attention for years because of the horrific violence to which children there are subjected. But the global rise of organized gangs means that children in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe are also at risk.
Stemming this trend requires urgent and coordinated investment in education and safety wherever children are at risk – in conflict zones, refugee camps, and in areas affected by natural disasters.
I am often left wondering how we got to this point. Over the last 37 years, colleagues and I have rescued more than 87,000 children from forced labor in India. We have rescued girls who were so abused that they lost their ability to speak. Recently, we rescued children from a garment factory in New Delhi, where, for more than three years, they had been forced to sit and work for 20 hours a day in a basement with no ventilation. When they were brought to Mukti Ashram, our transit rehabilitation center, many were unable to walk or even look up at the sun.
We are proud of our accomplishments. But humans’ depravity is a source of continued sorrow.
How can we end this suffering once and for all? Global gatherings, like the one that just ended, certainly have a role to play. But talk alone will not suffice. Serious problems confronting humanity are tackled only when stakeholders become full participants.
Successes in public health are instructive. For example, there was a time when diseases like polio and smallpox ravaged millions. Through the coordinated efforts of doctors, volunteers, global institutions, local governments, and civil society, these diseases were tamed. Similar collaboration is needed now to reduce child labor.
The first place to start is targeting industries where child labor is present, such as agriculture. In addition to strong legal frameworks, robust accountability mechanisms must be established to guarantee that child labor is not used in supply chains. I have found that with the right incentives, businesses and consumers can become partners in eradicating child labor.
One example of this collaboration emerged from the carpet industry in South Asia, where children were being mercilessly exploited. To force change, we launched a movement to educate consumers in the West to compel carpet factory owners to behave responsibly. This led to the creation of a label, GoodWeave, which certifies that no child has been put to work manufacturing the product. Since the label was launched more than 20 years ago, child labor in the region’s carpet industry has plummeted, from roughly one million to about 200,000.
Programs like these are helpful, but the most important changes must come from international efforts led by the United Nations. Ending the vicious circle of child labor, illiteracy, and poverty will require inter-governmental agencies to come together around each of the Sustainable Development Goals that directly affect children. These include Goal 8, ending forced labor, modern slavery, trafficking, and child labor; Goal 4, ensuring education for all; Goal 3, providing universal access to healthcare; and Goal 16, stopping all forms of violence against children.
To succeed, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will need to channel more resources toward improving children’s lives. His first course of action should be to call a meeting with the heads of UN agencies and international organizations, as well as world leaders, to create an agenda for concerted and coordinated efforts to protect young people everywhere.
At the end of the day, only political will can disrupt the grim calculus of child labor. We cannot build a more peaceful, sustainable world without ensuring the freedom, safety, and education of every child. A life of work robs children of all three.
As I ponder the way forward, I cannot forget a young girl I met in Brazil, whose small hands were horribly injured and bleeding from plucking oranges. She asked me a simple question, to which I did not have an answer: “How can the world enjoy the juice from these oranges when children like me have to shed their blood to pluck them?” That is a question we all must ask ourselves, too.
* Kailash Satyarthi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is Honorary President of the Global March Against Child Labour and the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan. This article was published by Project Syndicate: http://bit.ly/2zVIx5B
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