Everyday, 59 million primary school-age children are unable to attend school because of poverty, poor health and conflict. Education is a major key to releasing people from poverty.

School children at play in Kenya

Thai school girls

The facts

Poverty is a direct barrier to education. Approximately half the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day and many are too busy struggling to survive to consider education a priority. Without money, families are unable to send their children to school or afford uniforms and books. A lack of education also increases the likelihood that children won’t have access to clean water and sanitation, and be more susceptible to malnutrition and sickness.

A free primary education is a human right, yet many countries continue to charge school fees. Poverty, government inaction and practical considerations such as having to work to support their families means that many children never attend or do not complete even a primary education. Girls in particular are kept at home to look after their siblings, help with chores or fetch water, which is often many hours from home. 

Conflict often means that children are forced to flee their homes; it also makes travelling to and from school very dangerous. Even those lucky enough to attend are often taught by untrained teachers, sit in dilapidated classrooms and have to travel many hours to school and back.

Today 130 million children are illiterate, 75 percent of secondary school aged children in sub-Saharan Africa are not in school and 774 million adults don’t have basic literacy skills.

Caritas Australia’s response

Caritas Australia and our partners are currently providing education programs in Peru, Samoa, Cambodia, Laos and more.

  • Caritas Australia’s Rural Development Program in Huacho, Peru has emphasised the importance of teacher training and ecological sustainability in schools. This has translated into increased attendance and improved student results. 98% of primary and secondary aged children involved in the program now attend school and their average score in national testing has improved from the 30th to the 90th percentile.
  • Caritas Australia’s Earthquake Rehabilitation Program in Samoa provided 395 students with new uniforms to assist with their return to schooling and normality.
  • Caritas Australia has provided schooling and social support for 200 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Cambodia.
  • Livelihood and business training for over 40 mothers in Laos has allowed their children to go to school instead of being forced to beg on the streets.