Over half of world’s school dropouts are from minorities: Report


London : Nearly two decades after world leaders pledged to provide education for all irrespective of caste and gender, the promise remains unfulfilled and more than half of the world’s children out of school belong to minorities or indigenous people, according to a new study.

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About 50 to 70 percent of the world’s 101 million children out of school are from minorities or indigenous peoples, London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG) said in a new report Thursday.

In developing countries such as India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan which have the largest number of school dropouts, the disparity is maximum as minority and indigenous populations enjoy far less access to schooling than the majority groups, says the report titled “the State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009”.

The annual MRG report, which was prepared this year in collaboration with Unicef, says that the Millennium Development Goal on education will not be met by the 2015 deadline if policies are not properly targeted to the needs of minorities and indigenous peoples.

“Education authorities need to recognise that it is not just lack of resources that is keeping so many children out of school worldwide,” says Mark Lattimer, executive director of MRG.

“Tens of millions of children are systematically excluded from school or receive only a second-rate education because of ethnic or religious discrimination.”

Providing adequate education for minority and indigenous children is not a choice, but a legal obligation on the part of states, but statistics reveal that states have failed badly in meeting the responsibility, holding back economic growth and sowing the seeds for inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict, the report says.

“When I ask people who belong to disadvantaged minorities to tell me their greatest problem, the answer is always the same. They are concerned their children are not getting a quality education.

“Worldwide, minority children suffer disproportionately from unequal access to quality education,” Gay McDougall, independent UN expert on minority issues, says in a foreword to the report.

“Deprivation of access to quality education is a major factor contributing to the social marginalisation, poverty and dispossession of indigenous peoples,” says John Henriksen, chairperson of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The content and objective of education in some instances contributes to the eradication of their cultures, languages and ways of life,” he adds.

According to the report, conflicts in African countries such as Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan are directly liked to the lack of educational opportunities to young people.

The most discriminated against of all tend to be poor girls living in rural areas who belong to a minority community. In Guatemala, for example, only four percent of ‘extremely poor’ indigenous girls attend school by the age of 16, says the report.

Globally, more than half of out-of-school girls have never been to school and might never go to school without additional incentives. The report finds that reducing the gender gap paves the way to a more democratic, balanced and stable society.

In 1990, representatives of 155 countries and over 150 organisations pledged to ensure education for all by the year 2000 during the World Conference on Education for All organised by Unesco. Their intention was that children, youth and adults would “benefit from educational opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs”.

Though the declaration brought about a paradigm shift in the rigid, prescriptive education system in the world, the apathy towards the poor and marginalised still prevelant in most of the countries, says the report.

MRG is a non governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.