"Education is the right of every child. It should be free and fair, with equal access for girls and boys."
Of the 58 million primary-aged children who are not in school, half are from countries facing war and conflict. Other barriers to education include poverty, humanitarian disasters and gender discrimination.
Girls face significant barriers to learning, as do children whose families live in poverty, are from rural or hard to reach areas, or who are in an ethnic or linguistic minority. Children with disabilities and children who have to work to help their families make ends meet are also blocked from the basic skills that could lift them from a lifetime of poverty and hardship.
Across the globe, UNICEF is committed to free access to education for every child, every girl and boy. From early childhood education through primary school and beyond, our approach to education is a holistic one, ensuring children are not only taught how to read and write, but to be active members of society who share their knowledge for the benefit of all. We train teachers and work with parents, community leaders and governments to develop life-changing curriculums that are inclusive, to reach all children in a community.
Program snapshot: Early childhood education in Cambodia
Children living in urban poor communities in Cambodia, particularly those living with disabilities, are highly vulnerable and may be deprived of opportunities for early childhood education (ECE). ECE is vital in providing children with the cognitive, physical, social and emotional development they need to thrive in when they enter primary school at the age of 6. Children who receive early childhood education are also more likely to complete primary school.
UNICEF is helping communities in Cambodia to establish community preschools, which are located in communities where no state preschools exist, with the aim of increasing participation in early childhood education across urban poor areas, ensuring all children reach their potential through primary school and thereafter.
“I noticed since the pre-school that children are better in terms of respect to adults and elderly and when they move to primary school, they stay there, and they don’t drop out.”
Nak Sokhom, pictured, teaches at the community preschool in Beng village, a small rural village in Cambodia's Prey Veng province - home to about 750 people who grow rice and raise cattle.
Ms Sokham has been teaching the children here since 2005, with resources and training provided by UNICEF. The children receive basic preschool education as well as learning about hygiene and the importance of washing their hands. "They learn about personal hygiene at school and they take this learning home to share the message with their parents to wash their hands before eating," says Ms Sokham.
Phan Seng, the village chief, strongly believes in the value of the pre-school. "Before, the children were very weak in terms of education and early learning. The parents too did not pay attention to education. I noticed since the pre-school that children are better in terms of respect to adults and elderly and when they move to primary school, they stay there, and they don’t drop out. I am very pleased about this."