One third of the poorest of girls, aged between 10 and 18, have never stepped inside a school, the United Nations has revealed in a scathing new report.

The report coined by UNICEF, the UN’s children’s agency, warns that poverty and discrimination were denying education to millions of young people across the world, pointing out to a “crippling learning crisis” for impoverished families, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the BBC reported.

The report was launched as education and skills ministers from 120 countries gathered for the Education World Forum in London. The annual conference brings together public representatives of education systems around the world to discuss and debate how education and schools can be improved using technology.

But despite the boasting, UNICEF revealed that there was simply no school at all for “the world’s poorest children”. It also said that the situation was worsened by education budgets often being heavily inclined towards children from wealthier families

 “Poverty, discrimination due to gender, disability, ethnic origin or language of instruction, physical distance from schools and poor infrastructure are among the obstacles that continue to prevent the poorest children from accessing quality education. Exclusion at every step of education perpetuates poverty and is a key driver of a global learning crisis” the global children’s body said.

The UNICEF report named Guinea, Central African Republic, Senegal and Cameroon for having the biggest imbalances, as public education spending was consistently focused on rich, instead of poorer children.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore maintained that countries everywhere “are failing the world’s poorest children, and in doing so, failing themselves”. “As long as public education spending is disproportionately skewed towards children from the richest households, the poorest will have little hope of escaping poverty, learning the skills they need to compete and succeed in today’s world, and contributing to their countries’ economies,” she said.

In its recommendations for addressing the learning crisis, UNICEF suggested some essential policy actions, including

  1. a) Realignment of distribution of funds so that children from the poorest 20 percent of households benefit from at least 20 percent of education funding and
  2. b) Prioritizing public funding for lower levels of education – where children from the poorest households are most represented – and gradually increase allocations to higher levels when coverage is close to universal at lower levels.
  3. c) Providing at least one year of universal pre-primary education for every child

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