Lisa Henry, Volunteer Content Writer

Established in 1954, Universal Children’s Day on the 20th of November is a day to celebrate and promote the welfare of children. This day marks when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Children’s Rights, proclaiming the importance of education and that all children should have access to learning.

UNICEF’s educational strategy for 2030 aims to guarantee that children across all ages will meet educational milestones, such as being prepared for school and acquiring basic skills. Their strategy has identified inequitable access to learning and that learning and humanitarian crisis’ are barriers to quality education. The Breteau Foundation too recognises that breaking down these barriers is necessary for children to access a better quality of education. We see education as a fundamental human right, a form of empowerment, an instrument for social mobility and a platform for personal development. Our programmes facilitate these philosophies and give us the capacity to reach children in the developing world.

Through our programmes in Lebanon, Colombia, Dominican Republic and South Africa, we continue to partner with local schools in some of the most remote areas to ensure those children can still access learning materials and technology that are on par with the standards of the rest of the world.

Before the global pandemic, 2.3 million children of primary school age in the Latin America and Caribbean region were out of school (UNESCO 2019). In Sub-Saharan Africa, there were 3.2 million and in Northern Africa and parts of Asia, 5.7 million children were out of school. Today, we have never experienced this scale of disruption to learning worldwide, with an estimated 1 billion learners impacted when the pandemic was at its peak this year. For countries who were already disadvantaged, the school closures worldwide have further widened the education gap. Many more children in the countries we work in are now not only unable to go to school but are unable to have their basic needs met as they don’t have access to food from their schools, or access to internet or technology.

Despite the major humanitarian impact of COVID this year and the compounding barriers faced by the children and communities we work with, we have tried our best to adapt our programmes and be agile in our approach. Our team has developed 17 new initiatives worldwide, reaching 17,000 students over 100 schools and trained close to 650 teachers. In South Africa, we are delivering playdough packs through our partnership with MindJoy, a non-profit that provides learning Playdough packs which help aid critical thinking, literacy, and numeracy skills through creative play. In Colombia, we have donated app licenses and ensured children are still engaging with critical numeracy and literacy through the E-scuela learning app and in Lebanon, our new Mini-Tented School opened its doors to children. 

In the lead up to Universal Children’s Day,  we must reflect on what else can be done to support those children who have been disproportionately affected by this crisis. Think about how you can fundraise with friends and family, be creative and run a paid movie night, or even an online bingo session where proceeds can be donated towards education charities fiercely working to ensure disadvantaged children can still learn and have their basic needs met. If fundraising is not an option for you, take the time to shout out those charities that are doing great work on your social media or virtually volunteer in a literacy or mentoring programme. For this upcoming Universal Children’s Day, there are still so many ways you can make an impact where even the smallest contribution can make a huge difference to bridge the education gap.