In the lead-up to Universal Children’s Day (20 November), ChildFund Alliance has released the findings of its seventh annual ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ survey, providing a snapshot of children`s views on education and safety at school.
This year, more than 6,000 children aged 10-12 in 41 countries took part in the survey, from Afghanistan to Cambodia to Zambia, highlighting often striking similarities and differences between children in different parts of the world.
While children almost universally agree on the importance of education, the survey found close to a third of children globally said their school is only ‘sometimes’ safe.
Commenting on the results, Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, said: “Wherever children live in the world, they clearly recognise the value of education, particularly for improving their job prospects. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that every child has the right to learn in a safe environment, and one in three children are telling us we are falling short of the mark.”
School is not always a safe place
While one in three children globally (31%) said their school is not always a safe place, there were a range of issues raised by children about what makes them feel safe. Common themes across all countries included security measures such as fences and gates to keep out strangers and ‘bad people’, protection from bullies and physical violence, and having teachers they trust and respect to look out for them.
However, significantly more children in developing countries talked about the need for school buildings and facilities to be clean, safe and in good repair (21% vs 3% in developed countries), with children in India (58%), Ethiopia (55%) and Bangladesh (54%) particularly concerned about this.
Nearly half of all children in Afghanistan (48%) talked about the danger and disruption of war.
In our school there are not sufficient toilet facilities in the school. Also, the cleanliness of school compound is not good enough. — Parvin, 12, Bangladesh
When the teacher is not in class, my friends can fight and hurt me. — Beatrice, 12, Burkina Faso
Now there are many schools that are closed because of fighting in our village and many children cannot go to school. — Mazharullah, 11, Afghanistan
More and better schools needed
Asked how they would improve education if they were the leader of their country, the majority of children in developing countries (56%) said they would build more schools or renovate existing ones to create better learning environments (compared to 19% of children in developed countries).
Another third of children in developing countries (31%) highlighted the need for students to be provided with the basics they need to learn, such as uniforms, books, pens and pencils (compared to 15% of children in developed countries).
I would build a high school in our village. — Noah, 12, Myanmar
I would provide slates, notebooks, pens and pencil. — Mageswari, 12, India
I want good teachers who teach students well.” — Niron, 10, Cambodia
Missing out on education to work
One in three children in developing countries (31%) said they have missed out on school to help their family with work €“ an issue that is particularly acute for children in the Asia region (36%). Child labour due to poverty is an issue that prevents many kids from completing their education.
It was striking that 91% of children in Afghanistan said they have missed school for work, followed by Timor-Leste (84%) and Ghana (57%).
I`ve missed school to help my family with things like harvesting coffee. — Savier, 12, Timor-Leste
I go to school every day, I never miss school. — Sina, 10, Cambodia
ChildFund conducts the ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ survey to hear directly from children on issues of importance to them, and to help inform ChildFund`s program work in disadvantaged communities around the world. The findings will also be used to continue advocating globally for children to live in a world free from violence.
“Governments in every country have committed to ending all forms of violence against children under the new Global Goals,” said Mr Spence. “Now we need to ensure serious action is taken to meet this target.”
“The fact that so many children do not feel safe at school is of great concern, as safety is a prerequisite for learning,” added Meg Gardinier, Secretary General of ChildFund Alliance. “ChildFund Alliance is committed to doing all we can to provide children around the world with a safe, quality education.”