Kindernothilfe. Working together.

Education - basis for change

Some 57 million girls and boys worldwide are still unable to attend school. On top of that, there are untold others who, although they attend school, still learn too little about essential aspects of life like health, hygiene, nutrition and conflict resolution. Each of these children is in danger of being drawn into a vicious cycle of inadequate education and abject poverty, with all of the problems that this entails. To make matters worse, it is not only children but also entire families, societies and countries that are caught in this vicious cycle. Not surprisingly, we at Kindernothilfe have made education the main focus of our work. We are committed to safeguarding every child's right to education – and we pursue this objective with our project work abroad and our lobbying work in Germany.
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Education is the key to Kindernothilfe projects

We are committed in the partner countries to providing a comprehensive, high-quality basic education in formal, non-formal and alternative education programmes, ranging from early childhood education to primary school and vocational education. The projects and programmes aim to boost families economically and socially so they are capable of sending their children to school and claiming their right to education. Kindernothilfe partners also provide children in particularly difficult situations with educational offers that are tailored to their specific needs and effectively improve their living situations. This includes schools and programmes that take children who have not attended school for a long time and prepare them for instruction in state schools. This also involves training teachers to respect the rights of the child and adapt their instruction to the schoolchildren's living situations. Our vocational training programmes are also tailored to the young people's circumstances and the local labour market, and they result in concrete improvements in their living conditions.

Likewise, we create what are known as non-formal educational offers that are initially organised independently and should be linked to the state-run educational system at a later point in time. The idea here is to reach children who are completely cut off from the educational system. These are often children who suffer from extreme poverty and are excluded from mainstream society, such as street children and children who are forced to work. Wars, conflicts and natural disasters also deprive many children of an education. In the wake of disasters, non-formal education programmes very often have to replace formal education for a limited period of time.

An important and often neglected aspect is early childhood education and development. The first few years of a child's life are, from a psychological perspective, a decisive phase because they lay the cornerstone for further development. Children under the age of five are the most vulnerable individuals in a society. Hence, Kindernothilfe focuses on holistic projects for early childhood education and early intervention. For instance, trained multipliers in Central America show families how best to foster, feed, nurture and look after babies.

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Early childhood education

Right from birth all individuals have the right to grow and develop in accordance with their own needs and abilities. The first years of a child's life are crucial for its development because the brain develops more rapidly than in any other phase of life. Researchers say that 85 percent of the brain’s structures are fully developed by the age of three.

Education programmes

Early childhood education programmes that encompass the children's social environment demonstrably strengthen family bonds, enhance social skills and lead to an improved nutritional situation. Numerous studies prove that children who receive support and stimulation during their early years are more successful at school and at work later in life. Furthermore, many social disadvantages and hurdles can be avoided or tackled if children receive early education opportunities. Until now, though, far too little has been done. While three out of four children benefit from early childhood education in industrialised countries, the ratio is only one in ten in some developing countries.

Basic education

Education creates opportunities. Children who attend school have better prospects of finding a job, are aware of health risks and can make wise decisions concerning their lives. But many people in the countries of the South live in extreme poverty, forcing children to earn money to help support their families. As a result, approximately 57 million children worldwide do not attend school (UNESCO Institute for Statistics).

With the Millennium Development Goals, the international community has established the objective that by the year 2015 every child will receive at least a complete primary education and girls and boys alike will be able to attend school. Tangible progress has been made over the past 10 years. According to The Education for All Global Monitoring Report published by UNESCO, the enrolment rate in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by one-third, despite population growth. The proportion of girls worldwide who do not attend school has been reduced from 60 to 53 percent. Whereas 42 million children in sub-Saharan Africa did not go to school in 1999, this figure had dropped to 31 million children by 2010, according to UNESCO. Nevertheless, there are ongoing inequalities in education and the number of children who do not attend school has stagnated for years. Girls, children with disabilities and the sons and daughters of poor families from rural regions continue to suffer disadvantages.

Vocational education

A life without education is a life without opportunities for the future. This adage holds true everywhere in the world. In developing countries young people often have no access to vocational education programmes. And even where these do exist, many educational concepts are not tailored to the lives of these youths, primarily because they focus too much on the formal sector and not on local requirements.

Indeed, in developing countries the non-formal labour market is a larger and far more promising source of jobs for most young people. Vocational education that is relevant for young people thus includes learning and improving practical skills along with theoretical knowledge. The primary objective is not to receive an official degree, but rather to ensure that the young people can earn a living. Vocational education is tailored to the needs of individuals and communities. It is socially relevant and geared to the labour market. In that sense, vocational education contributes to sustainable development.

Life skills and human rights

When most people think of education, they tend to focus on career opportunities. Anyone who has an opportunity to acquire a good education will make something of themselves in life. But education is so much more than that. Learning life skills enhances and promotes abilities that allow individuals to positively and successfully shape their own lives and constructively deal with difficult phases in life. The World Health Organisation views the following skills and abilities as essential: self-awareness, empathy, creative and critical thinking, the ability to make decisions, problem-solving skills, effective communication skills, interpersonal skills, the ability to deal with one's emotions and the ability to cope with stress. These abilities can be enhanced depending on the programme's emphasis, the local context and the needs of the target group. Life skills programmes are characterised by highly interactive teaching and learning methods. They are used around the world in both formal and non-formal educational contexts.

Furthermore, children and young people in developing countries require knowledge of human rights and the necessary skills and abilities to advocate them in their home countries and demand that they are respected by state institutions. In our projects we campaign for high-quality, comprehensive and inclusive education which, in addition to reading writing and arithmetic, conveys all other essential life skills – plus knowledge of the rights of the child – in a manner that is adapted to the children's living situations and promotes sustainable development. For example, children in arid rural regions should have knowledge of plant cultivation and water storage based on the principle of sustainability. Children in regions with a high incidence of HIV/AIDS should be educated about the risks of infection and they need to develop the necessary self-assurance to deal confidently with risky situations. And children in all regions should be aware of their rights and empowered to demand them.

Promoting initiatives

Working together with our partner organisations on site, we promote initiatives that support child care and educate parents, teachers and volunteers. We link learning programmes with food security, healthcare, community development, helping people to help themselves, human rights education and initiatives to include disadvantaged children.

Global education campaign

The Global Education Campaign is part of the worldwide Global Campaign for Education, which was founded in 1999 by civil society organisations in collaboration with associations and teacher trade unions, and exists in over 150 countries. We are also an active member.

The Global Campaign for Education champions children's right to education. The main goal here is to ensure that every child in the world receives a free, high-quality early childhood education along with a primary and secondary school education. This supports the achievement of the "Education for All" goals of the World Education Forum in Dakar (2000) along with Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3, namely helping all children worldwide receive a high-quality basic education and eliminating disadvantages for girls.

Based on lobbying work, campaigns and informational events, the Global Campaign for Education raises awareness of the disastrous social impact of inadequate education in developing countries and holds governments to their commitments. It mobilises the public to appeal to governments and the international community to keep their promise of ensuring free, high-quality basic education for all. This is often not the case. In Zambia, for example, only roughly 1.3 percent of the gross domestic product flows into education. As a result, in rural areas four out of five children cannot attend school. The quality of education is poor and there is a shortage of well-trained teachers. UNESCO estimates that an additional 1.9 million teachers are needed worldwide to provide high-quality basic education for all.

Our demands of the German government include the following:

  • Providing funding for education in accordance with the focus of German development cooperation work. This should also entail boosting funding for the only worldwide fund for financing education – the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) – to at least €50 million annually along with a corresponding allocation of funds from the proposed financial transaction tax for education.
  • Prioritising cooperation with the developing countries that suffer from the worst educational poverty.