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Breaking down barriers

Boys in Sri Lanka head to their SOS school
Boys in Sri Lanka head to their SOS school

Even when school is free, hidden hurdles can still get in the way. Here we find out how SOS Children is overcoming the obstacles to help more children finish their education.

Cash crisis

Progress to cut the number of children missing school has stalled and cost is often the major issue. For the poorest families, food will inevitably be a greater priority than school. When families are surviving below the poverty line, school-related costs – uniform, shoes, books and stationery – can force millions of children to lose out.

Child labour

Many households depend on children’s wages, no matter how meagre. About 150 million children aged up to 14 are estimated to be involved in some form of child labour worldwide – often in work that is risky or illegal.

These children are less likely to learn to read and write which significantly increases the probability of poverty later in life. In some families, an older child may be the main wage earner. Girls are frequently kept at home as carers or to do domestic chores, and where HIV/AIDS is rife, it is often children who stay at home to look after sick relatives.

Barriers to education

    School fees and costs
      Poor health/malnutrition
    Distance from school

    HIV/AIDS stigma
    Lack of a birth certificate
    Child labour
      Disability and special needs
    Shortage of trained teachers
    Culture of low attainment
      Conflict and armed violence
    Domestic duties at home

School attendance: who is missing out?

School attendance

Your support makes a difference

En Siev Eng

With the right kind of support, we can find ways to overcome the obstacles.

Rising up the ranks

When 11-year-old En Siev Eng and her siblings were awarded scholarships to attend the SOS school in Battambang, Cambodia, her relieved mother said:

“I don’t want my daughter to be illiterate like me – I want her to be educated”.

There is a shortage of schools in rural Cambodia and those that exist are unaffordable for many poorer families. As well as school fees, the scholarship covers the cost of stationery, uniform, shoes and a school bag. En Siev Eng is one of 500 children at the school, which, unusually for Cambodia offers both primary and secondary education. BikesHaving risen to the top five in her class for maths, she can look forward to completing her education.

Cycles keep learning on track

Souleymane was proud of being the first child in his family to go to secondary school, even though he had to walk miles to get there every day from his rural home in western Mali. But by the age of 15, his family couldn’t afford to keep him and his two younger brothers in school – or for them to be out for hours instead of helping at home. So the boys started missing lessons. Fortunately, when their village was targeted for SOS support, Souleymane and his brothers were each given textbooks and a new bike. With their new wheels they could get to their lessons much faster and stay on course to finish secondary school.

BonaBona beats the odds

Bona’s parents had never been to school and couldn’t read which made it hard for them to find work. After the Kosovo war ended in the late 1990s, they moved to the capital Pristina seeking a better life. Their family grew to seven children, but without jobs, they remained squatting in a run-down, two-room house.

The difficulties became especially clear when the children had a bad bout of flu and no-one could understand the medicine labels. Soon afterwards Bona and her siblings were offered learning support and started going to the local school. They are among 460 children receiving SOS family support in Kosovo. Bona’s mum still feels embarrassed at not being able to read, but at least knows her children are learning. Bona said:

“When I grow up I’d like to be a teacher – I like being able to read labels and help mum with the electricity bill.”

As you can see, there are many barriers to education - but they can so often be overcome with the right support. Find out how you can help with SOS Children...