Challenges in Sudan’s Education System

Written by Anna Kordesch  

Education stands as a cornerstone of society, with children representing the future of our nation. It is imperative to invest in both their educational environments and their skill development. Such investment not only aligns with moral imperatives but also promises significant contributions to the future GDP of the country.  This statement, made by Owan Watkins, the communication chief at Unicef Sudan, underscores the vital importance of prioritizing education (Guardian, 2022).  

However, despite the recognized significance of education, approximately 6.4 million children in Sudan had their learning disrupted and suspended in April 2023, forcing them to abandon their education altogether. This raises a critical question: how did such a staggering number of children become deprived of their right to education? 

This article aims to address this pressing issue by analyzing the various factors contributing to the high incidence of out-of-school children in Sudan. Furthermore, it seeks to offer policy recommendations to mitigate this crisis. 

The article is structured into three main sections. The first section provides an overview of the general state of education in Sudan. Following this, the second section delves into the specific obstacles hindering schoolchildren in Sudan, which result in their inability to access education. Finally, the third section offers actionable policy recommendations to address these challenges and ensure a brighter educational future for Sudanese children. 

General State of Education in Sudan 

The ongoing political instability and conflict in Sudan have precipitated a dire humanitarian crisis within the country. While the 2020 Juba peace agreement offered a glimmer of hope for peace, its implementation has been uneven across regions, with power struggles exacerbating issues, particularly in the eastern region (Education Cannot Wait, 2022). 

Notably, the city of Darfur has been ravaged by waves of violence stemming from disputes over access to water and essential resources (Education Cannot Wait, 2022). Consequently, educational opportunities have been severely reduced, with only 37% of children in central Darfur able to attend school, leaving a staggering 63% deprived of their right to education. 

According to UNICEF, an estimated 19 million children in Sudan are currently out of school, equating to one in every three children Nationwide. The 6.5 million children whose learning has been disrupted due to violence and insecurity face further challenges as approximately 10,400 schools in conflict-affected areas have been forced to close (UNICEF, 2023).  

Mandeep O’Brien, a UNICEF Country Representative in Sudan, has warned that Sudan is on the brink of the worst education crisis globally. Children in Sudan, enduring the horrors of war for nearly a year, find themselves increasingly torn away from their classrooms, teachers, and friends. Such circumstances threaten to plunge them into a void that damages the future of an entire generation. In addition to the ongoing conflict within the country, Sudan faces a critical shortage of professionally trained teacher (Bent, 2023). This shortage results in an alarming ratio of one teacher attempting to educate anywhere from 77 to 140 children. This challenge is further compounded by a series of climate-induced disasters in recent years, along with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. These dual crises have not only precipitated dire economic conditions but have also left many struggling with health challenges, exacerbating the humanitarian situation in the country (Education Cannot Wait, 2022). The cumulative impact of these factors is evident in the staggering statistic that 19 million children in Sudan are currently not enrolled in school. 

Given the complexity and multitude of factors contributing to this educational crisis, there is an urgent need to dissect and analyze each cause separately to gain a comprehensive understanding of the gravity of the challenges facing education in Sudan. 

Violence and Conflict

The conflict that erupted on April 15th, 2023, between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) initially centered in Khartoum but swiftly escalated to engulf the western regions of the country, notably Darfur, resulting in widespread devastation. This conflict has led to a significant influx of forced displacement, both internally and across borders. By August 2023, over 3.6 million individuals have been internally displaced, including 1.4 million school-aged children (ReliefWeb, 2023).  

The impact on education has been profound, with more than half of the children enrolled in schools in conflict-affected states—approximately 6.5 million—being compelled to abandon their educational pursuits and learning centers. This alarming trend poses considerable risks, including heightened dropout rates, jeopardizing their safety and protection, and depriving them of a secure and conducive learning environment. 

The longer children remain out of school, the greater the likelihood that they will continue to be excluded from education and miss out on crucial psychological support. In Sudan, children are increasingly vulnerable to being coerced into early marriages, child labor, trafficking, as well as various forms of violence and exploitation. Beyond the physical dangers they face, the absence of access to life-saving assistance services within schools, such as meals, safe drinking water, hygiene facilities, and social interactions with peers and teachers, severely impairs their educational and overall experiences (ReliefWeb, 2023).   

It is widely recognized that education serves not only as a platform for imparting knowledge but also as a means of socializing children and instilling in them the norms and values necessary for integration into society. Therefore, the denial of education not only deprives children of essential learning but also undermines their development and ability to thrive in their communities as well as integrate them into the Sudanese society.  

Girls in Sudan are particularly vulnerable amid the ongoing violent conflict, often becoming victims of sexual abuse within their homes due to the absence of protective school environments (ReliefWeb, 2023). Additionally, inadequate hygiene and sanitation facilities in their homes further exacerbate their challenges, as they are accustomed to relying on the hygiene resources provided at school. 

The repercussions of girls’ inability to regularly attend school are profound and contribute to South Sudan having some of the lowest educational indicators globally (Girls’ Education South Sudan). For instance, only 16% of females aged 15 and above are literate, compared to 40% of males. This stark disparity underscores the urgent need to address the barriers preventing girls’ access to education and to create supportive environments that enable their participation. 

Cultural Norms

As depicted above, the challenges that women and girls’ education in Sudan face are multifaceted. This section will delve into some of the primary barriers beyond the prevalent violence in the country. One significant obstacle is the presence of unfavorable socio-cultural attitudes and practices that hinder the enrollment of girls and women in primary and higher education. 

These unfavorable socio-cultural attitudes and practices reinforce the notion that a woman’s or girl’s value is determined by the amount of bride price or dowry she can bring to her family upon marriage. Given that a majority of the population lives below the poverty line, marrying off a daughter is often seen as a means for families to obtain economic resources. This practice is further perpetuated by the reality that, for many Sudanese parents, sending their daughter or son to school is not truly considered a viable option. 

Environmental Crisis

Sudan is grappling with a multitude of environmental, social, and natural resource challenges, including deforestation, land degradation, loss of biodiversity and habitat, and pollution of air, land, and water. These issues have resulted in conflicts over dwindling natural resources, food insecurity, and inadequate waste management, as outlined by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (United Nations).  

The impact of climate-induced disasters on education is profound, with nearly half of learners enrolled in basic education attending schools lacking access to electricity (El Din Daoud Abd El Rhman, 15, 2022). Heavy flooding, particularly devastating during August and September 2022, destroyed over 600 schools, according to the Sudanese Education Ministry. Many of these schools now stand as mere shells of buildings, devoid of basic amenities such as furniture, running water, or toilets. Furthermore, the severity of climate-related disasters has forced 171 schools to serve as emergency shelters for displaced populations (ReliefWeb, 2023).  

Given the reliance of particularly girls on schools for access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities, the unavailability of such resources due to climate and violence-induced disasters further exacerbates the challenges faced by Sudanese communities. For girls schools play pivotal role in their lives, that if taken away will have far reaching consequences for them  (Education Cannot Wait, 2022). 

Teacher Shortage

Due to the ongoing civil war and economic downturn in Sudan, there has been a significant increase in the shortage of teachers. The deteriorating economic conditions in the country have rendered teachers’ salaries an unaffordable luxury for the Sudanese government (Oblewski, 2022). Consequently, many teachers opt to leave voluntary positions in pursuit of more financially secure careers, resulting in a scarcity of educators and causing numerous children to miss out on essential lessons. The situation is dire for many teachers, with some reporting that an entire year’s work may not even yield earnings surpassing $100. This shortage of educators often leads to one teacher being responsible for instructing classes comprising as many as 77 students, drastically compromising the quality of education (Windle Trust International).  

Furthermore, UNESCO’s findings indicate that only approximately 35% of primary school teachers in Sudan receive any form of training. Thus, even if children manage to avoid being drawn into the violent conflict and attend school, there is no guarantee that they will receive the quality education necessary to realize their full potential and break the cycle of poverty. The lack of teachers is compounded by a chronic underinvestment by the Sudanese government in its educational institutions. Addressing these systemic issues is crucial for improving educational outcomes and providing children with the opportunities they need to thrive. 

Underinvestment in Schools

Sudan’s allocation of a mere 9% of its total public expenditure to education has resulted in a shortage of schools and inadequate instructional materials (UNICEF Sudan, 7, 2021). This chronic underinvestment has led to a general lack of quality in the education system. The repercussions of this underinvestment are evident in the findings of the 2018 National Learning Assessment (NLA), which examined learning outcomes among third-grade students. While there have been some improvements in literacy levels, overall learning outcomes remain poor. Many children still struggle to read simple, familiar words. In mathematics, less than half of the children were able to correctly complete a basic addition exercise, and even fewer could carry out more complex level two addition exercises. These findings underscore the urgent need for increased investment in education to enhance learning outcomes and provide children with the foundational skills they need for future success (UNICEF Sudan, 7, 2021). 

Financial Burden

Another significant barrier hindering children from accessing education is the financial burden placed on parents. Despite the desire of many parents to send their children to school, rising education costs have made it increasingly unaffordable for families. Education is not only one of the most expensive national services but also one of the most challenging to maintain, adapt, and administer (El Hag Ali, 68, 1960). 

The combination of direct and indirect costs associated with education, such as school fees, uniforms, and school materials, serves as a deterrent for parents considering enrolling their children in school. Instead, some families opt to send their children to work to contribute to household income. While the Constitution of the Republic of North Sudan stipulates that basic education should be free, the reality is far from it. Primary and secondary schools often impose high fees on parents, further exacerbating financial barriers to education access (Girl’s Education South Sudan). 

Possibles Policies to be implemented

Given the current underdeveloped state of Sudan’s infrastructure, particularly in remote areas, the education system falls short of international standards. The following section will outline several policy recommendations to address these challenges: 

  1. Investment in Research: Allocating funding for education research in Sudan is crucial to address information gaps in key areas such as access, quality, and the psychosocial impact of conflict on students, teachers, and communities. Research-based policy interventions can help advocate for the importance of continuous and quality education, fostering awareness and support among stakeholders. 
  1. Increased Community Engagement: Policymakers, researchers, and international non-governmental organizations should collaborate closely with local communities to understand their unique educational needs and challenges. By actively seeking genuine feedback from communities, interventions can become more responsive to pressing needs, leading to more effective outcomes. 
  1. Support for Teacher Employment and Training: Enhancing support for teacher employment and training is essential for improving education quality in Sudan. Effective training programs for teachers, including those teaching displaced students in refugee host countries, can prepare educators to provide psychosocial support, adapt curricula, and foster inclusive, conflict-sensitive learning environments for all students. 
  1. Infrastructure Development: Increasing funding for infrastructure development is crucial to address the lack of quality educational facilities in Sudan. Building high-quality infrastructure, including formal and informal education institutions, can help preserve educational opportunities and contribute to post-war recovery and stability. By providing a foundation for rebuilding communities and societies, improved infrastructure plays a vital role in enhancing educational access and quality (EIAsad et al., 2023). 

By implementing these policy recommendations, Sudan can work towards addressing the challenges facing its education system and improving educational outcomes for all its citizens, particularly those in remote and conflict-affected areas. 


The silent sacrifice: Children in Cobalt Mines and the Toll on their Education

Written by Anna S. Kordesch

In the cobalt-abundant regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a grim reality hides beneath the earth’s surface. Children, some as young as six, labour in hazardous mines, extracting a mineral vital to the global technological advancement—cobalt. This essential element, used in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries for devices like smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles, exacts a heavy toll not only on the youthful miners but also on their aspirations for education, which are left in ruins.

This article delves into the distressing ordeals of children working in the cobalt mining sector and the significant repercussions it exerts on their educational prospects. By scrutinising the diverse elements that sustain this cycle of exploitation, the aim is to uncover the systemic challenges eroding the prospects of an entire generation in DRC.

Although education represents the promise of a more hopeful future, it remains an elusive 

aspiration for many children trapped in cobalt mines. It is crucial to delve into the complex network of elements that deprive these young individuals of the chance to receive an education, develop, and escape the relentless grip of poverty. This text explores the limitations in access to schools, insufficient educational infrastructure, and the economic burdens that compel children to work in the mines. By doing so, it scrutinises how these interrelated difficulties perpetuate a cycle of illiteracy, effectively stripping an entire generation of their potential.

This article serves as a strong call, calling upon governments, corporations, and civil society to confront the entrenched problems that uphold the exploitation of children in cobalt mines. Through our efforts to shed light on the severe impact on education, we aim to spark substantive conversations and motivate tangible actions aimed at protecting the rights and prospects of these at-risk children.

Mining in Kailo, Congo. Photo by Julien Harneis on Wikimedia Commons.

The Importance of Cobalt for the World Market

Cobalt (Co) is a global metal with widespread applications in commercial, industrial, and military sectors. Its primary and essential use is in the electrodes of rechargeable batteries. Cobalt is a crucial component for many of today’s everyday devices, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, and various other electronic gadgets. Moreover, it plays a vital role in renewable energy technologies, being used in wind turbines and solar panels i.

Southern Congo is situated above an estimated 3.4 million metric tons of cobalt, representing over half of the world’s known supply. Many Congolese, including children, have taken 

employment in the industrial mines in this region. The vast cobalt reserves highlight that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will likely remain the primary source meeting the increasing global demand for cobalt in lithium-ion batteries. DRC’s cobalt mine production has experienced almost constant growth, going from 11,000 mines in 2000 to 98,000 in 2020. This remarkable increase is closely linked to the world’s escalating need for this metal. While the DRC is home to valuable minerals such as cobalt, copper, coltan, and gold, it is also one of the world’s most impoverished nations, grappling with issues of poverty and humanitarian crises that afflict its population ii.

Small-scale mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) engages individuals of all age groups, including children, who are compelled to labour under challenging and unfavourable conditions. Among the 255,000 Congolese involved in cobalt mining, 40,000 are children, with some as young as six years old. Most of them earn less than $2 per day, primarily relying on their hands as their primary tools for work iii.

The Dangers of Cobalt Mining

Unfortunately, children are indeed involved in artisanal mining. The youngest children often start by accompanying their mothers to the mines, while older ones take care of their younger siblings and, over time, become directly involved in the mining activities. The prevailing perception in developed countries is that child labour is a practice to be unequivocally condemned, representing one of the worst forms of exploitation.

In addition to the environmental toll of cobalt mining activities, there is a significant human cost  associated with it. For adults working in these mines, there’s a heightened risk of injury or even death. This peril stems from the lack of basic protective equipment, such as hard hats and vests, as miners often work barefoot and use their hands to extract ores. Furthermore, in a 2016 report by Amnesty International, it was revealed that many mines are constructed in unsafe ways, subjecting workers to life-threatening situations in their pursuit of cobalt. Numerous miners have lost their lives or suffered severe injuries due to incidents like tunnel or pit collapses, underground fires, and suffocation. The risks of accidents resulting from improperly constructed excavations and mines can lead to fatalities from suffocation, asphyxiation, or drowning.

Children, in particular, are exposed to this inhumane working environment, living in constant fear for their lives as they strive to earn money to support their families. Child labor is a grave issue in the DRC, where children not only work in an unsafe environment but also face physical abuse, sexual exploitation and are exposed to drug use.

Environmental factors also pose significant risks in cobalt mining, including mosquito-borne illnesses linked to unintended water pooling in placer mining areas or diarrheal diseases caused by poor sanitation practices. These health concerns can be exacerbated by the remote locations of the mines and the absence of medical services, making timely treatment often unavailable.

Artisanal mining. Photo by Fairphone, on Flickr.

Where does Education Fit In?

In addition to the clear violations of human rights and the life-threatening conditions that children in the DRC face due to their labour, their right to education is profoundly impacted. While the Congolese government introduced the DRC Child Protection Code in 2009, which mandates “free and compulsory primary education,” the lack of adequate government funding places the burden of covering non-tuition fees, including teacher salaries and uniform costs, on parents. Parents are required to pay between 10,000 and 30,000 Congolese Francs ($10-30) per month, an expense that many cannot afford. This financial barrier further hinders these children’s access to education. While parents may aspire to provide their children with access to formal education, economic constraints frequently force them to withhold this educational opportunity in the interest of ensuring the family’s financial viability iv.

Kabedi is a 12-year-old girl in the DRC who has returned to school after three hard years of working in an artisanal copper and cobalt mine. She explains, “When I was 9, I started working in the mine after my father died to help my mother.” Kabedi toiled from morning to night, seven days a week, collecting, crushing, and transporting copper and cobalt ores. Despite her efforts, at the end of the day, Kabedi would return home exhausted with an average of 5,000 Congolese Francs (around $2.5) in her pocket. This starkly illustrates that while these children work in cobalt mines out of sheer necessity, the income they earn is still insufficient to cover their basic needs and education costs v.

Furthermore, the gruelling work hours these children endure highlight that this kind of life is fundamentally incompatible with the continuity of education. In the DRC, the average number of years of education completed by young adults is less than four. Data reveals that only about 18% of the total population manages to attain the highest education level, which is six years of schooling. Many children have to forsake their education to bring food to the table at the end of the day. This results in a self-perpetuating cycle in which, once caught, it becomes exceedingly challenging to extricate oneself from and consequently pursue an education vi.

Access to education plays a pivotal role in significantly reducing vulnerability to child slavery and can serve as a means to lift children out of poverty. Therefore, safeguarding the availability of education is a crucial element in preventing child slavery and mitigating vulnerability to exploitative labour and slavery in adulthood.

Potential Solutions

Solutions to address mining injustices can involve various stakeholders. An example of such 

efforts is the Fund for the Prevention of Child Labor in Mining Communities, a collaboration between UNICEF and the Global Battery Alliance. Through this initiative, UNICEF aims to support the school reintegration of 500 children who have left mining work. While international organisations are playing their part in upholding children’s right to quality education, jeopardised by harsh physical labour, civil society is raising awareness through the hashtag #NoCongoNoPhone to combat the cobalt supply chain that fosters child labour. A third key actor, the government in the DRC, is working with the Enterprise Generale du Cobalt to gain control over the artisanal cobalt mining sector, with the aim of curbing the illegal use of children as forced labour. These collective efforts from various actors are essential in addressing the complex issues surrounding child labour in cobalt mining vii.

Indeed, this collective action involving a multitude of actors is essential to effectively combat this illegal employment, which deprives countless children of a meaningful future that hinges on their right to quality education. Society must become aware of the dark realities occurring behind the everyday use of these common devices. It is only through such global awareness that children in the DRC can hope for a chance to one day lead age-appropriate lives, free from the burden of child labour in the cobalt mines.


Gulley, A. L. (2022). One hundred years of cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Resources Policy, 79, 103007.

The DRC mining industry: Child labour and formalisation of small-scale mining. Wilson Center. (n.d.).

Alshantti, O. (2023, March 15). Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: The human and environmental costs of the transition to Green Technology. Spheres of Influence.

From mine to school. UNICEF. (2021, May 15).

Democratic Republic of Congo – World Bank. (n.d.).

Philipp, J. (2021, November 5). The effects of cobalt mining in the DRC. The Borgen Project.

i The DRC Mining Industry: Child labor and Formalization of Small-Scale Mining. (n.d.). Wilson Center.

ii Gulley, A. L. (2022). One hundred years of cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Resources Policy, 79, 103007.

iii The DRC mining industry: Child labour and formalisation of small-scale mining. Wilson Center. (n.d.).

iv Alshantti, O. (2023, March 15). Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: The human and environmental costs of the transition to Green Technology. Spheres of Influence.

v From mine to school. UNICEF. (2021, May 15).

vi Democratic Republic of Congo – World Bank. (n.d.).

vii Philipp, J. (2021, November 5). The effects of cobalt mining in the DRC. The Borgen Project.

Educational Challenges in Bangladesh: Consequences and Future Trends of Child Labor

Written by By Anna Kordesch

Women working at a garment factory – Image by Maruf Rahman from Pixabay

The World Trade Organization (WTO) reports that Bangladesh holds the position of the world’s second-largest exporter of ready-made garments, contributing to around 6.4% of global garment exports in 2020. However, this economic success comes at a grave cost, as children aged 5-17 are often exploited and illegally employed in the Bangladeshi garment industry. This unethical practice not only deprives them of education but also limits their future opportunities. Without access to basic education, these children are forced into low-paying jobs in factories, lacking the chance to acquire skills that could lead to better-paying employment in the future. As a result, they become trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and low-wage work, perpetuating the cycle of child labor. The absence of quality education deprives these children of their potential and severely diminishes their chances of breaking free from illegal and physically demanding labor.

As conscious consumers, it is imperative that we consider the entire supply chain of the garments we purchase, including the production side, and acknowledge the potential consequences of our buying decisions. We must inquire whether a t-shirt has been ethically produced and whether child labor was involved in any stage of its manufacturing. Reflecting on these questions could contribute to providing hundreds of children in Bangladesh with an opportunity to access quality education and break free from the shackles of poverty.

The purpose of this article is to increase awareness about the issue of unequal educational attainment in Bangladesh, which is exacerbated by the prevalence of child labor and inadequate government policies aimed at eradicating child labor.

Brief history of poverty in Bangladesh

After gaining independence in 1971, Bangladesh faced a significant challenge with 80% of its population living below the poverty line. However, over the years, the government has made poverty alleviation a key priority in its development strategy. As a result, the poverty rate has decreased from 80% to 24.3%, which still means that approximately 35 million people in Bangladesh are living below the poverty line (UNESCO, 2009).

The government’s efforts to tackle poverty have been supported by sustained economic growth, driven in part by sound macroeconomic policies and an increase in exports of readymade garments. As a result, the overall poverty rate has declined from 13.47% in 2016 to 10.44% in 2022 (Dhaka Tribune, 2022).

Despite these achievements, recent trends suggest a slowing down in the rate of poverty reduction in Bangladesh. Moreover, the impact of poverty alleviation measures has been uneven between rural and urban areas, as the country undergoes rapid urbanization. This indicates that while progress has been made in reducing poverty, challenges remain in ensuring equitable poverty reduction across different regions of the country.

Although Bangladesh has experienced rapid economic growth and is considered one of the fastest growing countries, income inequality remains a significant and pressing issue. In fact, income inequality in Bangladesh has reached unprecedented levels not seen since 1972. Despite the growth of the readymade garments export industry, the benefits of this economic sector have not been evenly distributed, leading to a low ranking of 133rd out of 189 countries in the Human Development Index.

One stark indicator of income inequality is the contrasting income shares between the bottom 40% of the population and the richest 10%. The income share of the bottom 40% is merely 21%, while the richest 10% enjoy a significantly higher share of 27%, illustrating a sharp disparity in wealth distribution (World Bank, 2023). These disparities in income distribution highlight the urgent need for addressing income inequality in Bangladesh, as it poses challenges to achieving inclusive and equitable development. Efforts to tackle this issue require a comprehensive approach that considers factors such as economic policies, social welfare programs, and targeted interventions to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are shared more widely among all segments of the population.

Child labor in Bangladesh

The inherent inequality and income disparities within Bangladesh have a clear impact on the educational attainment of children across the country. Child labor is unfortunately prevalent in many parts of Bangladesh, especially in rural areas where poverty rates are high and access to education is limited. Districts such as Chittagong, Rajshahi, and Sylhet have particularly high incidences of child labor, as they are located in the rural outskirts of Bangladesh, highlighting the aforementioned intra-country inequality.

The poverty resulting from this inequality has dire consequences for Bangladeshi children, who are forced to engage in illegal employment to combat poverty. Approximately three out of every five children are employed in the agricultural sector, while 14.7% work in the industrial sector, and the remaining 23.3% work in services (Global People Strategist, 2021). Although the government of Bangladesh ratified the International Labor Organization Convention in early 2022, which clearly stipulates the minimum age for employment in Article 138, children in Bangladesh continue to be subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in activities such as drying of fish and brick production.

A troubling aspect is that the Bangladesh Labor Act does not apply to the informal sector, where the majority of child labor in Bangladesh takes place. Reports of violence against child workers in various sectors, including domestic work, have been documented. In 2018, over 400,000 children worked in domestic work in Bangladesh, with girls often being abused by their employers. Additionally, reports indicate that from January to November 2012, 28 children were subjected to torture while working as housemaids (Global People Strategist, 2021).

These children are compelled to join the workforce in both formal and informal sectors out of sheer survival necessity to provide for their families, and are unlikely to return to their studies. A UNICEF report revealed that children under the age of 14 who have dropped out of school for work are laboring an average of 64 hours per week. Putting this number into perspective, European labor laws limit working hours to 48 hours per week, including overtime (UNICEF, 2021).

Visiting Subornogram’s school for the Dalit Cobbler children. Matthew Becker, 2012 Peace Fellow, Subornogram Foundation, Sonargaon, Bangladesh

Current Educational Picture

The issue of educational attainment in Bangladesh exhibits significant inequality, which is attributed to both structural inequalities in the country and weaknesses in the governance of the education sector.

School participation rates also highlight disparities, with 10% of children of official primary school age being out of school. Among primary school-aged children in Bangladesh, the greatest disparity is observed between the poorest and the richest children, which can be linked to the broader inequality between households in the country. This disparity is supported by a 2019 UNICEF report that indicates completion rates for upper secondary school are 50% for the wealthiest children but only 12% for the poorest (UNICEF, 2019).

The Bangladeshi government has attempted to address education inequality at the primary level through a conditional cash transfer program targeted at poor children, which covers 40% of rural students. However, this program leaves a substantial proportion of poor children uncovered, despite their high levels of poverty. This initiative has resulted in a rapid increase in primary school enrollment, with 7.8 million children receiving stipends of $1 each.

Nevertheless, due to biased decision-making that favors the non-poor, the government’s

recurrent spending on education is disproportionately allocated, with 68% of total government spending directed towards the non-poor, despite this group representing only 50% of the primary school-aged population (World Bank, 2018). These statistics highlight that while there may be governmental intentions to improve educational attainment in Bangladesh, the reality presents a different picture, with rural children facing continued disadvantages in terms of national educational governance.


In short, quality education is essential for the eradication of poverty giving children the chance at a better life. Helping children turn away from child labor, requires the emphasis on the reduction on family poverty. Only quality educational attainment will become available for every child regardless of their socio-economic background can the future generation of Bangladesh flourish under the governments aid program. The primary purpose of the government of Bangladesh should be to protect children from the detrimental effect of child labor and ensuring their quality education.

The first solution to mitigate unequal quality educational attainment, is to make governmental policies broader thus ensuring financial inclusion of the marginalized. Adopting appropriate macroeconomic policy which priorities education equality. More transparency in the allocation of educational resources will force the government of Bangladesh to take on a more utilitarian perspective. This new allocation of resources will allow for more interest in soft infrastructure such as the recruitment of adequate number of teachers at schools.

An additional approach to address the issue would be for the government of Bangladesh to effectively promote awareness about the significance of quality education. This awareness campaign should not only target urban areas, but also prioritize rural areas where poverty rates are particularly high.

Furthermore, as a prerequisite to raising awareness, the Bangladeshi government should focus on providing the necessary infrastructure that enables people to access education information. This entails addressing the root causes of poverty in the country to create an environment where children are not forced into labor and can instead avail themselves of educational opportunities and experience a normal childhood.

Ensuring that every child has the opportunity for quality education and a safe upbringing is of utmost importance.


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UNICEF. 2021. “The future of 37 million children in Bangladesh is at risk with their education severely affected by the COVID-10 pandemic.” Accessed April 14, 2023.

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Dhaka Tribune. 2022. “Report: 35m Bangladeshis still live below poverty line.” Accessed April 13, 2023.

World Bank. 2023. “Poverty & Equity Brief.” Accessed April 10, 2023.

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World Bank. 2018. “National Education Profile.” Accessed April 14, 2023.