Five major barriers to children’s education in developing countries

Five major barriers to children’s education in developing countries

Brighter Children believes that every child has an equal opportunity to survive, develop, and reach their full potential. Sadly, only two thirds of secondary school-aged children around the world are enrolled in school; in the least developed countries, only one third are, according to UNICEF. The organization also found that globally, more than 124 million children and young adolescents are denied education.

There are many barriers that children face in accessing education, including poverty, gender disparity, disabilities, long commutes, and war zones.


Poverty is perhaps the most pervasive obstacle preventing children from going to school. For starters, poor families are unable to afford tuitions, textbooks and uniforms for their children. In some cases, children are even asked to help with household chores rather than go to school.

Meanwhile, in low-income countries like Tanzania and Cameroon, children are less likely to have decent classrooms and learning materials. In those areas, it’s a norm that students share worn-out textbooks.

Having an untrained teacher, or no teacher, is another challenge in poor countries where teachers cannot get paid. UNESCO predicts that the world will need an additional 3.3 million primary teachers and 5.1 million lower secondary teachers in classrooms by 2030 to provide all children with basic education, and around 29 countries (31 percent) will not have enough primary teachers in the classrooms as late as 2030.

Gender disparity

While gender equality has been improved worldwide, gender disparity and discrimination remain in many developing countries. Barriers to girls’ education include school fees; strong cultural norms favoring boys’ education when a family has limited resources; lack of private and separate latrines; and negative classroom environments, where girls may face violence, exploitation or corporal punishment.

In the developing world, nearly one-third of girls are married before 18, and one-third of women give birth before 20, according to UNICEF. If all girls had secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, child marriage would fall by 64 percent, from almost 2.9 million to just over 1 million, UNICEF predicted.


Children with disabilities are one of the most marginalized groups in low-income countries. They are less likely to be in school than their peers without disabilities. For example, the gap in primary school attendance rates between disabled and non-disabled children ranges from 10 percent in India to 60 percent in Indonesia, and for secondary education, from 15 percent in Cambodia to 58 percent in Indonesia.

Long commute

Many developing countries don’t have a public transit system, meaning that students have to walk to school. But for children leave in suburban areas, a walk to school may take three hours or longer. This is just too much for children, especially those with disabilities. Female students may also be vulnerable to violence on their way to and from school.

War zones

A quarter of the world’s school-age children (462 million) live in countries affected by wars and disasters, Huffington Post reported. In Syria, for example, more than 6,000 schools are out of use — they are occupied by the military or turned into an emergency shelter. Meanwhile, in Central African Republic a quarter of schools are not functioning due to the violence between mainly Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian anti-balaka militias . A child who is out of school for more than a year is unlikely to return, according to UNICEF.

Your support for Brighter Children can help lower the above barriers. Last year, we sponsored  students across four schools in Kenya, India and Colombia. This year, we are aiming to raise $300,000 from our donors to increase the aid to education.

If you believe that every child around the world has the right to a decent education, support Brighter Children and become a monthly donor today.

Yuyu Chen
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