Opening doors to education

Every child has a right to education. Yet millions of children worldwide are denied their right and are excluded from quality education. Children without parental care or at risk of losing it are particularly vulnerable to missing out on education and training. 

Education is a fundamental and enabling human right. It is also a family affair. Children’s readiness to learn and their ability to reach their full potential are fostered by secure attachments in a caring family environment.

One-in-ten of the world’s 2.2 billion children have lost, or risk losing, the care of their 'first teachers' – their parents.

Such children and young people are often deprived of a stable, nurturing and stimulating environment necessary for their development in early childhood. They are also disproportionately excluded from the formal education system and left unprepared to enter the labour market as young adults.

Read more in Learning and Education for Development.

Risk factors and barriers

Children who have lost parental care or who live in families at risk of breaking down face several barriers to access quality education. These include: 

An estimated 569 million children in developing countries must get by on less than $1.25 per day (Unicef, 2014). Extreme poverty is a stress factor which impacts on family stability and parents’ ability to pay for school fees, uniforms and books, or provide other educational support to their children.

Approximately 275 million children grow up with violence in the home (Unicef, 2009). Child victims of violence are more likely to have literacy and numeracy problems. They are at higher risk of absenteeism and dropping out of or frequently changing schools (Unicef, 2014).

Children in conflict-affected countries represent 20% of the world’s primary school age children, but 50% of the out-of-school children (UIS and Unicef, 2015). The trauma and disruption in education caused by natural disasters and armed conflict put children at risk of permanently falling behind their peers.

Without the care and protection of a parent, children are more likely to be discriminated against based on social status, gender, disability or ethnic background. Girls are generally more vulnerable to gender discrimination. An estimated 43% of the world’s out-of-school children will never go to school. This concerns 48% of girls compared to 37% of boys (SOS Children’s Villages, 2016).

Girls are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, early marriage, and adolescent pregnancy. Boys may be forced to become child soldiers or do hazardous child labour. Such abuses and exploitation deprive children of the right to go to school and develop as children.

Serious illnesses or disease such as HIV/Aids in the family can force children, especially girls, to take on household responsibilities at the expense of their education.


Access to education

At SOS Children's Villages, we provide a range of programmes to ensure that children and young people have access to quality education and training to prepare them for independent adult life. In our family strengthening, we also support parents in obtaining training, certification, or tools that enable them to establish a stable livelihood to support their children.

In 2018, we supported 139,700 children, young people and adults worldwide with their education or developing new skills:

  • Over 23,000 children were supported in their early childhood development in SOS kindergartens.

  • More than 98,000 children attended primary and secondary schools run by SOS Children's Villages.

  • More than 18,000 young people and adults developed professional and life skills at our vocational training centres.

Learn more in our Annual Reports