At least 67 million children of school age are still denied the right to education due to financial, social or other challenges, such as health problems and armed conflict, according to statistics released on Monday by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
On its annual high-level meeting opened Monday in Geneva, ECOSOC said, about 796 million adults still lack basic literacy skills, taking up 17 percent of the world adult population.
"At the national, regional and global levels big issues confront us in the quest to make education reality for all," ECOSOC President Lazarous Kapambwe told member states at the meeting, themed "Education for All."
One of the recent challenges highlighted by ECOSOC is the cutting back of educational budgets by many governments, as a result of the financial crisis. An survey conducted on 18 low income countries indicates that seven of them cut their education spending in 2009, raising concerns that many more children would drop out of school in these countries.
Another major obstacle to overall education is armed conflict, which occurred in 35 countries over the last decade. Accordingly, 28 million school age children are out of school in these countries, about 42 percent of the world total.
The ECOSOC president called for burden sharing between the developed and the developing countries, as well as private sector and governments, in efforts to ensure the right to education in low income countries, in particular the least developed countries (LDCs).
ECOSOC is the principal UN body for coordinating and reviewing economic and social policies. Its annual high-level meeting assesses the progress made in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and the other goals and targets on the UN Development Agenda.