Key questions we answer

For each barrier, you can go to its page that will give you answers to five questions:

  • What is the barrier and how is it defined?
  • What makes it a barrier to enrollment, participation, and completion?
  • How pervasive is it?
  • What are EAC partners doing to address it?
  • What are useful sources for further reading?

The complexity of reality

Every situation is complex, and children may be faced with several barriers simultaneously. Lack of access to education for a particular set of children may be the result of a combination of multiple barriers. In such cases, problems can be adequately and sustainably addressed only through a combination of strategies that recognize the complexity of barriers.

For each barrier, we give examples of EAC partners that are addressing it. However, the example given may be only one of several strategies a partner is employing simultaneously in its initiative to address out of school children (OOSC) in a particular country or region.

Children’s Right to Education

The inalienable right of every child to a quality education was first acknowledged in 1948 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  Adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that: everyone has the right to education and that it should be free at least at the primary level. Not only does everyone have the right to a free and compulsory primary education, that education should focus on full human development, strengthen respect for human rights, and promote understanding, tolerance and friendship (UDHR Article 26).  

The 1960, UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education reinforces the right to a free and compulsory quality primary education as is laid out in the 1948 UDHR, and further mandates that discrimination in education is a violation of human rights.  It sets out that discrimination in education includes any distinction, exclusion, limitation or preference that is based on race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic condition or birth. 

The Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 further defined children’s right to education.  The Millennium Development Goals and other international conventions have since reinforced education as a universal right to be guaranteed to ALL CHILDREN.

Rights-based approach

Accessing and receiving a quality education is a universal human right. Educate A Child’s work is founded in the right of ALL CHILDREN around the world to access a quality education that respects and promotes their right to dignity and full development.

There are three important aspects of education as a human right:

  • Participation in quality education in itself;
  • The practice of human rights in education; and
  • Education as a right that facilitates the fulfilment of other rights.

Our work is based on a number of international instruments that identify education as a human right.  Several of these international instruments indicate the desired nature, or quality of this education.  When we look at these instruments together and interpret them we go far beyond single articles to a web of commitments that speaks to the depth and breadth of how to begin to understand educational quality.

Interpretation of the various instruments with regard to quality education must be embedded within the overall current local and world contexts and expectations of education. That is, education must be placed and understood in terms of the larger context. A quality education must reflect learning in relation to the learner as an individual, a family and community member, and part of a world society.

A quality education understands the past, is relevant to the present and has a view to the future. Quality education relates to knowledge building and the skillful application of all forms of knowledge by unique individuals who function both independently and in relation to others. A quality education reflects the dynamic nature of culture and languages, the value of the individual in relation to the larger context, and the importance of living in a way that promotes equality in the present and fosters a sustainable future.

Primary education focus

The focus of Educate A Child is on the right to a quality primary education. Our vision is to enable every child to complete a full course of quality primary education as defined by each country. A full course of quality primary education may be five or six years of formal education in a school for those of primary school age. It could also be an alternative program that is either formal or non-formal, which has equivalence to formal education.

EAC supports access to and retention in quality primary education
For these categories of children aged 5 to 18 years
Children who have never enrolled because a school is not available Children who have never enrolled although a school is available Children who have enrolled but do not attend school Children who have enrolled but have not completed the primary education cycle Children who have moved to a temporary location where no school is available
Formal or non-formal primary education program

Many countries have laws that protect the right to education and legally require children to complete a full course of primary education or beyond (compulsory education). By signing on to conventions that promise to fulfil the right to education, governments must invest a significant portion of their annual expenditure budgets in providing formal primary education.  Yet, millions of children are out of school and not receiving an education.

Education is a right, and millions of children today are not receiving this right. To better understand why so many children are missing out on their right to quality education will require a better understanding of the complexity of the barriers hindering children’s access to and completion of education. Analysis of the obstacles and constraints, barriers, faced by children who are out of school and not receiving an education helps build a better understanding of the issue and its complexity.

The work of EAC’s current partners, and the growing international literature on the subject, has enabled us to identify eight main barriers to quality primary education. Here and in the rest of the Explore Section you will find descriptions of these barriers.

Explore The Barriers



Three of the key ways in which poverty acts as a barrier to accessing and completing a full course of quality primary education are: Education Costs, Child Labor and Economic Migration.
Challenging geographies


Most countries have geographic areas that are challenging. In some countries these areas are more numerous or vast than in others. The more economically developed a country, the better able to adapt to or overcome the challenges of its geographies it may be.
Conflict-affected situations, Insecurity and Instability


Conflict-affected situations, insecurity and instability act as one of the largest barriers today to children receiving a quality primary education.


Child refugees have no access to the school system of the country from which they have fled. Some countries with refugee populations (host countries) make provisions for the education of refugee children while others do not.


Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behavior, activities and attributes that a given society at a given time and place considers appropriate for men and women, and boys and girls and the relationships between them.


The world’s poorest countries need almost four million new classrooms by 2015, largely in rural and marginalized areas, to accommodate those who are not in school. More classrooms will alleviate overcrowding, cut class sizes and reduce long travel distances.


Three kinds of resource are necessary for delivery of quality formal and non-formal primary education programs: Human resources, Material resources and Financial resources. These are defined below.


A conventional definition of Quality includes literacy, numeracy and life skills, and is directly linked to such critical components as teachers, content, methodologies, curriculum, examination systems, policy, planning, and management and administration.
Climate Change


To say nothing of education access for already vulnerable populations, climate change is an existential threat to small island developing states and the least developing countries and is, perhaps, one of the defining issues for humankind today.
Getting out of school children back to classrooms in north-west Nigeria


Educate A Child, a global programme of the Education Above All Foundation, brings opportunity through education access and SBMC training
She had Never Been to School Before


Gunsi, a farming community in the Mion district of the Northern Region of Ghana, is home to Fasila, a 13-year-old girl born with a walking disability.
Little Priya finds hope through Camp Vidya


11-year-old Priya* from a remote village in Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh had to drop out of school right after she completed her Grade 4 because her family migrated to the city in search of work.