Poverty, conflict, corruption, safety, and poor infrastructure are just some of the challenges faced by millions of children across the world in pursuit of an education. Their inspiring and sometimes harrowing journeys have been captured by photographer Maher Attar in ‘Challenges and Reality’, a book commissioned by founder of Education Above All, Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser.
Photographs from the book feature in an exhibition at UNESCO Paris Headquarters from 7 -16 October.
Inspired by UNESCO’s ‘The Cradle of Inequality’ by photographer Sebastion Salgado and writer/poet Cristovam Buarque, the book makes clear that the aim of universal primary education, the ‘unfinished agenda’ of the Millennium Development Goals, is far from being achieved. With this year’s adoption of the new education agenda as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there is now an even greater sense of urgency to leave no one behind.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, who also holds consecutive positions as UNESCO Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education, Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) Steering Committee Member, and Founder of GEFI partner programme, Educate a Child; said opportunities to learn, even in the most imperfect circumstances, represent the best chance for many children to escape poverty and hardship.
“We can be the first generation to ensure that children receive a quality primary education. And with schooling will come a chance to improve outcomes for families, communities, and eventually, for countries,” Her Highness said.
Photographer Maher Attar spent four months travelling across India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Haiti, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan and Lebanon for ‘Challenges and Reality’, documenting the struggle for education by children in poverty-stricken, and often very remote regions.
Reflecting on the book, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, said the right to education cannot be fulfilled without recognizing the realities of extreme poverty, conflict and discrimination.
“These are the faces and places that must be remembered when speaking out on education. This is why we need more resources for education and policies that put these children first,” Ms Bokova said.
Educate a Child, founded in 2012, aims to accelerate and strengthen efforts to enroll children in school. It identifies the barriers to education faced by children and forges creative partnerships that provide access to quality education for the most marginalized children.