‘Close education gap’
Satyarthi is in South Africa to address the Global Campaign for Education summit, which has delegates from more than 100 countries taking part, in Pretoria.
He received the Nobel Peace Prize in December for his efforts to eradicate child labour and advocating for children’s rights across the globe. Satyarthi said there was a strong link between child labour, illiteracy and poverty.
“Child labour, illiteracy and poverty go hand in hand. They have a chicken and egg relationship, responsible for each other.
“If so many children are at work then we cannot bring them to schools and therefore they will be illiterate and doomed to poverty,” he said.
According to the UN, 168million children around the world work in full-time jobs, and 85million of this number have been forced into labour.
Child labour is mostly used in the agriculture sector and almost 21% of child labour occurs in Sub-Saharan Africa, closely followed by south and east Asia.
Satyarthi said education was at the heart of the fight against child labour, but he asserted that education was “becoming a commodity”.
“Equity is compromised due to the privatisation of education. Education has become a commodity. Those who can afford to buy it, buy it, and those who can sell it make money out of it,” he said.
“Most developing countries face this problem. The middle class can afford education but quality is compromised in the public sector,” he added.
He also said that despite the fact that many countries were increasing their spending on education, the quality of that education continued to decline.
Satyarthi, 61, advised that more investment must be made to improve the skills of teachers, curriculums and the school environment.
Schools had to be clean, professionally managed and accessible to children living with disabilities and those who had been victims of child labour.
The activist warned that ignoring the quality of education for the youth may have serious repercussions for the future.
“The consequences are that the youth is becoming more impatient worldwide.
“The biggest threat in the coming 20 years is youth rebellion and increasing violence among the youth, which we are starting to see in certain parts of the world. This is growing and deepening.
“If we do not deal with this now and channel youth potential, then this is a big threat,” the Nobel laureate explained.
The summit, being held at St George’s Hotel in Pretoria, ends tomorrow.