Some 250 million children and youth globally are deprived of the right to education, according to figures recently released by Unesco.
The two most affected regions are Sub-Saharan Africa, with 98 million, and Central Asia, with 85 million children without any access to education. The numbers are steadily rising. A dramatic figure, which prompts questions about our commitment to the future generations.
Since 1967, 8 September has been International Literacy Day, to remind us of the universal right to education, as a matter of human dignity, integration and development.
Sant'Egidio has always been committed to defending the right to education of minors, women, immigrants and minorities, such as the Roma. It is engaged in education in Peace Schools for children and young people, Language and Culture Schools for migrants in Italy, in several other countries, and recently also in refugee camps on the borders of Europe.
Language and literacy courses in Italy - run by volunteer teachers - welcome refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran and other countries plagued by wars or serious economic difficulties.
The new school year, now approaching, opens full of hope as face-to-face teaching can finally be resumed after the pandemic. It will be of great help to the most fragile. During the summer in various Italian cities: Genoa, Lecce, Naples, Milan, Padua, Pescara, and Rome - to name but a few - hundreds of volunteers have taken turns in Summer Schools, free educational summer centres, to support thousands of children and young people in catching up on subjects that had been neglected and prepare them to face the beginning of classes with serenity.
Yet the demand for school still finds a lot of obstacles. Just one example for all: many schools in Ukraine have been destroyed by the war: according to data released by Kiev, there are 2,400 schools affected and damaged - 269 of them completely destroyed - and in general less than 60% of schools are safe and able to reopen.
While millions of families are awaiting the beginning of the school year, Sant'Egidio hopes that education will be given the place it deserves, that everyone will be ensured access to educational activities at all levels, and that no one will be left behind. The right to education is a universal right and must be guaranteed to all.