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kids outside a school in Ghana


Education is a powerful tool that can help children live to their full potential. But globally, 1 in 5 children are not in school.

The inability to access education makes children more vulnerable to disease, violence, exploitation, child marriage and more. Children — especially girls —around the world face many barriers when trying to exercise their right to education.

We work for and with children to remove barriers and provide opportunities that help them reach their full potential and pursue their dreams.

Barriers to Education

Where a child lives determines what barriers are most pressing for them, but these are some of the most common barriers that out-of-school children face:


Girl standing in dusty street

Parents or guardians do not have the financial capacity to send their children to school or to afford school uniforms and supplies. In some of the communities where Plan International works, a lack of schools, access to clean water and health facilities also impacts children’s ability to exercise their right to education.

Gender Inequality

Woman collecting water

In some cultures, boys and girls are valued differently. Boys’ education is often prioritized because they may be seen as future earners but depending on the family’s situation, they may have to drop out of school early to financially support the family. Boys are also more vulnerable to being lured into gangs or becoming child soldiers. When girls are allowed to go to school, they may drop out because of menstruation, child marriage, household chores, gender-based violence and more.


Children outside a school

When disasters like earthquakes hit, or when war breaks out, families may become displaced and unable to prioritize or access education for their children. 75 million children and youth, predominately girls, are out of school in 35 crisis-affected countries.

Six barriers to girls' education

Six barriers to girls education infographic
  • These barriers are particularly serious for girls. Gender-bias can mean access to school is prioritized for boys, especially if the school is unsafe and hard to reach.
  • Education provides protection for girls. It can deliver the skills and knowledge to break cycles of inequality. Girls who go to school are less likely to be forced into marriage at a young age, become pregnant as a child, or be a victim of violence.
  • Schooling is a process of empowerment, and it can provide the route out of poverty, inequality, and violence when delivered properly.


Girl by chalkboardGirl by chalkboard

How do we help girls get back in the classroom and stay there?

The way we make education more accessible for girls is by tackling the root cause of what’s keeping them out of school and that is gender inequality. When boys and girls are valued equally, all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Through our projects, we help girls stay in school through the following ways:

Provide equal access to education by developing gender-sensitive learning environments for girls

Educate boys and men about gender equality by engaging them in promoting girls’ and women’s rights

Keep schools safe for girls by providing them with a learning environment that’s free of violence, abuse and bullying

Provide school feeding programs that keep girls’ stomachs full, their brains active and offer parents incentives to send their daughters to school

Give girls financial standing, independence and income through village savings and loans associations (VSLA), vocational training programs and girls’ scholarships

Challenge gender roles and stereotypes by running information sessions that raise awareness at home and in the community on the importance of girls’ rights and gender equality

Reaching out-of-school children

Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD)

In the first years of life children are at a unique stage of growth and development. Ensuring that the environment around them is nurturing is vital to a child’s cognitive, emotional and physical wellbeing. Early childhood is a period when small investments can have huge returns, where a love for learning can be developed, and where skills of resilience can be discovered. ECCD is the necessary foundation children need to be healthy, happy, and active later in life. It is crucial for school readiness, compensates for inequalities of poverty, and promotes lifelong learning.

We work to ensure that parents and caregivers can create an environment that supports a child’s development and where children can learn and thrive.

Children in classroom

Accelerated Learning 

Over 250 million children are currently not able to go to school. In the places that need it most, education is often not an option, either because of poverty, erosion of the education system in times of crisis, or because of gender inequalities. Missing even one year of school can undermine the learning and development of a child. In contexts of crisis and war, a generation of children can be denied their right to an education.

Plan International aims to ensure that children who have, for any reason, missed a period of schooling, are able to catch-up and re-enter formal schooling. Through Accelerated Learning, children receive specialized courses that provide literacy and numeracy skills in a condensed curriculum which ensures they can cover multiple grades in a short period and ultimately re-enter school.

This innovative model for out-of-school-children is one of the many ways that Plan International ensures no child is left behind.

Girl writing in book in classroom

Skills Training

For youth who have never been to school or may have missed too many years to catch-up, Plan International provides skills training that helps youth learn a new income-generating skill so that they are in a better position to decide their own futures. Youth may be trained to become plumbers, hairdressers, tailors, chefs, make and sell their own sanitary products, etc.

Learning a specific skill gives youth the freedom to support themselves, their family members and pursue the future they envisioned for themselves.

Girl working with sewing machine

Erika’s story

"What I love about this school is the library. The school is beautiful because of the library."

Erika, 9

Erika is from Honduras and lives in a community where only 2.5% of the population completes middle school. Six years ago, in partnership with another organization we started building libraries where children could not only read but build their confidence. Because of the library Erika has read 61 books already! The library has become a hub of creativity, and the epicenter of a growing culture of literacy and engagement in her community.

Read more education stories

Explore Plan International Canada's reports and publications on education.

 Read our education reports

Ways you can support our Education Work

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Gifts of hope

Fill schools in developing countries with the school essentials to give students the best possible education and the best possible start to a better life.

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Child sponsorship

Help a child realize their right to live, learn, decide and thrive. Together, we can create a world where all children unleash their full potential.

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