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No ‘first day at school’ photo for millions of girls

Proud parents everywhere are sharing pictures of their children ready to start school. But for millions of children – particularly girls – there’s no first day in sight.

A girls tands on the remains of a road in Malei, in flood-hit Mozambique. Credit: Crystal Wells/Concern Worldwide

This week, your Facebook and Instagram may have been packed with beaming children in brand new uniforms. The first day at school always brings pride and excitement, and perhaps a few tears. And that’s just from the parents.

But there will be no treasured first day photos for the 24 million children alive today who will never get the chance to start school. Two-thirds of these children are girls, who often face the biggest challenges getting an education. Right now, 62 million girls – close to the whole population of the UK – are out of school.

Four ways we’re helping

Without education, young people will find it harder to make a decent living and work their way out of poverty. That’s why we’ve come up with loads of clever ways to help children get the start they deserve.

Our work supports boys and girls. But our focus on helping the most vulnerable means it is often girls who benefit – as they are most likely to be missing out.

1. Funding school fees

Going to school might be free in the UK, but that’s not the case everywhere. For very poor families, school fees can keep their child out of the classroom. And this will make it harder to earn money as an adult, trapping whole generations in a cycle of poverty.

Mercy, 12, has stayed at her school in Nairobi, Kenya thanks to a grant from Concern. Science is her favourite subject. Her mum Olivia says: “Mercy has never missed a day.” Mum Olivia helping Mercy with her homework in Nairobi. The family used a grant from Concern to pay school fees. Credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Concern

2. Supporting teachers

The Syria crisis has shattered millions of chilhoods. Children have seen their classrooms destroyed, or fled to places where there is no schooling available

One growing risk is that as families caught up in the crisis struggle to get by, they are marrying off their teenage daughters – bringing their education to an end.

In Turkey we fund school supplies and repairs, and give teachers training and mentoring. Teaching children who have lived through years of war can be difficult – they are often traumatized by their experiences, and need help to deal with them. A temporary education centre for Syrian refugees in Sanliurfa, south-eastern Turkey. Credit: Caroline Gluck/EU-ECHO

3. Helping people get clean water

Dirty water leads to serious illnesses like cholera. Sick children struggle to go to school (or do well when they get there). And if their parents get sick, the pressure for children to work rather than learn gets even bigger.

We’ve fixed or fitted thousands of wells, pumps and pipes all over the world. In emergencies, we even truck water to where it’s needed most.

4. Boosting nutrition

Food is power. Like clean water, a good diet is vital for children to grow, stay healthy and stay in school. We’re helping farmers improves their harvests, and giving parents advice and support so their children get the nutritious meals they need.

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