Children's Voices

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Small Voices, Big Dreams

Since 2010, ChildFund has conducted an annual global survey asking children about their everyday lives, their fears and their dreams for the future. Their responses are often thoughtful and surprising, and adults can learn a lot from the children’s words.

  • Tejaswini from India

Children Have the Right to Education

Maria, a 10-year-old girl from Indonesia, wants to be an elementary school teacher. Ariana, a 12-year-old girl from Honduras, dreams of becoming a lawyer to protect children without parents. Daniel, a 12-year-old boy from Ethiopia, knows that “learning and education make me able to achieve my dreams — to be a leader.”

In 2016, 98 percent of 6,226 children surveyed in the annual Small Voices, Big Dreams report said that education is important to them. They represent 41 countries on six continents, and children surveyed were between the ages of 10 and 12. This year, our questions focused on education and safety at school. We saw several differences in perceptions among children in developed countries and those who live in developing countries, but also some similarities.

We learned that only 60 percent of all children surveyed think their schools are always safe, and in Senegal, 14 percent of children surveyed say it is never safe. Many feel safe if security measures are in place to keep them protected from harm, including physical or emotional abuse or violence.

Of children surveyed in wealthier nations like the United States, France and Australia, 64 percent say education leads to good jobs, while only 40 percent of children in developing countries agree with this statement. Nearly one-third of children in developing countries said they have had to miss school due to family work obligations.

Still, most children — no matter where they live — have hopes and dreams they want to achieve and know that school plays a significant role in their lives and others’.

“Children understand all too well that their path to better tomorrows travels through the classroom, and yet they also understand that adults are failing them in their capacity to secure a basic education,” says Anne Lynam Goddard, president & CEO of ChildFund International. “The results of this year’s Small Voices survey amplify the real concerns that children have over access to and safety in their schools, even as they convey how much they love learning. As they do so often and with such clarity, children are telling us what the problem is, and it’s up to adults to enact solutions.”

Demian, a 10-year-old boy from Bolivia, understands school’s importance in his life: “Education is important to me because I can help people and be a better person.”