The Hidden Barriers to Schooling

What is Holding Students Back?

Over recent decades, the importance of education for global development has been widely acknowledged and prioritized. Not surprisingly, universalizing primary level education is part of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were initiated in 2000. This focus is well-founded, as education can have a positive impact upon the health, welfare, and productivity of its recipients long into the future, which is why we are so passionate about it!


Along with the expansion of educational provisions, there has been increased focus on the development of school facilities, training of teachers, and huge advancements in education systems around the world, all aimed at increasing access to schooling for marginalized children.

Sadly, in 2015, when the goals were due for completion, the UN’s final report found that an enormous 57 million primary school aged youngsters remained out of school. One explanation for this deficit, and a key challenge facing those from low-income backgrounds, is the hidden cost associated with schooling.

Hidden Costs of Schooling

To understand what is meant by hidden costs, consider all of the school resources bought by your parents when you were a child. This most likely included a uniform once, twice, or maybe even several times per year, shoes, notebooks, pens, and other stationery items, as well as things like calculators, gym kits, maybe even a computer, your lunch money or lunches, and possibly a bus pass. The cost of these items can accumulate fast, and the need for them does not disappear when you are going to school in a developing country.

Without these essential resources, the value of the education received will quickly diminish, as students are unable to make notes without a pen or paper or cannot reference information in a textbook that they do not possess. For other items, like gym shoes, the problem may be less immediate. Not having a uniform does not directly affect a student’s ability to learn, but it can still impact their experience of being a student immensely, whether mentally or socially.

Many schools do have strict policies requiring students to be both appropriately resourced and attired when they come to class, meaning that they might be turned away if they cannot obtain these necessary items. Can you imagine the embarrassment that students who cannot do this face?


A different kind of hidden cost comes from the loss of income when a child attends school, instead of going out to work and help provide for their family. For families living in poverty, generating sufficient income to provide food and shelter is a top priority, meaning many children are expected to devote their own time and efforts to contribute to the family’s income. Others may be asked to miss school to care for their younger siblings, allowing their parents maximize their own productivity and income generation potential. This means that many students may not attend school every day because they must attend to these other family obligations instead, which cannot be simply left undone.

Even More Barriers to Higher Education

Students who are fortunate enough to graduate from the primary school, find the financial burden of their education increasing as they grow older. As children get older, their ability to generate an income increases, making work an even higher priority than schooling for many students from low-income families. Not to mention, higher education also comes with increased costs and resources, heightening the price of attendance and burden on the family. This barrier further exacerbated by the implication of school fees at higher education institutions, which governments often charge for due to their own financial constraints.

How Do We Overcome the Hidden Barriers?

The GoAbroad Foundation funds scholarships for children facing these very struggles in the Philippines, allowing them to not only purchase the resources needed for them to be successful, but even attend college.

Kids eating during their feeding program

Better yet, for students who are part of the child sponsorship program, the GoAbroad Foundation also provides support to their family, by purchasing monthly groceries for the family, relieving some of the financial pressure from parents and the pressure from students to miss school for income generation. This program benefits students in even more ways, also providing them with daily feedings so they can go to school with full tummies, ready to concentrate and eager to learn.

To take educational support one step further, all these students can also join the GoAbroad Foundation’s feeding program on the weekends, which aims to not only support nutrition and lessen the burden on families, but also foster community building.

We Need YOU!

Despite the acknowledged importance of education for breaking the very same cycle of poverty that causes these challenges, more support is still needed to continue to break down the hidden barriers to education and ensure that all children gain access to the schooling they need at all educational levels.

Start Supporting Education Now!

This blog was contributed by Elisabeth Tuck:

ElisabethTuckHeadshotLiz was born and raised in the UK, but she has been addicted to traveling since she took a volunteer trip to Tanzania in her teen years. After completing a master’s degree in international development and education, Liz started working in volunteer program management so she could continue helping communities around the world.