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Education in Africa: Progress at Risk

2086: When the last girl in Africa will complete primary school In 2000, world leaders promised to get every child into school by the end of 2015 in Millennium Development Goal (MDG) two. This goal was revolutionary but attainable. However, in the last few years, political commitment to education for all children has slipped and the financing needed to achieve it has declined – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, home to over half of the world’s out-of-school population.

countries that are still a long way from universal access to education, plan to reduce their education spending. It is widely accepted that countries should allocate at least 20% of their budget to education. Yet, 25 countries, including the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, dedicate less than 3%.

Some countries, like Ethiopia, have resisted the trend and increased their education budgets. However, 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa,

International donor aid to basic education is also falling rapidly – by 10% between 2010 and 2012. Between 2011-2012 aid for

education to Mali alone fell by $45 million and to Ethiopia by $23 million. Since 2010, 12 African countries have seen cuts in their aid to basic education of $10million or more and current aid across the continent is at the same level as in 2008. Progress in financing education and getting children into school in sub-Saharan Africa has almost ground to a halt. Currently, 22% of primary school age children are out of school.

Education Emergency: Progress on education in Africa at risk Progress across Africa to get all children in school and learning has stalled. If nothing is done to reverse current trends, there will be millions more children out of school in Africa in 2025 than there are today. With the 2015 MDG deadline fast approaching, African leaders and donors must keep their promise and take urgent action to ensure all children are in school.

For many, even a basic primary education remains a matter of life and death. Attacks on education – and on students – are on the rise. More than 12 million of the nearly 30 million out-of-school children in Africa live in conflict or emergency settings. Financing for education is declining fastest in these fragile settings – where it was already inadequate.

Efforts like the Safe Schools Initiative in Nigeria – launched in the wake of the #BringBackOurGirls outcry around the world – are part of the solution. But far more resources and commitment are necessary to get all children everywhere in safe schools and learning. Leaders must do more. Now.





32.7 31.2





The increase in survival past age five for a child born to a mother who can read.










If all girls had secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, child marriage would fall by 64%







If all women in sub-Saharan Africa completed their primary education, maternal mortality would fall by 70%



Credit: GPE/Midastouch



Almost two in three out-of-school girls sub-Saharan Africa, are expected never to go to school.

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Out of School Children in Africa: A Snapshot

Out-of-School Children


million children around the world



more than 1 million out of school

Burkina Faso

917,044 out of school

The number of out-of-school has declined from 65% in 2002 to 36% in 2012 and primary completion has increased from 22% to 49%. However, the 2010 coup d’état, has increased dropout rates among girls and quality of learning.


770,441 out of school

Only 33% of enrolled children – who mostly live in urban areas – are taught by qualified teachers. Protracted crisis in the region has led to a population of more than 300,000 refugees.


more than 1 million out of school

Overall spending on education decreased by nearly 3% of total public spending between 2011 and 2012 - more than US$10 million.

Kenya has allocated an average of 20% of its budget to education since 2011. Class sizes, quality of teaching and materials and access to sanitation remain barriers to access, retention and learning.

Côte d’Ivoire

1.2 million out of school

million children in sub-Saharan Africa


Public spending is 23.1% of the budget, an increase from 19% in 2009. However, gender parity in Grade 1 went down over this same period.

estimated 1 million out of school

A mere 42% of primary school age children are in any form of school. Ongoing conflict, gender and regional disparities, and lack of reliable data and government financing mechanisms for education make progress difficult.

Central African Republic

12 of 30

million out-of-school children in sub-Saharan Africa live in conflict-affected countries where schools, if they exist, are not safe.

193,652 out of school

Education spending in 2012 was expected to decline 13% from 2011 and represent only 11% of the government budget.

To get every child into school and learning: African leaders must prioritise education by working towards spending at least 20% of their budget on education. Steady scaling up of resources and commitments should begin immediately – targeted in particular at eliminating disparities in access related to region, gender, disability and poverty to accelerate the achievement of the right to education for all children. International donors ­­must keep the promise made in 2000 that “no countries seriously committed to education for all will be thwarted in their achievement of [universal access] by a lack of resources” starting with supporting the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to reach its $3.5 billion financing target in June 2014. Increases in resources and commitments to meet this goal are needed immediately, targeted in particular at disparities by region, gender, disability and poverty, if we are to speed up making the right to education a reality for every child.



10.5 million out of school

Nigeria has the highest out-of-school population in the world – and this is increasing. Regional inequality is significant – the out-of-school children population in the Northeast is 30 times greater than that in the Southeast. Schools, teachers and students are frequently the target of violence.

of primary school age children in Africa are out of school

Democratic Republic of the Congo 2.4 million out of school

2 million of the out-of-school children may never have the chance to enrol. A recent study showed 68% of children in grades 3 and 4 were unable to read a single word in a simple text.

South Sudan

1.3 million out of school

Half of all primary school-age children in South Sudan are out of school. South-Sudan’s government spending on education is one of the lowest in the world while its military spending equals more than half of government spending.


3 million out of school

Over the last decade primary enrolment has risen from 40% to 85%. Poverty, gender equity and regional disparities remain a barrier to universal access.

Primary source: UNESCO. Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality Education For All. Paris: UNESCO, 2014. Other sources: “Children out of school, primary.” The World Bank. | “Education in Somalia.” UNICEF Somalia. | “Education spending in Kenya.” Government Spending Watchdog. | “Global Partnership for Education.” Central African Republic. | “Global Partnership for Education.” Côte d’Ivoire. |”Global Partnership for Education.” Niger. | “Ministry of Education in Ethiopia launches Back to School Awareness Campaign.” UNICEF Ethiopia. | UNESCO: Education For All Global Monitoring Report. Policy Paper 13. Paris: UNESCO, June 2014 | UNGEFI. Accelerating Progress to 2015: (DRC, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Sudan reports) Paris: The GoodPlanet Foundation, 2013. | van Fleet , Justin, Kevin Watkins, and Lauren Greubel. “Africa Learning Barometer.” The Brookings Institution. africa-learning-barometer.



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