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No girl left behind - Education in Africa

Claudia Costin's picture
Also available in: Français


On International Women’s Day, let’s remember the challenges girls face in education.


What would your life be like with only five years of schooling? For many girls around the world, this is the most education they can expect and they are the lucky ones. Across Africa, 28 million girls between the ages of about 6 and 15 are not in school and many will never even set foot in a classroom.

March 8 is International Women’s Day, an occasion to celebrate the tremendous progress achieved in securing access to a basic education for girls in the poorest countries.  But for us, it is also a stark reminder of the millions of girls who are being left behind.

We live in a world where violent extremists are bent on destroying the lives of school girls, their families and communities. And beyond the horror, we see the daily grind of poverty forcing girls to sacrifice their right to education and hope for a better life.   

We know there is a multiplier effect to educating girls. More educated women tend to be healthier, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their own children, all of which can lift households out of poverty.

Breaking down the barriers is a joint effort

Our respective organizations are committed to getting all children in school and learning and much progress has been made over the past 15 years, especially on attainment. Examples include Uganda’s free universal secondary education policy (the first in sub-Saharan Africa) and Ghana’s capitation grants. However, at a global level, while the share of children out of primary school has fallen from 15% to 9% since 2000, little progress has been achieved since 2007.

No single organization can break down the complex barriers facing girls, especially in Africa. As part of our collective effort, we are supporting the work of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) to produce the data needed to make a difference in the lives of girls across the continent. Together, we are driving a data revolution in education to ensure that countries collect and use more relevant data.

The UIS has developed a new data tool, entitled Left Behind – Girls’ Education in Africa, which illustrates the progress to date as well as the enormous challenges ahead as the international community crafts the next set of global education goals. To what extent are girls enrolling in school compared to boys? Which countries and regions have made the greatest progress in reducing the gender gap in primary and lower secondary education? And what kinds of classroom conditions are shaping the learning experiences of African girls across the continent? These are just some of the issues addressed in this interactive tool, which is automatically updated with the latest available data.
 
Learning conditions need to improve

For those children who enroll in school, poor classroom conditions can interfere with learning. On average, three pupils share a single mathematics textbook across the region. Only 22% of schools have access to electricity, and slightly less than half have access to drinking water. In half of African countries with data, there are more than 50 pupils per class.

We know that schools without toilets, or with shared toilets, pose a health and safety risk for girls as well as present a significant cultural barrier which keeps girls away from such schools.

More qualified teachers needed
 
But perhaps most striking, the data shows that the dire shortage of teachers may get even worse as many African countries struggle to keep up with the rising demand for education from a growing school-age population. Today, the region needs to create 2.3 million new teaching positions and fill 3.9 million vacant posts in order to accommodate a maximum of 40 pupils in each classroom.

But it is not enough to just hire more teachers. Africa needs more qualified teachers who get support and training to improve their teaching. There is also a need for more female teachers who can be positive role models for girls.

Let’s make sure girls get the future they deserve

It is not difficult to predict what the future holds for girls who never go to school. They will join the ranks of the 77 million young women between the ages of 15 and 24 who are unable to read or write a single sentence, let alone decipher a medical prescription or help their children with homework. Young women make up two-thirds of the global illiterate population. About 29 million live in sub-Saharan Africa and they face a life in poverty.  Hence, it is crucial to ensure that girls get a basic education.

Greater resources and targeted programs will help tackle the specific social and economic factors that deny girls their right to education, but it will take more than promises to get every girl in school and learning. Together, UNESCO, the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education focus on improving gender equality and empowering girls and women through quality education.

What do you think it will take to leave no girl behind? Explore the data  and join us on Twitter (#leftbehind) to share your views. 
 
Follow the World Bank Group Education team on Twitter @wbg_education

 

Comments

Submitted by Pastor Isaac Wambani. on

As to the observation taken in sub Africa it should be
noted the world bank and th UNESCO have been trying
to reduce the rate of illiteracy through appointed agencies who have been unable to to achieve the goal
because they are not transparent. And the Data given
is not always correct.I suggest that for the world Bank
to acheive its goals in the reduction of poverty and
illiteracy in girls in those areas it must have its own
machinery on the ground who will monitor what is happening.

Submitted by peter on

The biggest barrier and obstacle for enhancing education is the religion. Showing nice statistics without tackling the roots of the problem is a typical way of finding excuses to spend more taxpayers' money without results. Billions were invested by many international aid organizations and WB to create education programs to which Muslim believers object and undermine.

Submitted by Anne Kinyua on

The girl child empowerment in kenya has sideline the girl child pushing her to the periphery. The girl child has been ignored for too long, she is suffering a life skills criss and needs to be empowered.

Submitted by Mohan Singh on

No girl left behind is so important here in India also. There are villages and villages where no girl ever went to school. There are barriers here also. Hope to get good learning from this article. Thanks.

Submitted by Isabella on

It is very important to have a good education. Why don't girls get the chance to learn. I think it is stupid. Girls are just as good at anything as boys are. Some people that have a chance to learn don't take it but if some body said you don't have a chance they can't do any thing in their future.

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