Lack of access to education keeps 98 million children in sub-Saharan Africa out of schools

With UNESCO’s assistance, 90% of the countries have set national benchmarks to assess progress towards quality education by 2030

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Monday 05 September 2022
The female out-of-school rate In Sub-Saharan Africa is 4.2 percentage points higher than that of males.Photo: UN News

Ninety-eight million children and youth between the ages of six and 18 are still out of schools in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new data released by the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percentage of children outside the ambit of formal education, followed by the central and southern Asia, with 85 million.

“We need a global mobilisation to place education at the top of the international agenda,” said Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of UNESCO. 

Female out-of-school rate in sub-Saharan Africa is 4.2 per cent higher than that of males. The gender gap, or the difference between how many girls and boys drop out of school, has been eliminated globally.

The gender gap among children in primary school in 2000 was 2.5 per cent and among those in upper secondary school was 3.9 per cent. These gaps have been reduced to zero, although regional disparities persist.

Inequalities in access to education keep 20.2 million children in Nigeria away from schools. The country is followed by Ethiopia with 10.5 million and the Democratic Republic of Congo with 5.9 million.

UNESCO compiled the data using a new, improved method of combining administrative data with the survey data. This methodology was previously used to estimate health indicators.

UNESCO estimated the out-of-school rates for 192 countries since 2000. The out-of-school population is at 244 million in 2021, with 67 million children of primary school age (about 6-11 years), 57 million adolescents of lower secondary school age (about 12-14 years) and 121 million youth of upper secondary school age (about 15-17 years).

The rates among adolescents and youth of secondary school age in Nigeria have hardly changed in the last 20 years. 

The number of out-of-school children of primary school age has increased by 50 per cent, from 6.4 to 9.7 million. The rate has remained constant at 28 per cent since 2010.

Learning crisis has significantly affected the children in sub-Saharan Africa, stated another assessment by non-profit Save the Children.

There are several countries with persistent data gaps. With UNESCO’s assistance, 90 per cent of the countries have set national benchmarks to assess progress towards quality education by 2030.

The UNESCO director general will renew her call for global education at the landmark Transforming Education Summit, which will be held 19 September at UN headquarters in New York.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has convened the Summit to mobilise action and solutions, including reversing learning losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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