Education inaccessible for millions of African childrenParis - Four out of every ten primary-age children in sub-Saharan Africa do not go to school according to a new report from UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics.
Of those who do go to school, the report finds that only a small proportion reach a basic levelof skills.
Education Statistics 2001 - Regional Report on sub-Saharan Africa, is a comprehensive regional study of education in Africa. It examines the state of education in 49 countries of the region and covers the 1998-1999 academic year, providing a snapshot of all levels of education from pre-primary to tertiary.
The data for the report were provided by national authorities responding to the annual education questionnaire from the Institute, supplemented by data from other international bodies including theUnited Nations Statistics and Population Divisions, and the World Bank.
It finds that pre-primary education is extremely limited in the region, involving only one child in ten, or some four million children. The situation varies greatly from one country to another, with Eastern and Southern Africa accounting for 62 percent of these children. The pre-primary institutions are largely private, catering for more than eight children out of every ten enrolled.
Primary education is clearly the priority for most of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, yet access remains a major problem. According to the report, only 60 percent of primary-age children were actually enrolled throughout the region in the survey years, although the situation differed greatlybetween countries. In Niger, for example, only 26 percent of primary-age children were in school, compared to 93 percent in Mauritius.
Based on these figures, the report estimates that some 38-million primary-age children were out-of-school in sub-Saharan Africa in 1998, about 60 percent of them in the countries of Central and Western Africa.
The data also indicate a “relatively high” level of repetition in the region, with an average of 17 percent of pupils repeating a year.
Secondary education, says the report, “is still not widespread in sub-Saharan Africa,” and complete data are not available for all countries in the region. Late entry and high repetition rates also mean that, in many countries, the majority of secondary-age children are still attending primary classes. In the 21 countries for which data were available, an average of only 19 percent of young people of secondary-school-age were enrolled at that level. In five countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mozambique and Niger) it was less than ten percent.
The data also show that many more boys than girls are enrolled in secondary schools across the region. In countries such as Benin, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Togo, more than twice as many boys as girls attend secondary classes.There are however exceptions to this pattern with girls outnumbering boys in secondary schools in Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia.
All of the countries in the region, Sao Tome and Principe and the Seychelles, have at least one university. However, tertiary education remains “marginal” with only about one and a half million students enrolled in these institutions (excluding Nigeria, for which data were not provided). The report signals that many students - particularly those in advanced research - have to study abroad because programmes are not available in their home countries. Within the region, a majority of tertiary students choose to study education and social sciences (including humanities).
Overall, there is an average of 40 pupils per teacher across the region, but again the situation varies considerably from country to country. In Mozambique, Uganda, Chad, Mali and Congo it is more than 60 to one. “It should be stressed,” says the report, “that national mean figures of 60 pupils or more per teacher in fact mean these countries may have some teachers in charge of 100 pupils or more.”
Teachers throughout the region are generally poorly trained with considerable variation between countries. For the 16 countries, which provided figures on pre-primary education, an average of only 30 percent of teachers received any training. The situation is somewhat better in primary education, but again extremely variable. In Equatorial Guinea, 100 percent of primary teachers have received some training, whilst in Guinea Bissau only 28 percent have. In half of the 26 countries for which data were available, 20 percent of primary teachers had not received any training at all. Women make up 90 percent of the teachers at pre-primary level, but only 37 percent at primary, 31 percent at secondary and 28 percent at tertiary level.
Total spending on education ranges from one percent of GDP in Sierra Leone to over ten percent in Zimbabwe (10.1) and Lesotho (13.2). Most of the money goes towards current expenditure, including teachers’ salaries and the purchase of materials, and the lion’s share is devoted to primary education.
The educational challenges facing the countries of sub-Saharan Africa are considerable. Poverty, HIV-AIDS, war, civil conflicts and high population growth are major hurdles for all governments and populations throughout the region. One person in three is of primary or secondary school age compared to only one in five in Latin America and Asia and one in six in OECD countries. “A sustained and substantial increase in GDP growth rates would seem to be an important precondition for improving access to education,” concludes the report.
The report also identifies common “priority areas” where determined action could make a difference: governments need to recognize the crucial role of education in development; enhance the capacities of institutions and education personnel; and extend access and increase equity while improving the quality and relevance of education.
Print and PDF versions of the regional report are available in English and French from the
UNESCO Institute of Statistics.
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Tel: 33 1 45 68 17 06