14.06.2013 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Nearly 30 million African children out of school

22% of African children have never attended primary school ©UNESCO/Anne Müller

New statistics released by UNESCO show that 29.8 million children living in sub-Saharan Africa were out of school in 2011. This is half of the total amount – 57 million – of worldwide children who were out of school in 2011. At the same time, new data analysis shows that aid to basic education has decreased for the first time since 2002, including in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to a new analysis by the UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, 22% of African children have never attended primary school or have left school without completing primary education; this is more than one child over five.

Sub-Saharan Africa has really difficulties to provide Education. Since 2005, the number of out of school children in Sub-Saharan Africa has stayed around 30 millions, while in South and West Asia considerable gains have been made over the past two decades, reducing the number of out of school children by two-thirds from 38 million in 1999 to 12 million in 2011.

The new figures were released before a high-level discussion in New York on 11 June in support of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative.

They highlight the need to tackle the twin crises in education – whether children get into school at all, and whether they learn once they are there.

Who are these children?

Out of school children are typically living in poor, remote areas, those affected by conflict, or those belonging to ethnic, racial and linguistic minorities. Children from poor households are three times more likely to be out of school than children from rich households.

Girls from poor households in rural areas are among the children facing the greatest barriers to education. In 2011, 16.1 million of sub-Saharan African girls were not going to school, more than half of the whole out of school sub-Saharan African children.

Although more children now enter school, there has been little progress in reducing the rate at which they leave it. About 137 million children began primary school in 2011 but at least 34 million are likely to drop out before reaching the last grade. That translates into an early school leaving rate of 25 per cent—the same level as in 2000.

Declining aid to basic education

While out-of-school figures are stagnant, new analysis from the Education for All Global Monitoring Report finds that aid to basic education declined by six per cent between 2010 and 2011.

Over the course of that year, six of the top ten donors to education reduced their spending. The changing donor landscape now sees the United Kingdom as the largest bilateral donor to basic education.

In addition, funds are not directed to the regions and countries most in need. Basic education aid in Sub-Saharan Africa has decreased by 7% between 2010 and 2011, even though more than half of out of school children are living in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The report calls for donors to prioritise countries and regions most in need: sub-Saharan Africa accounts for more than half of out-of-school children and yet received seven per cent less aid in 2011 than 2010. Aid to Nigeria, the country that is home to the largest number of out of school children in the world, dropped by more than a quarter from 2010 to 2011.

The biggest reductions in basic education were made by Canada, the Netherlands and the World Bank (IDA), which cut their contributions to the region by over one-third.

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