Ten facts about education in Sub-Saharan Africa
16 September 2019
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics (UIS) regularly measures and reports on the progress of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4: education for all by 2030) across eight UIS regions—nine if you include ‘world’.
Africa is split into two regions by UIS, these being Sub-Saharan Africa and Northern Africa and Western Asia.
A September 2019 release revealed the following about the status of education in Sub-Saharan Africa:
1. Of all the regions in the world, Sub-Saharan Africa has the worst rate of education exclusion—more than one-fifth of children aged 6-11 are out of school, followed by one-third of youth between 11-14 (UNESCO)
2. Girls are more likely to be out-of-school at primary school age than boys, at 21.4% and 16.3% respectively (UNESCO; Table 1)
3. This rises to 33.6% of girls and 28.9% boys who are out-of-school, when you combine measurements across primary, lower-secondary and secondary education (UNESCO; Figure 4)
4. Twenty percent of children in Sub-Saharan Africa Are “unlikely to ever enter school,” on par in percentage terms with the global figure. It is exceeded by Southern Asia at 28% but in absolute terms, there are 12.5 million (one in four) who will never enter school in Southern Asia, compared to 32.2 million (one in five) in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNESCO; Figure 7)
Other sources have been used to round off our ten facts:
5. A total of 6.3 million new teachers are needed in Sub-Saharan Africa to achieve universal primary education by 2030 or SDG4—2.4 million new teachers, and 3.9 million replacement teachers (UIS Factsheet, October 2016; Figure 3) the biggest total of any region, from a global total of 24.5 million (Ibid; Annex 1)
6. Approximately one-in-three primary schools do not have toilets in Sub-Saharan Africa—one contributing factor to the absence of girls from school (UNESCO Information Paper; October 2016)
7. Half of primary schools have no access to drinking water (Ibid)
8. The vast majority of schools have no access to electricity — ranging from 6% with no electricity in Swaziland to 100% in the Central African Republic (Ibid)
9. The literacy rate for both sexes in Sub-Saharan Africa, aged 15-24 is 76.78%, compared to a global average of 91.67%—the lowest of any region (UIS data; 2018)
10. Just 46% of primary school teachers in Sub-Saharan Africa are female, compared to a global average of 66%—the lowest of any region (UIS data; 2018)
UNESCO has recognised that, “Without urgent action, massive teacher shortages across Sub-Saharan Africa will get worse with the rising demand for education from a growing school-age population.” With a rising population, training new teachers and replacing retiring teachers must remain the primary focus for the region, alongside increasing quality and improving gender equality.