Sub-Saharan Africa pushing for universal education, but faces challenges

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According to the Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report, the number of children enrolled in primary schools in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by 75 percent to 144 million in 2012.
However, 30 million children remain out of school in the region. Corruption, conflict, climate change and poverty have hampered progress in many countries. Amongst challenges, some countries have made remarkable progress since 2000. Progress is especially notable among those who focused on helping the poorest with initiatives including abolishing school fees, providing school uniforms, meals and books.
The report says some countries including Ethiopia have halved the percentage of children who had never been to school.
Having a strong commitment to universalizing education, Ethiopia has achieved progress on several indicators of primary schooling such as reducing gender and income disparities in school access, net enrolment ratios and primary attainment rates.
The report highlights that in the year 2000, at least 20 percent of children did not attend school in Ethiopia. But, the country has halved that number by 2010 showing huge move forward in achieving universal access to education.
The continuous increase in enrolment is attributed to several driving forces but mainly the abolition of school fees. The report says that “the step taken to abolish school fees has had a strong positive impact on enrolment in the years after its implementation confirming that school fees are a cost that deters access.”
The positive effects of free education has been seen in countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda, all of them experiencing increased enrolment.
The issue of addressing the education needs of the pastoralist population has also been highlighted in the report that underlines the need for flexible learning frameworks. “Since 2000, the visibility of this issue has increased in countries with substantial pastoralist populations. Support for flexible learning frameworks, which offer students choices of when, where and how they learn, has been significant from international agencies and governments,” it reads.
With that taken into consideration, Nomad-specific education plans have emerged in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.
Looking at the issue of closing gender gap, several measures taken in Ethiopia and other countries have contributed to positive outcomes. For example, “In Ethiopia and Senegal, education policies targeting girls supported progress to reduce the gender gap between the poorest girls and boys, although large numbers of both still missed out on school,” the report reads.
To promote the closing of gender gap in education, countries like Ethiopia have integrated a gender perspective into national education plans, strategic plans or policies, including the promotion of girls’ right to education and targeted responses to girls’ low enrolment.
Despite some of the positive registries from different countries, as a region, sub-Saharan Africa has and continues to face many challenges in achieving education for all. Some of these challenges include fast growing population and conflict. The fast economic growth rate registered by the region also has not led to a significant reduction in poverty, which remains a major barrier to education.
The Education For All report made several recommendations that can widen education coverage such as the need for governments to make at least one year of pre-primary education compulsory. It also suggests that all countries should ratify and implement international conventions on the minimum age for employment; literacy policies should link up with community needs; gender disparities at all levels must be reduced.
Calling on the international community, the report also recommends establishing partnerships with countries in order to find the means to bridge the USD 22 billion annual finance gap for quality pre-primary and basic education for all by 2030.