Sub-Saharan Africa ‘very far’ from achieving EFA goals, by UNESCO

Shekarau

Shekarau

Not only has Nigeria and sub-Saharan African countries failed to achieve the 2015 “Education for All” (EFA) goals, indeed they are very far from achieving them, so says the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, a specialised agency of the United Nations.

In fact, globally, just one third of countries have achieved all of the measurable EFA goals set in 2000. None achieved them in sub-Saharan Africa; and only seven countries in the region achieved even the most watched goal of universal primary enrolment. Sixteen of the twenty lowest ranked countries in progress towards EFA are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Director, Global Monitoring Report (GMR), Aaron Benavot, in giving insights to this untoward development said sub-Saharan Africa has been bogged down by a litany of woes, which have prevented it from making the much desired progress. “Sub-Saharan Africa has faced many challenges in achieving Education for All.

These include the effects of climate change, a fast growing population and protracted armed conflict. Economic growth in the region has not yet led to a significant reduction in poverty, which remains a major barrier to education.” He added,“Nevertheless countries in the region have made serious commitments—financial and otherwise – to expand education opportunity and improve the quality of education.

Governments must find ways, together with international partners, to mobilise new resources to quicken the pace of change in the years to come.”

The recently released 2015 EFA report: “Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges,” found that the number of children enrolled in primary school in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 75 per cent to 144 million in 2012.

However, 30 million children remain out of school in the region.  Corruption, conflict, climate change and poverty are some of the factors hampering progress in many countries. According to UNESCO’s Communications and Advocacy specialist, EFA Global Monitoring Report, Kate Redman, “Nigeria now has more children out of school than when the global goals were set.

Inefficient public spending saw the loss of $21 million of education funding leaving a shortfall of 220,000 primary school teachers. Niger not only failed to reach any of the goals but also has growing inequality, leaving the poorest far less likely to get a free education than they were in 2000.

South Africa and Cape Verde had both achieved Universal Primary Education in 1999, but have since moved away from the goal.  Chad ranks at the bottom of the Education Development Index with less than 70 per cent of children enrolled in primary school. However, Redman said 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.

Burundi, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and the United Republic of Tanzania more than halved the percentage of children who had never been to school. South Africa, she added, reduced its adult illiteracy rates by two-thirds. Equatorial Guinea had fewer than four girls to boys in primary school in 2000, but has now achieved gender parity.

Ghana had pre-primary enrolment rates of only 47 per cent in 1999, but now provides universal access at that level. As part of its recommendation, the 2015 GMR urges all governments to make at least one year of pre-primary education compulsory.

Education must be free: fees for tuition should be abolished; costs for textbooks, school uniforms and transport should be covered. Policy makers should prioritise skills to be acquired by the end of each stage of schooling. 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.   It also recommends that programmes and funding should be targeted to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged. There should be more emphasis on gender equality, including through teacher education and safe school environments.

Governments should close critical data gaps in order to be able to direct resources to those marginalised groups most in need.

Looking ahead beyond 2015, it suggested that countries should ensure that all children and adolescents complete pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education by 2030.

Governments should significantly expand adult learning and education opportunities. The education sector should collaborate closely with other sectors at the national and global levels to improve sustainable development prospects.

“Sub-Saharan Africa has faced many challenges in achieving Education for All. These include the effects of climate change, a fast growing population and protracted armed conflict. Economic growth in the region has not yet led to a significant reduction in poverty, which remains a major barrier to education.”

In addition to this, the international community, in partnership with countries, is urged to find the means to bridge the $22 billion annual finance gap for quality pre-primary and basic education for all by 2030.

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