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Reimagining Education for All in Africa

At current rates, about 20% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa will still be excluded from schooling in 2030. But, besides seeking to expand access to education, policymakers should contextualize, simplify, and democratize school curricula and teaching methods.

KAMPALA – International concerns over the state of education in Africa center on the large number of children who are out of school – currently about one-third of the global total. But while expanding access to education on the continent must clearly remain a priority, policymakers should also pay much closer attention to what and how children learn.

Today, even the many African children in school experience problems. In Sub-Saharan Africa, up to 40% leave primary school without basic skills. The many over-age children within the system are more likely to drop out overall. And girls and the very poorest children fare the worst on international comparisons of educational performance. The Africa Learning Barometer reports, for instance, that “in Malawi, 52% of girls are not learning basic competencies at the end of primary school compared to 44% of boys,” and that “in Botswana, 7% of the wealthy are not learning compared to 30% of the poor.”

Moreover, Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s fastest-growing school-age population. At current rates, about 20% of children in the region will still be excluded from schooling in 2030, the quality of education will decline further, and the proportion of qualified teachers will likely continue to fall, as it has for the last two decades. On top of all this, disruptions caused by COVID-19 have fueled fears that many children who have had to stay out of school may never return.