By Claudia Costin, Senior Director for Education at the World Bank, Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and Karen Mundy, Chief Technical Officer at the Global Partnership for Education.
On International Women’s Day, let’s remember the challenges girls face in education
A girl in school in Kenya. Credit: James Otieno/UNESCO EFA Report
What would your life be like with only five years of schooling? For many girls around the world, this is the most education they can expect and they are the lucky ones. Across Africa, 28 million girls between the ages of about 6 and 15 are not in school and many will never even set foot in a classroom.
Sunday is International Women’s Day, an occasion to celebrate the tremendous progress achieved in securing access to a basic education for girls in the poorest countries. But for us, it is also a stark reminder of the millions of girls who are being left behind.
We live in a world where violent extremists are bent on destroying the lives of school girls, their families and communities. And beyond the horror, we see the daily grind of poverty forcing girls to sacrifice their right to education and hope for a better life.
We know educating girls means a world of more educated women who tend to be healthier, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their own children, all of which can lift households out of poverty.
Breaking down the barriers is a joint effort
Our respective organizations are committed to getting all children in school and learning and much progress has been made over the past 15 years, especially on attainment. Examples include Uganda’s free universal secondary education policy (the first in sub-Saharan Africa) and Ghana’s capitation grants. However, at a global level, while the share of children out of primary school has fallen from 15% to 9% since 2000, little progress has been achieved since 2007.
No single organization can break down the complex barriers facing girls, especially in Africa. As part of our collective effort, we are supporting the work of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) to produce the data needed to make a difference in the lives of girls across the continent. Together, we are driving a data revolution in education to ensure that countries collect and use more relevant data.
Image taken from new UIS data tool. Click to view.
The UIS has developed a new data tool, entitled Left Behind – Girls’ Education in Africa, which illustrates the progress to date as well as the enormous challenges ahead as the international community crafts a new set of global education targets. To what extent are girls enrolling in school compared to boys? Which countries and regions have made the greatest progress in reducing the gender gap in primary and lower secondary education? And what kinds of classroom conditions are shaping the learning experiences of African girls across the continent? These issues, and others, are addressed in this interactive tool, which is automatically updated with the latest available data.
For example, we know that poverty is the biggest barrier to a girl’s education. But if she lives in a rural area, belongs to an ethnic minority, or is caught up in a conflict zone, the odds against her accumulate. If a girl has not started primary school by age 10, chances are she never will go to school in countries like Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Senegal.