Lack of strong government systems is a second contributor to under-achievement in education. Nigeria, so rich in natural resources and people, but weak in governance, accounts for almost a quarter of the continent’s out-of-school children. Somalia has lacked a functioning central government for nearly a quarter of a century and fewer than half of school-aged children are in education.
A third factor was set out in a compelling 2004 study by Princeton University, which found that orphaned children are much less likely to be enrolled in school: the death of the mother is the biggest predictor of the fortunes of the child. In Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, a belt particularly hard hit by HIV and Aids, nearly 15 percent of all children under the age of 15 had lost one or both parents at the time of the study, and more than 20 percent of 15-year-old children were orphans.
For many of these children, the death of their parents leads to a life on the streets and AET has a programme in Uganda to provide street children with a route into school. This means preparing the children for formal schooling educationally and socially, as well as working with the schools to overcome the stigma that excludes.
But if some of the answer lies within Africa, a big part of it also rests with the international community, which willed the goal of universal primary education in grandiose style, but then failed to provide the means to achieve it. The current stalling of progress in getting children into school is matched by a stalling in the level of aid provided for primary education.
Figures provided by Unesco show that at every level donor investment in education is failing. It’s falling behind support for other sectors, especially health, and it’s also failing to reach the most needy countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, with only a third of overseas development assistance going to the poorest countries. So the Democratic Republic of Congo gets less than $10 a year towards the cost of educating each child, one of the lowest figures in the world, and a reflection of the risk aversion felt by the international community of providing aid for people living in conflict states. Yet education is the bridge from humanitarian to development assistance. The risk to a rich world of losing money educating Congolese children is far less than the risk of having a generation of children grow up without the skills needed to take their place in a post-conflict DRC.
The Africa Educational Trust is a specialist organisation that believes supporting quality education is key for changing individuals, communities and countries for the better. It operates projects across four countries in East Africa that encompass teacher training, support for young female students, the provision of lending libraries and mentoring services. Find out more at http://africaeducationaltrust.org/