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Why 30 Million African Kids Aren’t in School

According to two U.N. agencies, progress getting African kids to primary school has faltered. Around 30 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa have been kept from the classroom due t0 a combination of conflict and poverty, and international aid must be increased if the region hopes to get more kids a primary education.

In 1999, UNICEF reported 106 million kids were out of school globally, and since then the U.N. Millennium Development goals have made childhood education a priority. Since the implementation of this push by the U.N., the number of kids kept from the classroom dropped to 60 million.

However, “declining international aid since the global financial crisis and an increase in conflicts have hindered efforts,” says Yumiko Yokozeki, a regional education adviser for UNICEF in West and Central Africa.

Household surveys reveal that more than 23 million kids in West and Central Africa who should be in primary school are not. Surveys in eastern and southern Africa report 19 million kids lacking a primary education.

Schools are closing due to threats from violence and out of safety concerns for the children. In particularly conflict-ridden areas, like the Central African Republic, families are fleeing their homes in fear.

Dangerous episodes in schools, such as the hundred of Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram while taking exams, further discourage families from sending their children to get an education.

Conflict isn’t the only thing keeping children out of school. Poverty continues to be the driving force behind kids dropping out. Children who have to work to support their families and themselves are much less likely to attend school, because getting food on the table is a higher priority than getting an education.

Any progress made in countries like Mali and Burkina Faso is difficult to maintain. Military coups bring chaos and instability, and education programs are difficult to maintain as well. In order to keep children in school, governments must commit more money to education budgets. This money is used to pay teachers, purchase classroom materials and reduce the burden of fees on families. In addition to these monetary necessities, grassroots efforts are required to “convince parents that education is accessible and worth it.”

Although help from agencies like the U.N. spurred an increase in support for primary education, the fact remains that one out of every five kids in sub-Saharan Africa who should be in primary school is not. Without increased aid from foreign countries like the United States, this number could easily rise.

 — Grace Flaherty

Sources: web.worldbank.org, nytimes.com, flickr.com