Promoting Girls’ Right to Learn in West and Central Africa

Due to global commitments to eliminate gender disparities in education over the past few decades, more girls than ever now have access to education at all levels. However, in West and Central Africa, gender inequality in education remains the highest in the world. 28 million girls (of primary and secondary school age) have no access to education. Either they have never been enrolled, or they dropped out prematurely. In Mauritania and Niger, almost half of girls enrolled in primary school don’t make the transition into secondary school. On average for every 100 boys entering secondary school in the region, only 76 girls are enrolled. Girls attending school perform poorly due to low education quality, gender-biased teaching methods, and lack of home support. In francophone West and Central Africa, only 2.8% of girls from the poorest 40 percent complete primary school with sufficient competency in mathematics and reading. Factors contributing to low participation, performance and completion rates for girls are, among others, unequal gender norms, school-related gender-based violence, early pregnancy, child marriage, and poverty.

Sustainable Development Goal 4, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25) all attach great importance to the achievement of gender equality in education. They acknowledge that educating girls means addressing their fundamental right to develop their full potential and become active, fully recognised citizens. Additionally, girls’ education is one of the most rewarding investments in a country’s social and economic development, impacting on a range of issues such as health, employment, social transformations and political stability. This is why coordinated measures have to be taken to guarantee that girls in West and Central Africa can access quality education to the same extent as their peers in the rest of the world.

Published 2017-12-19

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