Education is a human right and a fulfilling experience that helps girls and boys reach their full potential in society. However, millions of children in Africa are still out of school, a majority of them being girls. Education for All (EFA) and the education targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were put in place specifically to address concerns linked to education and development.
Despite this, gender inequalities in education persist in Sub-Saharan Africa to the detriment of girls. This is evidenced by disparities in access to school as well as in enrolment, retention, completion and performance rates. These disparities point to structural and systemic gender inequality which is partly reflected in education, as was reported by The State of the World’s Children (2007).
The EFA Global Monitoring Report 2009 found that in many countries, disparities based on wealth, location, gender, immigration or minority status, or disability deny millions of children a good quality education.
Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 47 percent of out-of-school children worldwide, with 54 percent of those children being girls. In 2006, 35 million children were not enrolled in school. This is almost one third of the school-age population.
In 2008, specifically in primary schools, Sub-Saharan Africa had yet to achieve gender parity. Gender disparities were largest in rural areas and among poor households. In secondary school, only 30 percent of boys and 25 percent of girls were enrolled. Redressing this situation demands serious investment in getting more children, both boys and girls, to secondary school and achieving gender parity.
Female students constitute less than two-fifths of the population in tertiary education in Sub-Saharan Africa, with only 38 percent of females having enrolled in tertiary education in 2005.
Furthermore, female students tend to be concentrated in Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, with a weaker presence in scientific and technological subjects. In 2005, female students constituted a mere 40 percent of total enrolment in Sub-Saharan Africa in technical and vocational education.
While much progress has been made over the past ten years in rectifying gender imbalances in education and development in sub-Saharan Africa, socio-cultural, economic and political challenges nevertheless still constitute barriers to girls’ education in the region. FAWE seeks to address this through its advocacy and intervention work that aims to create conditions for the elimination of gender disparities and to promote girls’ education and development.