Delegates at a conference in Mauritius in December 2003, organized by ADEA, heard that less than a third of young Africans acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for the successful completion of primary school. A paper presented by ADEA's education specialist, Adriaan Verspoor, for the conference notes: "Poor quality instruction is very likely the strongest explanation for the failure of students to acquire the expected knowledge and skills and pass examinations."
Primary schools are unable to meet enrolment targets, dropout and non-completion rates are still high, and performance and learning quality is often poor. In some entire countries girls continue to have low participation rates, which shows that schools by themselves cannot solve the gender issue. There is a need for more creative and innovative ways of providing educational opportunities for the underprivileged, the poor and the excluded.
The World Bank's commitment to universal primary education dates back to its 1980 Education Sector Policy Paper, which emphasized for the first time the relatively high rates of return to primary education (World Bank 1980). The Bank's 1990 policy paper, Primary Education, portrayed primary education as the foundation of a country's human capital development (World Bank 1990).
In 2002, developing countries, donors, and other development partners also created a global partnership, the Education For All-Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) to specifically translate these international commitments into action on the ground in support of the EFA and Millennium Development goals of complete, quality, primary education for all children. As a result of these efforts, the World Bank's 2006 Global Monitoring Report concludes that since 2000, the number of countries that have either achieved, or on track to achieve, universal primary completion increased significantly, and that faster rates of progress are observed in countries that have joined the EFA-FTI. These achievements, however, have placed great stress on school infrastructure.
The Unesco report emphasises how the global divide between rich and poor countries is mirrored within countries. Children in the poorest fifth of the population of Ethiopia, for example, are three times less likely to be in school than the children of the richest fifth. Inequitable education policies end up entrenching other inequalities.
Recent studies by UNICEF (2001), UNESCO (2003), Oxfam International (2002), the Global Campaign for Education (2003), and the World Bank (Sperling 2003) estimate that putting every child in the world in a good-quality primary school would cost $7–$17 billion a year. The range of estimates is huge, but even the high estimate probably understates the full costs of the expansion, quality gains, and special programs, including subsidies to poor households, that are critical if all children are to complete primary school. These estimates also omit the cost of some expansion of opportunities for post-primary schooling, without which it is unlikely that all parents will see the value of having their children complete primary school.
Convincing parents to send their children to school is one thing, but keeping the children in school long enough to graduate is another. Of those enrolled, about 6% were unable to complete the 2010 school year. The reasons for dropping out vary, but the root cause is the same – poverty. A lack of motivation on the part of parents also plays a big role. Mateo says: "Education is not a priority for many of them so if there is an opportunity to earn money, they lose interest in studying."
Development aid experts say Ethiopia has devoted as much as one quarter of all public expenditures to schools during the past few years. This commitment is prompting international donors to pump in an estimated $150 million a year to support the effort.
An estimated 110 million children—60% of them girls—between the ages of 6 and 11 will not see the inside of a classroom this year. Another 150 million are likely to drop out before completing primary school.
More than half of all girls in sub-Saharan Africa do not complete primary school, and only 17% are enrolled in secondary school.
In the midst of our increasingly interconnected world and knowledge-based economy, there are 67 million primary school age children who are not in school, along with an even greater number of adolescents. Millions more start school but drop out before gaining the basic literacy and numeracy skills required to escape poverty.
Public school enrolment in the most deprived districts and nationwide soared from 4.2 million to 5.4 million between 2004 and 2005.
In sub-Saharan Africa, school fees consume nearly a quarter of a poor family's income, paying not only for tuition, but also indirect fees such as Parent-Teacher Association and community contributions, textbook fees, compulsory uniforms and other charges. Fees are keeping school children out of the classrooms.