Education is one of the surest ways to improve life in West Africa. Without even a primary education, children are likely to remain impoverished for the rest of their lives. This Fund will remove that hurdle for thousands of children, while helping their parents to see the importance of prioritizing education
Many million school-age children in west africa are working instead of going to classes. In addition to facing a lifetime of poverty, uneducated children are vulnerable to being trafficked to neighboring countries, where they are forced into labor. But knowing how to read, write and do basic arithmetic empowers youth to make healthy, informed choices. Educated West African girls are less likely to be married before their teen years, undergo female genital mutilation, experience an unwanted pregnancy or contract HIV.
Early childhood care and education (ECCE) remains a luxury for most African children. Although the pre-primary gross enrolment ratio has generally improved since the beginning of the 1990s, the majority of African countries have very low pre-primary enrolment of less than 10 per cent. However, gross enrolment levels vary greatly in the region, from 90 per cent in Mauritius to less than 1 per cent in Democratic Republic of Congo and Djibouti. In most African countries early childhood care and education is often provided by private institutions and is concentrated in urban and wealthy areas, where parents can afford the costs and tend to be more aware of its benefits.
Africa faces many obstacles in its efforts to improve early childhood education, such as a lack of resources, inequitable access to services, the absence or insufficiency of mechanisms to ensure quality in training and provision, and the low status of early childhood education personnel. Poverty, conflicts and prevalence of HIV/AIDS make the region particularly vulnerable and obstruct the building of a sustainable, quality early childhood provision. However, African governments are increasingly attempting to mobilize private, voluntary and community-based partners to promote and strengthen early childhood education.
Forty percent of school-aged children in Africa do not attend primary school and 36 million African children have never stepped foot in a classroom. To cope with the growing demand for primary education African countries need to dramatically increase the capacity of their school systems. In 1987, there were 73 million children in school; in 2011, the figure had increased to 106 million. To meet the goal of universal primary education by 2015, nearly 150 million children need to find a place in school. At current trends almost half of countries in the region are unlikely to attain this goal.
The quality of education remains a major challenge and repetition and drop-out rates are high. More than one student in ten repeats at least one grade in primary school in more than half of all countries in sub-Saharan Africa. And many studies show that repeaters do not learn from duplication and either keep on repeating or drop out before having acquired basic learning skills. Today nearly 40 million African children are out of school, and the majority of them are girls.
In Africa, thirty percent percent of school-aged children, mostly girls, do not attend primary school. Our goal is to help every child has access to a quality basic education. To achieve the goal of improving basic education in Africa, We will provide scholarships for African children, train new and existing teachers; and seek partnerships between minority serving institutions in Europe and African institutions to provide textbooks and other learning tools for children in Africa.
Strengthening parent and community support in children's education and HIV/AIDS awareness and mitigation are cross-cutting themes. We will support new components to enhance the current activities, including: outreach to marginalized populations, such as orphans and vulnerable children, out-of-school youth and Muslims; rehabilitation of schools, mainly in areas recovering from conflict; and the use of technologies as a new cross-cutting theme. Over its life, million African children will benefit from our outreach.
We are looking for funds which will design and implement a program in Africa that would minimize the out-of-pocket costs of schooling, especially for the most needy children and families, while at the same time increasing the quality of teaching and learning in the schools. The program will focus on responsibly reducing school fees at the local level while increasing access, equity and quality of education.
As much as we are able to secure funding support we will aim at increasing resources at the school level while minimizing private costs of schooling that still exist, especially for the most disadvantaged children, and improving the quality of learning.
Both programs focus not just on getting children into school, but keeping them there and ensuring that they are learning. This Fund will also equip out-of-school children ages 8 to 12 to pass public-school entrance exams so they can continue their education.