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Eliminating the Obstacles Keeping African Children Out of School

Angolan students outside a school built by RISE International and their partners.

This September throughout the United States, school-age children picked up their books and lunch money and headed off to school. They look forward to doing that every year through their time in high school and, for many, through college. Children of Africa are not so fortunate. Of the 68 million children worldwide not enrolled in school, almost half – 32 million – live in Sub Saharan Africa.

There has been progress in raising enrollments, largely due to the elimination of school fees in many African countries. Between 1999 and 2009, the percentage of children enrolled in elementary school in Sub Saharan African increased from 58 to 76 percent (for the developing world as a whole it was 89 percent).

But once a student enrolls in school in Africa, staying in school becomes the challenge.  High poverty rates often lead families to pressure children to work instead of attending school – especially as they get older. Health problems caused by poor nutrition, waterborne diseases, malaria and HIV/Aids lead to students dropping out of school.  A shortage of classrooms and qualified teachers present additional obstacles. As a result, today more than 30 percent of primary school students in Sub Saharan Africa drop out before completing elementary school.

Aid for Africa members are helping poor students go to school and stay in school. Arlington Academy of Hope has created a school in rural Uganda that uses the US approach to education, which focuses on a child’s self worth as a path to achievement.  The organization tackles health concerns by operating two community clinics linked to the school in partnership with Aid for Africa member the  Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children. Nearly all of the Academy’s more than 300 students advance to high school.

In rural Angola, where years of civil war have led to a shortage of classrooms and facilities, RISE International partners with local churches and government officials to build schools. Since 2003 they have built 135 schools and provided the opportunity for over 60,000 students to attend.

For older students, attending high-school usually means paying fees they cannot afford. As a result, Sub Saharan Africa has the lowest percentage of high school graduates in the world – 30 percent in 2007. To address this need the Kenya Education Fund recruits individuals and families from around the world to sponsor Kenyan students and pay their annual $600 tuition.

To learn more about all of our members working to improve education in Sub Saharan Africa visit members that work in education.