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Two African Women Beat the Education Odds

Ageta Ayako grew up in one of the poorest sections of Nairobi, Kenya. She is the first in her family to graduate from university.

Ageta Ayako grew up in one of the poorest sections of Nairobi, Kenya. She is the first in her family to graduate from university.

It’s back to a new school year for children throughout much of the world this month. In many countries in Africa, students lucky enough to attend school are in the middle of their academic year or have recently graduated. Ageta Ayako is one of the lucky ones. She graduated with honors earlier this summer from a Kenyan university. Another is Barikisu Muntari-Sumara, who graduated in late June from Ashesi University in Ghana.

Both women beat the odds.

A 2015 report by UNESCO provides the latest look at school enrollments and education levels throughout the world as of 2012. Although world student enrollments increased overall in the dozen years covered, enrollment rates in Sub Saharan Africa remained disappointing.

Thirty million primary-school-age children in Sub Saharan Africa were not enrolled in school in 2012. This represented half of all the children not enrolled in primary school throughout the world, according to UNESCO, the United Nations agency focused on education, science and culture.

The report notes that the world’s poorest children are four times more likely not to attend school than the world’s richest children. If they do go to school, they are five times more likely to drop out before finishing. It also finds that most countries in Sub Saharan Africa failed to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education during the review period.

Barikisu Muntari-Sumara, who resisted pressure to marry at 13, graduated with a degree in Business Administration from Ashesi University.

Barikisu Muntari-Sumara, who resisted pressure to marry at 13, graduated with a degree in Business Administration from Ashesi University in Ghana.

These numbers highlight why Ageta and Barikisu’s success stories are so remarkable.

Ageta grew up in the slums of Nairobi and attended St. Philips Primary School, which receives support from African Childrens Haven, an Aid for Africa member. Ageta received scholarships to attend high school. When she earned admission to a Kenyan university, she took out loans to finance her studies. Today she has a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Technology.

Barikisu resisted being married off at age 13. She became a street hawker to pay for high school and then received a scholarship to attend Ashesi University in Ghana. Ashesi University Foundation is an Aid for Africa member. Barikisu graduated with a degree in Business Administration.

Aid for Africa and its member organizations believe that education is key to Africa’s future. More than 60 of our 85 members include education in their missions. Two dozen provide scholarships to students—half of them exclusively to girls and young women.

Despite obstacles of poverty and gender, Ageta and Barikisu are university graduates. Their astonishing stories underscore the importance of supporting education in Sub Saharan Africa and the need to reduce the odds of students achieving their educational dreams.

Learn more about our member organizations that support education in Sub Saharan Africa. Learn more about the importance of educating girls in Africa.