India, Nigeria, and Pakistan are the top three countries with the highest numbers of the 244 million out-of-school children in the world, according to new estimates by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).
Of particular interest is the fact that the figure appears to be increasing in sub-Saharan Africa as it trends downwards in the rest of the world. In addition to Nigeria where there are now over 20 million out-of-school children, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan are in the unflattering top 10 with China, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.
“Since 2009, the out-of-school population has increased by 20 million, reaching 98 million in 2021,” the report says of sub-Saharan Africa.
Children between the ages of 12 and 14 (for lower secondary school) and 15 and 17 (for upper secondary school) are most affected with the absolute numbers for both categories increasing over the last two decades.
In the only bit of good news for Africa, more children seem to be in primary school than in years before. Still, sub-Saharan Africa is also one of three regions where there are more females than males out of school, the other two being Oceania, and Northern Africa and Western Asia.
Conflict and political turmoil in various parts of Africa have helped limit opportunities for parents to send children to school. In Nigeria, the Boko Haram problem has particularly affected female children enrollment in schools with the group’s targeted abductions.