Educational Challenges in Cape Verde: Navigating the Problems of a Developing Educational System

Written by Joan Vilalta Flo

Cape Verde is a country located 500 kilometers away from the coast of Senegal, Africa. It is an archipelago of ten islands, most of which are inhabited, with most of the population concentrating in the capital Praia. The official language is Portuguese, given that it is a former Portuguese colony that obtained its independence in 1975, many speak Cape-Verdean Creole as their main language. It is a country placed in a challenging geographical setting: its fragmented territory makes the provision of services complicated, it is an area prone to draught and there are few natural resources to benefit from. However, Cape Verde has been praised worldwide for its salient political stability and poverty reduction strategies, which has also enabled improvements in service provision, including that of education.

Children line up in a school in Cape Verde. Photo by Duncan CV in Wikimedia Commons.

The most recent improvements in Cape Verdean education have been made thanks to the 2017-2021 Strategic Education Plan, aiming at accomplishing the 4th SDG of Quality Education, and focused on the following pillars: (i) universal access to pre-primary education for all children aged 4 to 5 years, including those with special needs; (ii) better articulation of pre-primary education with basic education so that all students receive two years of pre-primary education; and (iii) equal access to free universal education up to Grade 8 through the implementation of social action plans for schools, targeting priority groups and providing special education for all.i

Hence, Cape Verde has progressively improved access to primary and secondary education. The schooling rate scored 92.4% in 2021, and the literacy rate reached a 88.5% in 2019, with most over 15-years-old knowing how to read and write.ii Government expenditure on education shifted from 23.3% of the total budget in 2020 to 24.09% in 2021.iii In terms of infrastructure, 97.6% of elementary and secondary schools in Cape Verde have access to water, and 89% are connected to the public electricity grid.The 2017-2021 Strategic Education Plan allowed for the implementation of education enhancement programs such as Education of Excellence, to which some 93.2 million US$ were allocated in 2020; while 6.4 million US$ were allocated to scholarships.iv

The Covid-19 pandemic caused much struggle to the tourism-centered economy of Cape Verde. However, the country was quite timely and effective in managing the crisis and providing vaccination to most of the population.v In the area of education, it also acted promptly. In 2020, Cape Verde received a grant of 750.000$ from the GPE (Global Partnership in Education) which substantially contributed to teacher training in distance teaching, provision of learning material, as well as TV access to remote areas, and sufficient sanitary After the closure of schools, the Ministry of education implemented the “Learning and Studying at Home” program, which enhanced lesson delivery through radio, television and the use of tablets, in view of the fact that 30% to 40% of the families did not have access to such technology. The program also allowed for the extension of the digital television coverage area and improved signal quality.vii Despite all of this, it should be noted that there is currently no evidence of the existence of a comprehensive strategy to adapt to the post-Covid19 context in Cape Verde.

It is worth mentioning that a significant development in Cape Verdean education is the recent ratification of the Convention Against Discrimination in Education by Cape Verde on the 5th of October 2022, which has entered into force on the 5th of January 2023. Although its effective application is yet to be seen, this action alone has fully implemented several recommendations made in the last United Nations Universal Periodic Review session.viii

Despite the previously mentioned developments in the Cape Verdean educational sector, several situations of inequality, discrimination, lack of educational infrastructure and quality education in education have been reported up to this point. These are the problems that the archipelago will need to face and solve in the years to come, and the following sections will outline the main areas that need to be targeted.

Inequalities in Education

Cape Verde currently faces a challenge regarding the hidden costs of education. Although Primary Education and Secondary Education (up to 8th grade) is free and mandatory,ix,there is a range of extra costs, including transportation, meals, or certain school material, that is significant for low-income families. This represents an inequality in access to quality education for poor families.x Moreover, secondary Education and Higher Education (university) remain subject to fees (although authorities have stated the intention to make education free from 9th to 12th grade),xi allowing for inequality based on the economic level of each family. This also intersects with the existing inequality between families who live in rural areas and families that live in urban spaces,xii where the former have less access due to general lower economic capacity, and lack of technology and internet connectivity due to its high cost (especially relevant during Covid-19).xiii

As regards Higher Education, although there have been great efforts to supply it widely, it must be noted that the schooling rate for the 2019-2020 period is of 23.5%, 37 points lower than that of secondary school, indicating an obstacle in its access.xiv One of the difficulties in this area is the geographical setting of Cape Verde; being an archipelago the mission of providing accessible higher education to all areas is deeply complex and has not been achieved. There are only Higher Education institutions in the islands of Santiago and São Vicente.xv This, together with the fact that Higher Education is not free, generates little incentive for students who live in remote areas and possess a low economic level to enter Higher Education.xvi

There is also inequality around language. While for most of the Cape Verdean population the first language is Cape Verdean Language (CVL), Portuguese is still the only official language as well as the schooling language. This continues to produce evident inequalities for students who have limited exposure to Portuguese, namely those who live in rural areas and remote locations, usually from low-income families too. Such students will have a learning disadvantage and increased difficulty when learning. Although some bilingual education programs have been reportedly launched, the implementation of such initiatives is insufficient, weak and lacks political and economic backup. This inequality is also representative of a disconnection between the formal education systems and society; policies directed at filling this gap will inevitably also contribute to identity building and social cohesion.xvii

Finally, despite the political will expressed in the Education Strategic Plan 2017–2021 to improve access and quality of education to disabled students (17,5% of the population have at least 1 handicap),xviii and increased staff capacitation aided by UNICEF,xix it has been reported that practical implementation of inclusive strategies for such students has been deficient. Many disabled people do not attend education and do not receive the necessary benefits in order to do so, and the infrastructures and educational technologies have not adapted to them for the most part.xx

Photo by Elizabeth Lizzie on Pexels.

Gender and Sexuality in Education

With respect to gender parity, good results have been achieved in preschool and primary education: the parity index scored 0.98 and 0.93 respectively, both cases showing a slightly higher male representation. However, the challenge remains in secondary and higher education levels where female representation is significantly and increasingly higher, the parity index scores 1.2 for secondary education and 1.5 for higher education. Incentives to attract males in those sectors is necessary to ensure equality.xxi And while there is a significantly higher female presence in secondary and higher education, the literacy rate for men in currently almost 10% higher than for women, which displays an access inequality for women too.xxii

Despite significant improvement through the introduction of a gender module in the secondary education curriculum, the curricula reportedly still contain discriminatory stereotypes towards women, which is also reflected in the fact that women are poorly represented in the fields of study typically dominated by men, such as in the technological field.xxiii Moreover, although gender matters are beginning to be present in the curricula, education on sexuality is deficient. It has been acknowledged as important for the development and safety of students by the government, and a Sexual Guidance in Schools guide has been developed with the aid of UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), but due to limited political will and the sensitivity of the topic, very few students have benefited from such education. A comprehensive module on sexuality education is yet to be implemented effectively.xxiv

It should be noted that the figure regarding minorities based on sexual orientation or gender identification in Cape Verde could not be found; and similarly, no mechanisms of protection of such minorities or education on the matter could be found. Despite it being a potentially sensitive topic that is now invisible to the sector, advances on this area could be positive to ensure that all students are free and enjoy equal treatment by peers and staff.

Deficiencies in Education

Firstly, there need to be improvements not only in the provision of Higher Education but also in the quality of it. Higher Education in Cape Verde is a relatively new sector emerged in the span of the last 20 years. Considering that it is still at its infancy, the sector lacks quality: although the newly formed Higher Education Regulatory Agency (Agência Reguladora do Ensino Superior – ARES) is beginning to conduct evaluations and checks in order to improve performance,xxv the sector still needs to build a comprehensive system of teaching quality evaluation, mechanisms to better align tertiary education content to the national goals and needs, and ensure access to educational material and technologies, as well as connectivity.xxvi

Secondly, although around 76% of children currently have access to preschool education, there are regional differences with areas that display even lower percentages. Early Childhood education and Preschool was formally one of the foci of the 2017-2021 Education Strategic Plan, but in practice it has been largely neglected. There still is a lack of adequate legal mechanisms to ensure universal preschool mandatory and free access, the preschool budget is around 0.3% of the state budget, and there is a lack of professional qualification of preschool teachers (only 30% have the necessary qualification).xxvii Moreover, technological access and tools have been notably missing in preschools, together with a lack of teacher training in ICT.xxviii

Thirdly, one of the most significant problems in Cape Verde’s education sector is the quality of the education, reflected in low performance rates in primary school. In the area of language, 6 out of every 10 children demonstrated great difficulty or inability to interpret the basic rules of functioning of languagexxix, and in the area of mathematics an average of only 2.85% of children were able to successfully deal with the main areas of Furthermore, Cape Verde still does not have to this date a comprehensive national system to measure learning outcomes at any level of education.xxxi

Regarding technological access, it should be noted that although most schools are connected to the public electricity grid, and that the 2017-2021 Strategic Education Plan has allowed for the incorporation of more technological tools and a stronger curriculum on ICT skills, only the 17% of schools have access to internet.xxxii This is even though Cabo Verde has one of the highest rates of internet access in Africa. The cost of internet is the problem, as it is among the highest is the world; it is still too high for many to obtain, especially for those with lower income, generating a situation of inequality as well.xxxiii

Conclusion and Recommendations

By way of conclusion, some recommendations highlighting the main challenges of the educational system in Cape Verde will be offered on behalf of Broken Chalk.

As regards the hidden costs of education, the government should try to reduce them by providing free (or low-cost) access to transportation, material, and nutritional services with special attention to low-income families and students who live in remote rural areas which might increase the economic cost of education.

Regarding educational coverage and universal provision, the government should act in accordance with their own stated intentions, and continue to extend free, accessible, and mandatory education to the preschool years and to higher education, with special attention to poor families. More specifically regarding Higher Education, it could be positive to generate incentive campaigns to increase the schooling rate, particularly for males; together with expanding the presence of higher education institutions to all territories or better ensuring affordable access to university from remote places.

It would be desirable to implement comprehensive national programs to overcome the inequality around language. Cabo Verdean Language should be significantly more present in all stages of education; particular attention should be paid to students with lower exposure to Portuguese to ensure they do not fall behind, and bilingual education initiatives should be enhanced through multidisciplinary teams that include local community members that understand the specific language needs of the area.

To promote greater inclusion, the government and educational entities should consider making education infrastructure, curricula, and staff more sensitive and adaptable to disabled or special needs students. Proper access to buildings, inclusive educational material and a comprehensive disability-oriented training module for all educators should be provided to ensure the access and equality of such students.

Also as regards inclusivity and equality, educational programs and policies should continue to ensure girls and women’s access to education at all levels to achieve greater equality in literacy rates, to continue to work towards the elimination of gender stereotypes and to incentivize the presence of women in male dominated study fields. Additionally, it could be positive to implement a comprehensive educational program in secondary school regarding sexuality to guarantee the safety and health of students and to eliminate diversity-damaging stereotypes on the basis of sexual orientation.

An effective way to improve the quality of education could be to implement a comprehensive national system of evaluation and assessment of teaching quality to ensure an adequate provision of content at all educational stages and to identify deficiencies in teaching quality, particularly in the area of language and mathematics in primary school. Together with proper evaluation and analysis of student performance, this could overcome ineffective modes of teaching that result in low performance, allow for educational innovation, and better align curricula to the needs and goals of Cape Verde’s society, better preparing students to face the labor market. Similarly, the government and educational institutions should continue ensuring that all teachers are qualified to provide adequate education to the level they are assigned to. This should be particularly applied to the preschool levels, where most teachers do not have the proper qualification, which could hinder the development of students.

Lastly, in view of recent events and in view of the future global developments, it is essential to ensure greater access to technological tools for educational purposes both for schools and families, as well as facilitating internet access. Again, this seems especially important considering the introduction of technologies in the global labor market, and it is also important to provide flexible and adaptable modes of education, particularly in a country where geographical accessibility to education might be complicated.


i Global Partnership for Education. (n.d.). Cabo Verde. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from:

ii National Directorate of Planning. (June 2021). Cabo Verde Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:

iii Global Partnership for Education. (2022). Cabo Verde: Results framework (2022-2026). Retrieved from:

iv National Directorate of Planning. (June 2021). Cabo Verde Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:

v World Bank. (2022, March 15). Fighting the pandemic down to the last mile: Lessons from Cabo Verde. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from:

vi Global Partnership for Education. (n.d.). Cabo Verde. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from:

vii Lusophone covid Lusophone Network. (2021). Comparative study: The COVID-19 pandemic and the right to education in Portuguese-speaking countries. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from:

viii UNESCO. (2022, October 7). Cabo Verde ratifies 1960 Convention against Discrimination in Education. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from

ix National Directorate of Planning. (June 2021). Cabo Verde Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:

x Bail, J. (2020, September 8). Cape Verde. Humanium. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from:

xi National Directorate of Planning. (June 2021). Cabo Verde Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:

xii Bail, J. (2020, September 8). Cape Verde. Humanium. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from:

xiii Patrício, M. R., & Moreno, C. (2021). Digital technologies in preschool education: a study with Cape Verdean educators. In Proceedings of the 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI2021) (pp. 8403-8407). IATED. ; Cabo Verde National Commission for UNESCO. (2022). National Review of the Implementation of SDG 4. Retrieved from:

xiv National Directorate of Planning. (June 2021). Cabo Verde Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:

xv Ferreira, E. S., & Loureiro, S. M. C. (2021). Challenges of a small insular developing state: Cape Verde. Revista de Estudios e Investigación en Psicología y Educación, (1), 125-134.

xvi Resende-Santos, J. (2021). Education for development in Africa: Rethinking higher education in Cabo Verde. Journal of International and Comparative Education, 10(1), 22-38. doi: 10.14425/jice.2021.10.1.22

xvii Bermingham, N., DePalma, R., & Oca, L. (2022). The “Access Paradox” in Bilingual Education in Cabo Verde. Modern Languages Open, 1 ; Bail, J. (2020, September 8). Cape Verde. Humanium. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from:

xviii National Directorate of Planning. (June 2021). Cabo Verde Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:

xix UNICEF Cabo Verde. (2022). Country Office Annual Report 2022. Retrieved from:

xx Bail, J. (2020, September 8). Cape Verde. Humanium. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from:

xxi National Directorate of Planning. (June 2021). Cabo Verde Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:

xxii Ibid

xxiii Bail, J. (2020, September 8). Cape Verde. Humanium. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from:

xxiv UNICEF. (2021). Joint independent common country programme evaluation: The Republic of Cabo Verde. UNICEF Evaluation Office. Retrieved from:

xxv University World News. (2022, November 27). Cabo Verde introduces new higher education strategy. Retrieved from:

xxvi Resende-Santos, J. (2021). Education for development in Africa: Rethinking higher education in Cabo Verde. Journal of International and Comparative Education, 10(1), 22-38. doi: 10.14425/jice.2021.10.1.22

xxvii Global Partnership for Education. (2022). Cabo Verde: Results framework (2022-2026). Retrieved from: ; Cabo Verde National Commission for UNESCO. (2022). National Review of the Implementation of SDG 4. Retrieved from: ; UNICEF Cabo Verde. (2022). Country Office Annual Report 2022. Retrieved from:

xxviii Patrício, M. R., & Moreno, C. (2021). Digital technologies in preschool education: a study with Cape Verdean educators. In Proceedings of the 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI2021) (pp. 8403-8407). IATED.

xxix National Directorate of Planning. (June 2021). Cabo Verde Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:

xxx UNICEF. (2021). Joint independent common country programme evaluation: The Republic of Cabo Verde. UNICEF Evaluation Office. Retrieved from:

xxxi Resende-Santos, J. (2021). Education for development in Africa: Rethinking higher education in Cabo Verde. Journal of International and Comparative Education, 10(1), 22-38. doi: 10.14425/jice.2021.10.1.22 ; Global Partnership for Education. (n.d.). Cabo Verde. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from:

xxxii National Directorate of Planning. (June 2021). Cabo Verde Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from: ; Cabo Verde National Commission for UNESCO. (2022). National Review of the Implementation of SDG 4. Retrieved from:

xxxiii Lusophone Network. (2021). Comparative study: The COVID-19 pandemic and the right to education in Portuguese-speaking countries. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from:

Female Genital Mutilation and its Effects on Education

Written by Juliana Campos, Nadia Annous and Maria Popova.

FGM, or the full-term Female Genital Mutilation is a practice performed on women and young girls involving removal or injury to the female genital organs. It is not performed for medical reasons, nor does it bring any health benefits. FGM is generally considered a human rights violation and a form of torture with long lasting effects on girls’ physical and mental health, often leading to early marriage and hindering girls’ access to education in over 30 countries worldwide. 

What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?

According to the World Health Organisation, FGM consists of total or partial removal of the external genitalia or injury to the female genital organs. There are four types of FGM: 

  • Partial or total removal of clitoral glands; 
  • Partial or total removal of clitoral glands and labia minora; 
  • Infibulation, which consists of narrowing the vaginal opening; 
  • All other harmful procedures to female genitalia for non-medical purposes. 

In total, it is estimated that over 200 million women have undergone this procedure worldwide. Currently, FGM is performed in over 30 countries around Africa, the Middle East and Asia, with most occurrences being registered in Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Egypt. Most victims of FGM fall between the age range of 0 to 15 years old.

FGC Types. “Classification of female genital mutilation”, World Health Organization, 2014.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Immediate and long-term complications

FGM has no health benefits, on the contrary, it can lead to a number of short and long-term complications to women. The adverse effects of the procedure are both physical and psychological, as FGM interferes with the natural functions of the female body and brings several damages to a healthy and normal genital tissue. Short-term health complications include excessive pain and bleeding, swelling, fever and infections. Oftentimes, the practitioners performing FGM use shared instruments, which leads to transmission of HIV and Hepatitis. Long-term complications include urinary and vaginal infections, pain during intercourse and complications during childbirth, especially in women who have undergone infibulation, as the sealed vagina is ripped open for intercourse and stitched back again after childbirth or widowhood. Neonatal mortality rates are also higher in places where FGM is practiced, as it can lead to increased risk of death for the baby.

How does FGM affect schooling? 

FGM has a direct effect on girls’ education, starting by the long period of recovery needed after the procedure. A full recovery can take up to several months, by the end of which girls may feel it is pointless to return to the same school year. The longer education is disrupted, the lower are the chances of a return to school and many girls end up taking on other responsibilities such as house chores or informal work instead.

Another effect on girls’ education caused by FGM is the increased social pressure for marriage. Especially in low-income households, marriage can mean better financial stability and higher social status. As a result, education is no longer a priority for these girls’ families, causing many FGM victims to enter early marriages, which may lead to early pregnancies, diminishing the chances of a return to school to near zero. 

Besides physical health complications, the psychological trauma caused by such an invasive and painful procedure, often performed without anaesthesia, may be paralysing for these girls, possibly leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, difficulties in socialisation and an overall impact on girls’ confidence. 

Why is FGM still practiced? 

There are different reasons as to why FGM remains such a common practice in certain regions, most of which reflect cultural or social factors. For instance, FGM is considered a requirement for women to be eligible for marriage, serving as “proof” that they have been kept “pure”. As a result, many families may feel as if they should conform to this practice in order to protect their daughters from social exclusion. In countries like Somalia where, according to UNICEF, 98% of girls between the ages of 5 and 11 have undergone FGM, not being part of that astonishing statistic can outcast these young girls from their communities.

Since the 1990’s, FGM has been the center of political debates as the international community and feminist groups press governments for a ban on this practice. However, besides guaranteeing social status, there is also a culture aspect behind FGM. It is seen as an honourable rite of passage, a way for these communities to connect to their ancestors and it creates a sense of belonging which can be difficult for outsiders to comprehend. 

As a result, local political leaders who are openly against FGM are accused of caving in to external pressure and reduce their chances of being elected, making it unlikely that there will be a change in laws before there is a change in these societies’ cultural mindsets. This is evidenced by the fact that FGM is still practiced in many countries where it is officially illegal, such as Egypt, Ghana, Senegal and Burkina Faso.

How can education help end FGM? 

Many girls are forced to undergo FGM at an age when they don’t understand the risks of the procedure. In fact, due to the alarmingly low literacy rates in some communities, it is likely that neither parents nor practitioners are able to make scientifically informed choices regarding these young girls’ health. It is evident, therefore, that education and access to information may be the strongest tools for prevention against Female Genital Mutilation.

Though information can be spread orally and not necessarily through formal education, taboos still hinder open discussions on female reproductive health. That is why it is important for healthcare professionals to educate local practitioners and parents in an accessible way. As education is also an empowering tool, it is crucial that girls are invited into these conversations and informed of their human right to make decisions over their own bodies.

What is being done to stop FGM?

Evidently, the process of educating people about the dangers of FGM must be done respectfully, by listening to these communities and understanding what this rite of passage means as a tradition. That is what NGOs such as the Association for the Promotion of Women in Gaoua (APFG) have done. APFG contributors in Burkina Faso have managed to persuade FGM practitioners to maintain the sacred rituals of the rite but leave out genital cutting. That way, girls are protected from the complications of FGM and the community’s tradition is kept. 

It is equally as important to support survivors all around the world, women who are still dealing with the long lasting physical and mental impacts caused by FGM. The NGO Terre de Femmes or TDF, a German organisation working on raising awareness against Female Genital Mutilation, works to protect and support FGM survivors in Europe, particularly in countries with the highest rates of affected individuals, namely France, Belgium, Italy, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. TDF also advocates against Female Genital Mutilation by writing petitions and increasing political pressure for countries to either ban FGM or ensure existing laws are upheld. 

In conclusion…

Female Genital Mutilation results in numeral short and long-term complications for women, including a significant disruption in girls’ education. It is an extremely dangerous practice affecting thousands of girls each year, girls who have been denied the basic human right to physical integrity. 

Still today, perhaps due to cultural stigmas around female reproductive health, FGM is not as openly discussed as other gender related issues and efforts to tackle its impacts are still insufficient. Educating practitioners, parents and girls themselves by providing information on the dangers of FGM is a powerful tool against this harmful procedure. Furthermore, it is crucial to take FGM’s social, political and cultural complexities into consideration and, most importantly, amplify FGM victims’ voices.


Cover Image by UN Women/Ryan Brown via Flickr

*Upon request, the article may be translated into other languages. Please use the comments section below*

Educational challenges in Niger

Written by Maria Popova.

Niger, a nation at the crossroads of West Africa, has recently commanded global attention for its intricate political climate. While the headlines often focus on the country’s political struggles, this article aims to delve into a critical issue that silently shapes the lives of its citizens—educational challenges. With a population nearing 27 million and a GDP largely dependent on agriculture, Niger faces a complex confluence of factors contributing to a dire state of education.

The World Bank’s stark revelation that over 10 million Nigeriens live in extreme poverty sets the stage for understanding the multifaceted hurdles obstructing the educational journey for its youth. From a fluctuating political climate and economic fragility to the struggles of child labor, early marriages, and pervasive poverty, the country grapples with a daunting array of obstacles.

Despite commendable governmental efforts, including free primary education and mandatory schooling, the persistently low literacy rates underscore a deeper, systemic crisis. This article navigates through the intricacies of Niger’s educational challenges, shedding light on the interplay of socio-economic dynamics, gender inequality, and regional violence that collectively form a barrier to the realization of quality education for the nation’s youth.

Niger is a country in Western Africa with a population reaching almost 27 million people in 2023, with the largest number of citizens located in its capital Niamey.[i] Niger’s GDP is estimated to 15 billion USD, which is largely due to poor diversification of its economy, with agriculture taking up 40%.[ii] According to the World Bank, more than 10 million people in Niger live in extreme poverty.[iii] Fluctuating political climate, poverty, bad economy, child labour and early marriages are all factors contributing to the educational challenges in the country.[iv] As a result, Niger is a country rating dangerously low with regards to quality of education with a literacy rate of 37.34% in 2021.[v]

Low school attendance

The poor state of the educational system in Niger is not evidence of lack of efforts by the government which has tried to pursue educational development throughout the years. For example, in the 2000s Niger made primary education free for students to encourage the number of children enrolling in educational institutions.[vi] Furthermore, schooling for children is mandatory until age 15, which is the end of the first cycle of secondary education.[vii] However, over 50% of children between the ages of 7 and 16 are not enrolled in schools.[viii] Pre-school enrolment rate marks only 7%, while secondary school enrolment rate is below 60%.[ix] Even for the children enrolled in educational facilities, there is a high chance of dropping out due to lack of retention stemming from poor quality of teaching, poverty, lack of infrastructure.[x]


Niger ranks at 189th out of 191 countries in United Nation’s Human Development reports and continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world according to UN’s Multidimensional Poverty Index.[xi] Violence and political instability also pose further difficulties when it comes to income opportunities.

The United Nations Food program estimates roughly 2 million people in Niger are food insecure with that number continuing to rise during lean season.[xii] Hunger poses a significant challenge to educational development. When children are not sure where their next meal will come from, their priority is not set on furthering their education, but rather on their survival. Children cannot be expected to retain focus on school when they are dealing with malnutrition. Furthermore, many parents make the decision to pull their children from school in order for them to work as for most families in rural areas, this is the only way to ensure the family’s survival.[xiii]


Since 2018 the region of Tillabéri has suffered massive attacks on civilian population as violence has overspilled from neighbouring conflicts in Mali and Burkina Faso.[xiv] The attacks led to civilian deaths as well as displacement of the population in the region.[xv] The uncertainty of the situation and the spread of violence has had negative impact on education in Niger.

According to the Norwegian Refugee Council 900 educational facilities have been closed due to the attacks.[xvi] Closed schools and displacement are not the only educational challenges stemming from the widespread violence. Due to the displacement many children have no access to essential documentation required for them to start school, such as birth certificates or other identification documents.[xvii] The violence also causes severe mental trauma to children, which can then affect their ability to learn and their focus in school.

Gender inequality

While access to education is a problem for most children in Niger, minority groups face disproportionate disadvantages when it comes to their education. Young girls, especially ones living in rural areas and ones with lower socio-economic status often face disproportionate challenges due to gender inequality. Only 4 out of 10 girls reach sixth grade in Niger, before being forced to drop out of school as a result of financial difficulties.

Another prominent issue which consequently leads to educational challenges among girls is child marriage. In Niger, marrying very young is often interpreted as a way to increase one’s economic and financial status and to secure inheritance.[xviii] Due to poverty, many families marry off their girls to wealthy men as a form of survival mechanism.[xix]

While child marriage is a problem for both young girls and boys, it is an issue more prevalent among girls. While only 6 percent of Nigerien boys are married before the age of 18, for girls that percentage is vastly higher at 76%.[xx] 28% percent of girls in Niger are married before the age of 15.[xxi] The issue is often exacerbated by gender norms, which perpetuate that women and girls’ role is to be mothers and wives.[xxii] Therefore, the focus for young girls in Niger is not on education, but rather on creating a family. Child marriages are not only the cause for challenges in education, but are also linked to slow economic growth.[xxiii]

Students in physics class. Niger, 2017. Photo by: GPE/Kelley Lynch via Flickr

According to the World Bank, high fertility, which is defined to be five or more births for a woman, not only poses health risks for both the mother and the children, but is also linked to economic decline. For example, due to rapid population increase, the number of poor people within the state rises and consequently the state cannot deal with the higher demand for investments in education and health services.[xxiv]

Niger, however, has made significant efforts to deal with the problem. For example, they have vowed to abolish child marriages and have created campaigns promoting education for young girls.[xxv] In 2017, the Government passed a decree to keep young girls in schools. The decree allows for pregnant and/or married students to stay in school and for adolescent mothers to return to school after giving birth.[xxvi]

Child labour

Child labour is a prevalent issue in Niger, one that also contributes to educational challenges in the country. Many children are pulled from school and forced to work due to extreme poverty in the country. Child labour is common in villages where children are employed in family farms. They often perform agricultural tasks such as herding of livestock, production of vegetables and grain and fishing. Child labour is also common in the mining industry as well as in public services. According to UNESCO 42% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 work in Niger. However, only 22% combine work and school. It is reported that even children at the age of 6 are forced to work.

All of these factors pose significant educational challenges for young people in Niger. The conflicting political climate and violence spills from surrounding countries pose significant hurdles to children trying to attend schools. Physical and mental trauma from displacement and violent climate have severe negative impacts on focus in school and attendance. Attendance is further hindered by extreme poverty in the region, forcing children to drop out and work to keep their families afloat or ensure their own survival. Child labour continues to be a common practice due to the poverty levels in the country as children from all ages are pulled out of schools and forced to work. From 5 years old, roughly half of the children between ages 5 and 14 work in Niger.

Alongside all of these hurdles, certain more vulnerable groups face additional challenges when it comes to their education. Young girls face disproportionate challenges due to gender inequality. They are often pushed into child marriages as survival mechanism, meant to ensure escape from poverty. The focus of young girls is then directed towards finding a husband and creating a family, instead of receiving quality education or any education at all. It is clear that children in Niger face a lot of challenges in their daily lives which are interconnected and combined in a vicious cycle. This cycle also affects their education and can lead to detrimental impacts on their further development and adult life.

In conclusion, Niger grapples with a complex web of challenges that severely impact the educational landscape for its citizens. Despite commendable efforts by the government, exemplified by initiatives such as free primary education, mandatory schooling until age 15, and campaigns to combat child marriages, the reality on the ground remains harsh. Addressing these interconnected issues is crucial not only for the immediate well-being of the younger generation but also for the long-term socio-economic development of the nation. It demands comprehensive and sustained efforts, both domestically and internationally, to break the vicious cycle and provide the children of Niger with a meaningful chance at a brighter future.


Cover Image by GPE/Kelley Lynch via Flickr

Educational Challenges in Gambia

Written by Tseke Dooyum Stephanie.

Gambia is a small country located in the West of Africa. Like many developing nations, it has made progress in enhancing its educational system. Gambia has dedicated resources to making education accessible and affordable. This ensures that every child in Gambia can gain knowledge and impact society in one way or another. This is because education is said to be the beacon of development for every nation, and it should be provided to everyone for free and without discrimination. The fourth Sustainable Development Goal further echoes this, stating that everyone should receive an equitable, accessible, and high-quality education. This aligns with the Gambian government’s educationalpolicy, emphasising basic education is a right.

Educational Challenges in Gambia

Education, just like numerous sectors, is not without itschallenges. Several obstacles must be overcome to give all citizens access to high-quality education. As of 2023, Gambia faces several educational challenges that demand immediate attention and creative solutions. This article explores the most recent data on Gambia’s educational issues. It also examines their underlying causes and puts forth potential solutions. These challenges include-:

• Lack of Qualified and Experienced Teachers in Gambia

In Gambia, the lack of qualified teachers is a serious problem. Many teachers are not adequately trained or qualified to provide aneffective education. Only 57% of primary school teachers in Gambia are trained, this is according to a 2021 World Bank report. This shortage has an impact on the educationquality. It further raises student-teacher ratios, making providing individualised care and support harder. This has also been reported to cause compromised learning outcomes. Furthermore, a lack of professional development opportunities and adequate training for many teachers in Gambia has made it difficult for them to engage students and impart knowledge.

• Cultural Restriction

Cultural restrictions and values in Gambiarestrict both boys’ and girls’ educational opportunities at the community and family levels.  These cultural norms include early marriage. It is more valued than education and career advancement in Gambia.  Secondary education for girls is also highly compromised as some families push their teenage daughters to early marriage. They also move their teenage boys to Europe for riches to support their families due to the cultural expectation that boys are the family breadwinners.

• Inadequate Infrastructure and Resources

Inadequate school infrastructure and resources are among the main barriers to quality education inGambia. Many educational institutions struggle with outdated infrastructure, crammed classrooms, and a lack of basic supplies like textbooks, writing aids, and technological resources. The issue is made worse by the lack of access to facilities such as laboratories, which negatively affects the student’s learning capabilities. This makes the learning environment less than ideal, resulting in difficulty in understanding concepts.

• Outdated curriculum

The educational system in Gambia has come under fire for having an out-of-date curriculum that is only loosely in line with the needs of the nation’s development. Students’ capacity to effectively apply knowledge is constrained by the traditional rote learning techniques used in many schools, which impede the development of critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

• Poor funding

Despite the significance of education, The Gambian educational sector receives little funding compared to other sectors. The lack of financial support hinders the provision of essential resources, the implementation of necessary reforms, and adequate teacher pay.

• Lack of access to education

The issue of access to education is one of the significant difficulties the Gambian educational system is currently facing. Disparities continue, especially between rural and urban areas, despite efforts to raise enrolment rates. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the net enrolment rate in primary education was 72% in 2021. In addition, there are still gender gaps, with fewer girls having access to education because of social and cultural constraints.

Gambian Schoolkids / Photo by John Savage via Flickr


To address the issue of lack of qualified and experienced teachers

The government must place a high priority on hiring, preparing, and keeping teachers to address the issue of the lack of qualified teachers in the nation. Competent educators can be attracted and retained by providing them competitive pay, professional development opportunities, and incentives for working in remote locations. The quality of education in the nation can also be improved by working with more international organisations and governments to offer teacher exchange and training programmes.

• To address cultural restriction.

The Gambian society can overcome this obstacle and find common ground by encouraging intercultural communication and empathy, debunking myths and fostering an open-minded and conducive learning environment. This can be accomplished through programmes that promote cultural exchange and diversity.

• To address the inadequate infrastructure and resources

To address this issue, more funds must be put into educational infrastructure and enough textbooks, technology, and sanitary facilities to create an environment conducive to learning.Partnerships between the public and private sectors can be crucial for giving schools the required tools and resources. Examining digital learning options can also increase access to educational materials and close the resource gap in remote areas.

• To address the outdated curriculum

The government should concentrate on curriculum reform and emphasise a practical and skill-based approach to education to raise the standard of instruction. A deeper understanding of subjects can be promoted by incorporating interactive learning tools, technology, and contemporary teaching methods.

• To address poor funding

Support for increased educational funding and effective budget allocation is required to address this issue. The government must prioritise education in its national budget and seek outside funding by forming alliances with international organisations and donor nations.  An increase in the national budget’s education allocation is required to ensure sufficient funding for schools, teacher salaries, and educational development initiatives. Additionally, to maximise the impact of the funds, their management must be open and effective.Gambia can foster sustainable development and economic growth by increasing its investment in education.

• To address access to education

The Gambian government must focus on improving the infrastructure in rural areas and implementpolicies to support gender equality in education to address this issue successfully. The support and resources provided by Non-Governmental Organizations and international organisations are also essential in enhancing vulnerable groups’ access to education.


The education system in Gambia faces serious issues that require urgent attention and coordinated efforts from the government, civil society, and international partners.Gambia can create a robust educational system that empowers its people and advances sustainable development by addressing these problems. It can also pave the way for a better future for the Gambian people.


Cover image by Global Partnership for Education – GPE via Flickr

Universal Periodic Review of Eritrea

This report drafted by Broken Chalk contributes to the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the State of Eritrea. This report focuses exclusively on human rights issues in Eritrea’s education field.

  • During the last decade, Eritrea presented a good evolution in its complex education system. The progress demonstrated in its previous comprehensive evaluation highlighted achievements and improvement areas. The 2012 educational reform, known as the “Education Sector Development Plan (ESDP 2012 – 2017),” made notable strides in equitable access to education, especially for socially disadvantaged groups like nomadic communities and those in rural areas. 
  • Since the end of the civil war 1993, the country has stabilised macro policy objectives for education, and the current National Education Sector Plan of 2018 – 2022 of the Ministry of Education reconfirmed the strategy policies. Focusing on three main areas or pillars for the education system: first, the “development of a population equipped with necessary skills, knowledge and culture for a self-reliant and modern economy”; second, the “development of self-consciousness and self-motivation in the population to fight disease, attendant causes of backwardness and ignorance”; and third “provision of basic education to all, regardless of their ethnic origin, sex and religion”[i].
  • Improvement in various metrics has been reported, such as a 6.6% increase in enrollments in pre-primary schools and an 8.5% rise in the number of such schools. The emphasis on mother-tongue instruction has been pivotal in primary education, with over 349,753 students enrolled nationwide. Eritrea’s educational policy emphasises universal primary education through the mother tongue, promoting language equality and benefiting 349,753 students, 45% of whom are girls. The advances have resulted in a 1.3% rise in rural schools and enhanced opportunities for girls and nomadic communities, with specialised workshops fostering strategy development for these segments.[ii]
  • Among Eritrea’s concerns is enhancing efforts to guarantee girls’ rights to education and provide them with a higher level of education. Expenditure on education has fluctuated over the years, representing 4% of the country’s GDP, underlining the government’s commitment to providing free education at all levels[iii].
  • Concerning gender equality in educational institutions, Eritrea has disclosed a coefficient of 0.91 for gender parity in pre-primary schools, with 1 representing absolute parity. For elementary, middle, and secondary schools, the figures are 0.82, 0.85, and 0.91, respectively, highlighting a pressing need to intensify efforts to secure and enhance girls’ educational rights and access to more advanced academic levels. Nonetheless, challenges remain in gender parity and the quality of education[iv].
  • Eritrea has also made strides in literacy and adult education, realising a 20% decrease in illiteracy facilitated by continual workshops and programs promoting literacy. Based on the data from 2016, the program witnessed participation from over 17 million adults, with a successful 75% completion rate[v].
  • Eritrea recorded enrollments exceeding 81,000 students in secondary education in the 2017-2018 academic year. Within this educational level, three crucial goals have been established: to optimise university entrance opportunities, to foster social cohesion amongst new generations, and to construct a competitive environment conducive to high academic achievement and merit competition. Despite the efforts to increase access to education and improve the opportunities and the quality of the system at all levels for the schools, the country reported in 2016 that over 220,000 children aged 5 to 13 years old remain out of schools, with the rage to 73% of pre-primary school and 27% from middle school[vi].
  • The Early Childhood Development Program enabled extensive reform that got advancements in fostering early intervention, leading to a 6.6% rise in enrollments in pre-primary schools, with the total number of such schools growing by 8.5%. This accounted for 47,196 students, with girls making up 48.7% of enrollees. The initiative also saw an increase in rural coverage from 64.2% to 65%, an 18.5% rise primarily attributed to the pivotal role of the Rural Community Care Givers Scheme. The national workshop on nomadic education has been instrumental in developing and applying strategies in these communities. Eritrea has also established progress for literacy and adult education, achieving a 20% reduction in illiteracy and ongoing workshops to drive the project’s progress[vii][viii].
  • Furthermore, regardless of the country’s advances and progress in education overall since the end of the civil war and the advances in the last decades, the country presents urgent issues on their policies that ensure equity of access to schooling all around the country. The challenges surround wide disparities in the level of participation among the different regions (Zobas) of the country, gender gaps, low level of involvement of children with disabilities, access to education for children that are part of nomadic tribes and for the ones who live geographic areas with difficult access[ix].

By Daniel Ordoñez

Download the PDF



[i]  Partnership, Golbal. 2018. “ERITREA EDUCATION SECTOR PLAN.” P. 25

[ii]  Assembly, UN General. 2018. “Universal Periodic Review​ – Third Cycle – Eritrea.” P. 11

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v]  Ibid.

[vi] Partnership, Golbal. 2018. “ERITREA EDUCATION SECTOR PLAN.” P. 14

[vii] Assembly, UN General. 2018. “Universal Periodic Review​ – Third Cycle – Eritrea.”  P. 11

[viii] Watch, Human Rights. 2019. “Eritrea: Conscription System’s Toll on Education.”

[ix] Mengesha, Tedros Sium, and Mussie T Tessema. 2019. “Eritrean Education System: A  Critical Analysis and Future Research Directions.” International Journal of Education 11 (1): 1–17. doi:10.5296/ije.v11i1.14471. P. 3

Cover image by aboodi vesakaran via Pexels

Universal Periodic Review of the Comoros

This report drafted by Broken Chalk contributes to the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the Union of the Comoros. This report focuses exclusively on human rights issues in Comoros’s education field.

  • Comoros, formally known as the Union of The Comoros, is an independent country made up of three islands in Southeastern Africa, located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean.
  • Comoros stands as one of the most economically disadvantaged and underdeveloped countries globally. The three islands contend with insufficient transportation connections, a youthful and swiftly growing population, and a scarcity of natural resources.
  • There are two educational systems concurrently in Comoros: l’École Quranic (Koranic School) and l’École Officielle (Official School). Almost all children attend a Quranic school for 2 or 3 years before beginning primary school. L’Enseignement elémentaire(Primary school) is six years, starting at age six.
  • In Comoros, it is mandated by law that every child must undergo eight years of schooling from the age of seven to fifteen. This education system consists of six years dedicated to primary education, catering to students aged six to twelve, succeeded by an additional seven years of secondary school education.
  • Today, the education system comprises the formal school, taught mainly in French, and the Koranic school due to the extended majority of Comorans being Sunni Muslims.
  • Often, due to financial issues, many families send their children to Koranic schools, where students can receive an Islamic education for free.
  • This report first explores the main issues in the educational field in Comoros, reflecting on the recommendations the country received in the 3rd cycle UN UPR review in 2019 and its progress since. Finally, Broken Chalk offers some suggestions to Comoros on further improving its human rights in the educational field.

By Leticia Cox

Download the PDF.



Letter by the High Commissioner to the Foreign Minister, 2018.

Cover image by aboodi vesakaran via Pexels

Educational Challenges in Lesotho

Written by Priscilla Thindwa

An Overview of Education

The significance of education in driving development and as a tool in reducing  poverty is undeniable. Education should be regarded as a human right, and every individual should have access to and be fully included. According to the World Bank, on an individual level, education has the impact of promoting employment, increasing earnings, and reducing poverty (World Bank, 2023). On the societal level, education has the potential to drive long-term economic growth, strengthen institutions and foster social cohesion (World Bank, 2023). For this reason, Sustainable Development Goal 4 envisages a world with inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for everyone. However, the challenge in most African countries is not the accessibility but the quality of education and exclusion. According to reports by the United Nations (UN), sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of education exclusion globally, with approximately 60% of youth between the ages of 15 and 17 not in school (Kaledzi, 2022). Several factors contribute to such challenges.

Lesotho College of Education. Photo by OER Africa on Flickr.

The Landscape of Education in Lesotho

Lesotho, a country in sub-Saharan Africa, is not an exception to the persistent challenges of education faced by other countries in the region. Even though the country has had some challenges, its literacy rate is considered one of the highest in Africa. With an adult literacy rate of 81% in 2021, the World Bank datasets note a decline of 5.3% from 2000. Such a decline is worrisome because education is considered a fundamental human right for all individuals in the world. The primary school in Lesotho is free, and most primary schools and secondary schools are owned by churches (Bitso, 2006: 37). The Ministry of Education and Training is considered the mouthpiece of education whose main responsibilities include formulating and monitoring the implementation of educational policies, passing legislation and regulations governing schools (Bitso, 2006: 37).


Overcrowding in Classrooms

One of the main challenges facing education in Lesotho is classroom overcrowding. This is mostly in Primary schools. In 2009 when the government of Lesotho implemented a free education policy, this put a strain on the existing “physical infrastructure, educational material and human resources” (Mukurunge, T., Tlali, N. and Bhila, T., 2019:29). Even though the policy’s aim was for everyone to have free access to education, quality of education was compromised. As pointed out by World Data on Education, Lesotho’s poor quality of primary education is a matter of concern (UNESCO, 2006:2). Citing overcrowding as the main cause of such low quality in education, which is exacerbated by shortages of teachers, classrooms as well as high repetition levels (UNESCO, 2006:2). Supporting the literature study by Seotsanyana and Matheolane, Francina Moloi, Nomusic Morobe, and Urwick, James, assert that introduction of free primary school education led to an increase of students per teacher ratio. This resulted in teachers resorting to ineffective teaching methods (Moloi, F., Morobe, N. and Urwick, 2007). For instance, the latest World Bank Data on the pupil-teacher ratio in Primary schools was 1:23 in 2018. Consequently, affecting the levels of pupil concentration and increasing drop-outs.

Shortage of Qualified Teachers

In addition to overcrowded classrooms, the shortage of qualified teachers is another challenge that limits the education system in Lesotho. This shortage is compounded by the lack of opportunities for teachers to undergo proper professional training to revamp their skills. The shortage of qualified teachers and overcrowding in classrooms continue to contribute to low-quality education and efficiency, especially at the primary level. Moreover, as indicated by the World Data on Education on Lesotho, the low quality of teachers is owed to the “absence of regular in-service training opportunities for teachers” (UNESCO, 2006:2). This is exacerbated by inexperienced headteachers, inadequate inspection and teachers who are not certified.

Qoaling is a village/suburb of Maseru. It has a built in infrastructure for most part but hand pumps are still evident in some sections. Maimoeketsi Community Primary School. The Standard 7 class during lessons. Photo by John Hogg. World Bank on Flickr.
Shortage of Furniture and Learning Materials

Shortage of furniture and inadequate learning material are other challenges that hinder most Basotho from enjoying their right to quality education thoroughly. Quality infrastructure and learning materials are imperative for education to be effective and efficient. However, this is not the case for most schools in Lesotho. Even though education is free in primary schools, insufficient learning materials such as textbooks, teachers’ guide materials, and desks hinder the provision of a good education. To make matters worse, some schools do not have enough classroom blocks, so they must learn outside under trees. For those with school blocks, they are poorly maintained, and pupils shiver in cold weather. For some, such unfavourable environments continue to deter pupils in Lesotho schools from accessing quality education.

Socio-economic Factors Leading to Poor Performance

Another challenge that most Basotho face concerning education is related to the socio-economic factors, which place a significant role in the performance of the pupils in school. According to the World Bank data on the collection of development indicators, 70.06% of Lesotho’s population is based in rural areas (Trading Economics, 2022). The 2021 UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) findings on Lesotho indicated that approximately 80% of children complete primary education (UNICEF Lesotho 2021:15). The report observed a steep decline in the rate for lower and upper secondary education (UNICEF Lesotho, 2021:15). The report continues to note that children from the “poorest quintile and those in rural areas” had lower rates of completion and performing below the national average (UNICEF Lesotho, 2021:15). On the other hand, those from urban and wealthiest families, was noted to complete at “a level higher than the national average” (UNICEF Lesotho, 2021:15). Some contend that the disparities in the level performance are owed to lack of motivation for children from poor households whose parents are usually less educated (Help Lesotho, 2018). Most children from such households are not convinced that education’s impact is changing one’s economic status. Also, some children from poor households go to school hungry, making it difficult for them to concentrate and, as such, negatively affecting their performance. Thus, even though primary school is free, it remains inaccessible to certain groups of society in Lesotho.

Some Recommendations and Conclusion

Since education is considered a fundamental human right, one should expect it to benefit all groups of society regardless of their socio-economic status. However, this is not entirely the case in some schools in Lesotho. As discussed above, several challenges within the education system continue to hinder Basotho’s ability to enjoy fundamental human rights entirely. Firstly, classroom overcrowding can be tackled by constructing more schools and employing more teachers. Doing so will reduce the pressure on the limited resources. The employed teachers should be professionally trained and allow them opportunities to upgrade their knowledge to adapt to the changing world.

Moreover, the government and non-governmental organisations should ensure the provision of required learning and teaching materials to both students and teachers, respectively. Lastly, regarding tackling the challenge associated with socio-economic factors, children from poor and rural areas should be given more incentives to stay in school, and scholarships should be awarded to the best performers to continue their education to secondary school and tertiary education. Doing so will indeed ensure that education is accessible to all groups of society regardless of their socio-economic background.


Challenges facing the Education System in Angola

Written by Ruth Lakica

The Cidade Alta in Luanda, Angola, stretches along a ridge lined by pink colonial buildings including the president’s and archbishop’s palaces. Photo by David Stanley on Flickr.


Education is a fundamental right for all humans around the globe. Regardless of one’s economic or social status,  they should be able to have access to education. Even though this seems obvious and like common knowledge, it is not the reality for many Angolans. Nevertheless, the government has and is making significant efforts to cab illiteracy.  For instance, in recent years, Angola has significantly reformed its education system, improving literacy and enrollment rates. However, school completion rates indicate high levels of dropout. The Angolan Education Law (2021) makes primary education free and compulsory for six years, but approximately 2 million children are still out of school.  The country’s long-term strategy–Estratégia de Longo Prazo Angola 2025–promotes the human and educational development of the Angolan people.

Conflicts and insecurity

Despite the civil war ending more than 15 years ago, Angola still faces—and will continue to face—challenges in its education system that date back to these years of violence. Primary education in Angola is compulsory and free for four years for children between 7 and 11, but the government estimates that approximately two million children are not attending school.

In areas where classrooms were utterly demolished during the war and have not yet been rebuilt, classes typically are held outside and often must be cancelled due to bad weather. Where classrooms exist, they tend to be overcrowded and undersupplied, with outdated or insufficient books and pencils and not enough desks and chairs.

Lack of enough qualified teachers

Debates about teacher quality lack in Angolan educational institutions are constant. These were and continue to be pointed out as teachers without the desired quality to teach in higher education, in addition to being few, forcing them to become multipurpose: the teachers lack in Angolan educational institutions causes the few teachers to teach a large number of subjects, and in many cases, subjects outside their comfort area.

The Angolan government focused on education expansion for a long time and forgot about teaching quality in the same institutions. Therefore, the institutions, especially private ones, arise without verification of the curriculum they presented, which was never in accordance with the requirements for their functioning, many of them without appropriate facilities and without enough teachers to follow the several existing courses. And several other factors contributed to the higher education institutions’ quality being relatively low.

Household poverty

The educational level was directly related to the incidence of poverty in Angola from March 2018 to February 2019. According to Statista, among people with no education, 56.5 per cent lived with a level of consumption below the poverty line. Among individuals with primary education, the rate amounted to 54.9 per cent. Even though the poverty incidence among people with higher education was the lowest, 17.3 per cent of people with an upper secondary education or more were living above the poverty line. In December 2018, the total poverty line in Angola was estimated at roughly 12.2 thousand Kwanzas (approximately 22 U.S. dollars).

Impact of drought

The challenges for accessing education imposed by the cyclical pastoral migration in Cunene – particularly for boys – are well-known. However, the severe drought plaguing the South Region of Angola has intensified the phenomenon, causing unprecedented stress on the province’s education system.

According to Reliefweb, In the municipality of Curoca, one of the hardest hit, 13 schools have closed since the beginning of the year due to student absences. Of Cunene’s 887 primary schools, 614 are affected by the drought in some way, which is causing severe disruption to no less than 70% of the province’s 214,000 students.

When children must split their time between fetching water and protecting their families’ greatest wealth, the livestock, their education suffers.

Impact of Covid-19

The pandemic caused by the SARS Covid-19 came to monitor investments made not only in the health sector but also in education and, above all, in the higher education subsystem. The pandemic led governments to close university campuses and face-to-face classes suspension for a considerable period of time as a measure to prevent the virus contamination from spreading. Some countries with the distance learning modality in their school curricula were forced to make it a strategy, intensifying them to reduce the pedagogical damage that was felt due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19. Given the uncertainty of an end date for the pandemic, other countries were forced to bet on this modality of distance learning.

Until 2020, the Angolan State did not recognize any studies carried out at a distance, both within the country and abroad (Presidential Decree n° 59/20, of 3 March). The emergence of the pandemic was necessary to show the importance of distance. It blended learning, leading it to adopt the strategy used by most countries to avoid a catastrophe at the educational level.

Green Schools campaign in Eiffel School, in Angola. Photo by Mayada Marrom on Wikimedia Commons.

Water, sanitation and hygiene

According to USAID, “nearly half the population of Angola (49.3%) lacks access to clean drinking water and (54.7%) of households do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities.” As a result, many Angolans face a high risk of exposure to waterborne illnesses, further burdening the nation’s existing healthcare infrastructure, worsening malnutrition and negatively impacting the economy.

Moreover, the southern regions of Angola are experiencing a prolonged drought, which has gravely impacted the nation’s health, sanitation, water access and education services. More than 1.2 million Angolans face water scarcity due to the drought. In the Cunene province, the drought has caused “serious disruptions” to school access for nearly 70% of students.

Teenage pregnancy and child marriages

Angola has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world. Underlying factors include limited knowledge of family planning, inadequate availability of commodities, limited access to skilled health workers, and insufficient household resources allocated to sexual and reproductive health. The high rate of teenage pregnancy increases the already existing vulnerability of girls, as pregnancy is often an impediment to continuing education, exemplified by the low literacy rates of only 36.5% for young women aged 15 to 24. The country has 10 million girls and women of reproductive age. Although 75% of girls attend primary education, this proportion drops to around 15.5% in secondary education, coinciding with the first menstruation age. High fertility rates and high levels of teenage pregnancy also increase the risk of maternal mortality. In this context, behaviour change interventions are crucial to empowering young women and men to make better decisions to protect themselves.


In conclusion, Angola’s government, therefore, has a responsibility to extend better social services in rural areas, such as roads, schools, and hospitals, to facilitate development in those areas and hence improve people’s living standards and education for poor kids.

As the government seeks to alleviate the effects of the lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasis should be placed on ensuring that systems that are supposed to protect girls and women from child marriages are not compromised. Clean water must be readily available for people to improve their hygiene habits, as must soap. And girls must have privacy and dignity when using sanitation facilities. The Government of Angola should respond to the drought in the southern region, which also affects the provinces of Namibe, Huila and Bie, so that children can focus on their education.

  1. Global partnership for education. (2022, November 22). The Angolan Education law(2021).

Educational Challenges in Benin

Written by Faith Galgalo

The country profile

Inauguration monument Dévoués. Photo by Presidency of the Republic of Benin on Flickr.

Located in West Africa, and on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, The Republic of Benin (French: République du Bénin), gained independence in 1960, from the French rule. Benin, is part of the 15 member states that make up Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a Regional Bloc aimed at promoting economic corporation among member states, to raise living standards and promote economic development.

Education System in Benin

Benin education system follows the French education model, which is Six years in primary, four years in Junior High, three years in Senior High and three years in University, which constitutes to the 6-4-3-3 system (UNESCO, 2023). Education in Benin has been free for 17 years. The provision of the constitution under Rights and Duties of the Individual, Article 13, states that primary education shall be obligatory and the government shall progressively offer free education to its schools (Constitution of Benin (COB), 1990).

Problems in Benin Education

Benin strategy to increasing student enrollment by introducing free education at the Primary level, increased the enrollment rate, from a net enrollment rate of 82% in 2005 before free primary education, to 97% in 2018, 12 years after free primary education was introduced (Data World Bank, 2018).

The rapid increase of students at the foundation level of education due to free education, has however, not translated, in the progressive levels of education, of Secondary and University. According to World Bank Data, 54% of Beninese children enrolled in the 1st grade of Primary school eventually reaches the last grade of Primary education. The low number of students progressing to Secondary and University schools has significantly been attributed to child labor, early marriages, early pregnancy and poverty.

The low literacy levels, which currently stands at 46% and is much lower than the rates in the neighboring countries of Nigeria (62%) and Togo (67%) (World Bank, 2021). In 2018, Benin was among the 10 least literate countries in the world (42.36). The high dropout rate to other levels of education, have led to a reduction of national income and overall GDP in the country, as jobs for less qualified people lead to low-income jobs in the future, creating a lower access to innovation and a lower GDP. As individuals with low levels of literacy are more likely to experience poorer employment opportunities, outcomes and lower income as they face welfare dependency and high levels of poverty as a country (World Literacy Foundation, 2018).

Gender Gaps

Teacher Léandre Benon and student Mariam at the blackboard. Photo by GPE/Chantal Rigaud in Flickr.

The high dropout rates are particularly evident to Benin gender gaps, which have seen more girls drop out than boys. In Benin, gaps between women and men stem from structural social disparities that start earlier in life. According to World Bank, (Nathalie, 2022) the male literacy rate between 15-24 years is about 55 percent while the female literacy rate in the same age group is about 30 percent. Only one in ten girls aged 21-24 have completed secondary school. Moreover, one third of 20–24-year-olds are married by the age of 18, and 15 percent are already mothers at the age of 15-19 (Nathalie, 2022).

In addition, the average number of years of schooling in Benin is 3.8 years which is lower than its ECOWAS member countries of 4.2 years in 2019 (UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, 2022).

Since 2015, Benin has not yet closed the gap. Also, the drop in lower secondary completion rate from 45% in 2015 to 33% and 2020 (UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, 2022) echoes the need to focus on the pursuit of education and ensure 100% transition from one level of education to the next, in both genders.

These gender gaps have translated to the larger community whereby the gender parity index which measures the steps a country has made towards gender parity in participation and/or educational opportunities for females is low at 0.79% (World Bank, 2022). Young girls in Benin are at risk of not completing education as a result of societal norms automatically decreasing women participation of women in Benin’s formal sector. The Government has increased its efforts in ensuring Girls education is addressed with Benin agreeing to introduce the AU Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa which is part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa (Forwerk, 2017).

Child labor

Children in Benin engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in the production of cotton and crushed granite. Children also perform dangerous tasks in domestic work and street vending. According to International Labor Organization (ILO, 2021), 20% of children under the age of 14yrs, experience child labor.

Children are trafficked mostly within Benin but also to neighboring countries such as Gabon, Nigeria, and the Republic of the Congo, for domestic work and commercial sexual exploitation, and to work in vending, farming, and stone quarrying (ILO, 2021). Children living in the northern regions of Benin are the most vulnerable to trafficking owing to being a rural area. According to the International Labor Organization, a practice locally known as vidomégon (Child placement), where children most girls, are sent to live with other families for domestic work in exchange for educational opportunities, which in most cases, lead to many children becoming victims of labor exploitation and sexual abuse.

In 2013, the Government implemented a nationwide anti-child labor awareness campaign and signed a bi-partite agreement with a Beninese worker association to reduce child labor through increased collaboration (Refworld, 2021). That year, the Government officials handled 62 child trafficking cases and 11 exploitive child labor cases, referred 23 suspects to the court system on child labor and trafficking charges, and provided shelter to 173 victims of trafficking (ILO, 2021). In another effort to end child labor, Benin’s government through its Social Affairs docket, removed 400 children from child labor as a result of Social Services inspection (ILO, 2021).

Lack of official documentation

A 12th grade math class at Collège d’enseignement général of Sô-Ava. Photo by GPE/Chantal Rigaud in Flickr.

The Beninese Government offers free registration to a new born before 10 days, after which, the parent/ guardian incurs a fee of $30 (ILO, 2021). Cultural practices such as naming a baby, takes 10 days after birth, which therefore gives the parents little time to register and obtain a birth certificate. While in other households, 2 in 10 children in Benin, are born at home, giving children little or no hopes in acquiring official documentation (ILO, 2021).

Lack of official documentation in any country, presents a challenge in accessing basic rights such as access to health and education. In Benin, 4 out of 10 children are not registered at birth and do not receive a birth certificate. As a consequence, they are often denied the right to an education and lack access to other essential services, hence leading to an increase in the informal sector and an increase in child labor.

Since January 2012, UNICEF has been involved in the distribution of more than 140,000 birth certificates that were pulled up in civil status registration centers. Through this initiative, children have access to the services they are entitled to such as health and education. According to UNHCR, a National forum on civil registration is aiming to address the hadles that prevent universal access to birth registration in Benin (UNICEF,2012).


Benin is a country with a growing economy, whose efforts such as free primary education, increase of teachers and facilities, have showed a slight increase, there is still the need for the Government to increase its efforts in ensuring 100% transition in all levels of education in both genders, this will increase the literacy rate, and eventually the economic situation to improve the lives of Beninese people.

A few recommendations would be to increase Government spending on the education sector, especially following the Government 5 years plan through its Program Action that began from 2021-2026, which sorts to increase development in various Governments sectors such as; Education challenges, Development challenges, Economic challenges. Also, Government needs to up its efforts in ensuring no child is left behind as a result of lack of identification, child labor and early marriages. The Government and its Education stakeholders need to encourage the communities especially in the rural areas that Education is an asset, and through it, an entire community benefits from new ideas, leaders and increased standards of living. Through this, the literacy rate of Benin, will increase adding to Benin workforce, that mostly depends on Agriculture, can eventually expand to other sectors such as Technology and Professional and business services hence increase Benin’s GDP.


Education Challenges in Chad

Written by Vasthy Katalay

The social situation in Chad has never remained the same since the passing of the Corona Virus Pandemic at the end of the year 2019. The Chadian population has been experiencing various social difficulties leaving families to their own faith (UNICEF, 2023). In fact, parents have seen their households’ and loved ones’ basic needs consistently overlooked and denied as time went by. These basic needs inclusively concern safety, shelter, food, proper healthcare, and basic education following the reports made by UNICEF (2023).

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2022) affirms that the socio-economic situation and political instability play a significant role in the current condition.        The challenge regarding Chad’s education sector has persisted for more than four years. It has been proven that seven in ten children aged 18 years and younger do not have access to any schools or learning facilities in Chad (World Bank, 2022 & UNHCR, 2022).     The UNHCR (2022) additionally attests that the perpetration of armed conflicts in the Lake Chad Basin has been contributing highly to the worsening of the education condition in Chad. This is because it restrains any humanitarian aid that may come from both local or international organisations due to the lack of security in the surrounding environments.

Assidick Choroma, Minister of National Education and Civic Promotion of Chad, and Alice Albright, GPE CEO, met students and teachers at the Lycée-Collège féminin bilingue d’Amruguebe school for girls in N’Djamena. The school welcomes 1500 girls and has 80 teachers, including 30 women. It provides education in Arabic and in French. Chad, February 2019
Photo by: GPE/Carine Durand

Consequently, 1.4 million children lack basic educational assistance while 360 000 struggle to access social protection services (OCHA, 2022). More than fifty per cent of children are incapable of accessing primary school education (INSEED & UNICEF, 2019). These statistics have been confirmed by the Humanitarian Needs Overview (2022), which attests that the number of children who need educational support increased by 8% in 2022. Although the conditions are not met, UNICEF has been making considerable efforts toward promoting and providing 85,600 formal and non-formal opportunities (UNICEF, 2023). This is being implemented through and with the help of the Chadian government’s local and national support coordination.

These efforts have resulted in the continuous educational support of 120,437 children, including girls, who represent 43% of the beneficiaries, according to UNICEF (2022). This was the result of both on-site and remote intensive learning programmes, schools’ rehabilitations, and some psychosocial support provided to children with disabilities. The World Bank equally joined hands in contributing to upgrading learning facilities and conditions in Chad. This is being achieved through various development programmes that benefit the school’s pedagogical and managerial staff for a period of five years (World Bank, 2022).

Research attests that the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has evenly partaken in providing massive and continuous school attendance in various refugee camps in Chad. This endeavour is made regardless of the minimal financial and logistical support. UNESCO partially contributed to this cause through its involvement in the improvement of conditions in both existing and new formal and non-formal teaching and learning facilities. UNESCO thus set up two successful emergency development projects destined to upgrade the quality of the educational sector in a bid to minimise drop-outs and child marriage and labour. These projects are known as PREAT and PUREAT because they both plan and organise the implementation of ideas into practical actions (PREAT, 2019-2023 & PUREAT, 2021-2023). These projects have been involved in the translation of teaching documents from French into both Chadian Arabic and Sar, which are the popular languages spoken in the country.

The concerned projects have been working progressively well so far as they have allowed teachers to use national languages to favour pupils’ teaching process. Consequently, young and older pupils unable to understand or speak French may still have access to learning facilities and knowledge ((PREAT, 2019-2023 & PUREAT, 2021-2023). This strategy has proven to have increased the number of literates in both formal and non-formal educational facilities in the concerned country in accordance with the projects’ reports.

Quality education is the key Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) among all SDGs and thus constitutes a crucial sector in realising the remaining goals (Katalay et at., 2022).         In fact, SDG 4 secures the inclusivity and equity of quality education for each and every child. This is because, being born equal, every child has got the universal right to education regardless of their origins, colour of skin, religious beliefs, family backgrounds, age frame, or gender. Access to quality education has been revealed to be a vital pattern in individuals’ lifelong self-actualisation and poverty reduction all over the World (Katalay et al., 2022).

Katalay et at. (2022) carried out qualitative research that reviewed the educational challenges faced at different levels of understanding: global, continental, and local. Its results have indeed affirmed that the availability of quality learning facilities and affordable school fees were patterns in the increased school attendance rate in various African counties. Building affordable quality schools and vocational training centres in Chad may thus encourage parents and guardians to send their loved ones to acquire knowledge (Katalay et al., 2022). Research shows that education truly allows every citizen of a given nationality to be an added hand in both the socio-economic and political developments of their respective environments. This confirms that it is only through education that the remaining SDGs may be achieved in Chad (Katalay et al., 2022 & UNICEF, 2023).

The vocational training centre offers youths 9-month training courses on a specific trade. At the end, trainees receive equipment to set up their own business. In this photo, a young man is supervised by his teacher in the mechanics room, devoted mostly to motorbikes, the most common vehicle in this area of Chad. © 2018 European Union (photo by Dominique Catton)

Some research attested that individuals with low or without formal education or training are exposed to real-life struggles to provide basic needs in Africa (Katalay et al., 2022). This explains why the educated have more chances of finding employment than the less or non-educated.  The knowledge of those who are educated guarantees them access to various employment opportunities within their areas of specialisation. Schools and vocational training centres will equip individuals with some required skills and knowledge that will enable them to get various well-paid jobs and provide basic needs at home.

This is to say that less or non-educated individuals are more exposed to a lack of employment opportunities and thus incapable of providing for their families and loved ones. This is because their resources will be limited, and so will their access to various basic needs. These needs include the daily provision of shelter, food, proper healthcare, and education.         In light of this, education seems to be the crucial element that provides the Chadian government with capacities to fully participate and contribute to improving their social services. Improving these services would consistently and continuously make the lives of as many individuals as possible better and worth living (Katalay et al., 2022 & UNESCO, 2023).

Additionally, inclusive education for both men and women has proven to play a crucial role in abolishing various sociocultural mindsets and practices (Katalay et al., 2022). These involve female children being denied access to education, female genital mutilation (FGM), gender inequality in workplaces, women being abused, and child marriage and labour. Reports have revealed that poverty is the cause and consequence of the daily perpetration of social vices and inequalities in Chad (OCHA, 2021).

Poverty limits access to education, standard shelter, food, healthcare, clean water, constant electricity, and sanitary facilities as it increases the number of refugees. Inversely, all these social problems joined together seem to be partaking in upgrading the poverty level in many African countries, including Chad (World Food Program, 2023).

Research has shown that the poverty level in the African continent, in general, and in Chad, in particular, has been the cause of the stagnant situation of the education sector. This is because the lack of security and peace in various neighbouring countries has aggravated and increased the number of refugees in Chad. This makes the situation more difficult to handle since Chad has already been struggling to provide essential social services for its citizens.       In addition, the security or safety around Lake Chad has not been helping the current situation due to the danger to which both the population and humanitarian organisations are exposed. Six in ten parents have expressed their fear of sending their children to schools or vocational training centres, given the low-security measures taken in their surrounding environments.

In conclusion, several factors have recently been worsening the quality development of the education sector in Chad. It has been proven that socio-economic and political instabilities have contributed highly to the poverty level in multiple sectors. This situation has been affecting nearly half of the Chadian population.  The downgrading of the education sector in Chad has left families and households in a daily dilemma consisting of either providing food or sending their children to schools and centres. This explains why individuals in the country have limited access to other basic social human needs. These limited or lack of basic human needs leave parents and children denied a roof over their heads, food, clean water, electricity, health treatment, and basic education.


  1. Education Cannot Wait Team (2022), Chad Overview Development. Retrieved from &
  2. Inseed & UNICEF (2019). MICSE Chad Final Report in Djamena, Chad.
  3. Jesuit Refugee Service (2023). The Challenge of Accessing Education for Sudanese Refugees in Chad. Retrieved from
  4. OCHA (2021), Strengthening Girls’ education in Chad. Retrieved from
  5. UNESCO (2023). The PREAT 2019-2023 and PUREAT 2021-2023 Projects in Chad. Retrieved from
  6. UNHCR, (2019 & 2022).
  7. UNICEF, (2019, 2022 & 2023). Retrieved from
  8. World Bank (2022), Chad to Improve Learning Outcomes in Basic Education. Retrieved from &
  9. World Food Program (2023). Retrieved from