The Daily Struggle of Out of School Children in West Africa
Picture this, you wake up extremely early and rush out of your home. You have to be quick if you want to make it in time for your competitive job. It’s stressful but the pay is good. Except you didn’t wake up early to catch the bus, you woke up early to walk long distances. And the pay actually places you below the UN’s poverty line. Finally, you’re not an adult, you’re 9 years old. This is the reality of many out-of-school children living in West Africa.
Out of School is a term used to describe children between the school-age (5-16) who are not enrolled in school and are therefore free to work. According to UNESCO, at the end of 2018, there were 258 million children and youth out of school. This number has unfortunately continued to grow. West Africa currently has an illiteracy rate of around 40 per cent. West Africa is a subregion in Africa comprising of the following countries;
- Burkina Faso,
- Cape Verde,
- Côte D’Ivoire,
- Liberia, Mali,
- Saint Helena,
- Sierra Leone, and
According to UNICEF, one out of every five out-of-school children is a Nigerian child. Liberia, a country in West Africa has a literacy rate of 48.30 per cent.
In Liberia, the out-of-school rate is 21.36 per cent. These are extremely high numbers. 1 in 5 children is out of school.
There are many issues that cause children to be out of school in West Africa. Let’s discuss the top four issues.
- Poverty – Without a doubt, poverty is the leading cause for children dropping out of school or not even going to school in the first place. Poverty is a raging wildfire in West Africa. According to Oxfam, West Africa has the highest number of countries and people living below the poverty line. This means that over 30 per cent of the general population lives on less than $1.90 per day.
Extreme levels of poverty and social disparity lead to children in such families needing to work and earn their keep. If they do not work they would most likely starve to death.
- Cultural Differences – Cultural differences between the Western World and traditional communities in West Africa lead to friction concerning Western education. Patriarchs or leaders of these communities tend to criticize western education and discourage parents from sending their children to formal institutions of learning.
- Gender Discrimination – Gender discrimination is also a leading cause of the high rates of out-of-school children in West Africa. Girls account for 70percent of the out-of-school children in Nigeria, West Africa. This disparity holds across all other countries in West Africa. According to UNESCO, the literacy rate in Liberia for men is 62.7 per cent while for women it is 34.09 per cent.
- Insecurity – Last but certainly not least we have the issue of insecurity. Wars, insecurity, and social unrest also lead to higher rates of out-of-school children. These children end up dropping out for safety reasons or they may have to flee the area with their family which means a lack of formal education for an extended amount of time.
The daily struggle of out-of-school children in West Africa is heartbreaking and horrifying to witness. These experiences are a reality and they often expose children to physical assault, violence, drugs, sexual assault, and even death. Ri’Ayah Foundation is a foundation by Liberians. Through strategic donations and helpful community building, we want to lift families and inevitably, communities out of abject poverty. To do this efficiently, we need your donations. Please consider donating to our foundation here.