Most countries in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) announced programmes to universalise primary education since the World Conference on Education for All at Jomtien in 1990. An increasing number have now extended the goal to include a complete cycle of basic education up to Grade 9 or more. But growth has been uneven, gains have not always been sustained, very rapid expansion has stressed infrastructure and teacher supply, and there are concerns that the number of over age children may have increased and quality may have deteriorated.
This paper explores patterns of growth in participation in six Anglophone and seven Francophone countries in SSA. The Anglophone countries are Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Francophone countries were Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Niger and Senegal. These countries have all had large scale Universal Primary Education programmes supported with external finance, and all have demographic and health survey (DHS) data sets collected at least ten years apart, first in the 1990s and subsequently after 2000. The data provide the opportunity to explore participation over a period of a decade or more to see how it has been changing.
The results show that progress towards universal access to education has been patchy and sometimes disappointing. Access to education remains strongly associated with household wealth despite commitments to pro-poor policies and investment of resources. Though overall participation has often increased, the chances of the poorest being enrolled relative to the richest have generally not improved substantially and in some cases have deteriorated. Reductions in the number of children out of school have in many cases been accompanied by an increase in the proportion of children over age for the grade in which they are enrolled. Poorer children are more likely to be over age and unlikely to complete schooling especially if they are girls. Girls are more likely to be out of school than boys in most of the Francophone countries but not in most of the Anglophone countries. In all the Francophone countries rural children were more likely to be out of school, but this was only true in one Anglophone case. Rural children remain more likely to be overage.
The message is clear. Though there has been progress, if falls far short of the gains that were anticipated. In a small but worrying number of cases the gains have been small or negative. In others much more progress is needed to achieve universal access with equity and to close the gap between the poorest and other households.
K. M. Lewin and R. Sabates. Changing Patterns of Access to Education in Anglophone and Francophone Countries in Sub Saharan Africa: Is Education for All Pro-Poor? In: CREATE Pathways to Access Series, Research Monograph Number 52. (2011) 1-60. ISBN 0-901881-59-7