Johannesburg - Schooling is no guarantee of literacy. Many young people who have spent just a few years in school don’t develop literacy skills – and, in some cases, even completing primary school isn’t always a guarantee of literacy.
These are some of the startling findings in the Education for All (EFA) global monitoring report, set to be re released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) today.
The report, published annually, monitors progress towards a set of EFA targets that over 160 countries committed to in 2000. It found that more than half the children in sub-Saharan Africa were not learning the basics in reading and maths – regardless of whether they are in school or not.
Worldwide, at least 120 million children don’t spend enough time in school to learn anything, while another 130 million spend up to four years in school and still emerge unable to read or write.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of young people are unable to read a single sentence.
The report found that the “global learning crisis” was costing governments $129 billion (R1 426bn) a year.
“Ten percent of global spending on primary education is being lost on poor-quality education that is failing to ensure that children learn,” the report said.
It revealed that a person’s country of birth, sex and family income level have a significant bearing on their education outcome.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the gap between the amount of time the poorest rural women and the richest urban men spend in school has widened between 2000 and 2010 – from just over six years to eight.
“If recent trends continue, girls from the poorest families in sub-Saharan Africa will only achieve universal lower secondary completion (Grade 9) in 2111 – 64 years later than the boys from the richest families.”
Also on the rise is the number of illiterate adults in the region. It is projected that by next year, 26 percent of all illiterate adults will live in sub-Saharan Africa, up from 15 percent in 1990.
The report found that the region also has one of the highest pupil-teacher ratios, with countries often exceeding the 40:1 norm.
On teachers and teacher training, Unesco’s director-general, Irina Bokova, said: “We need 5.2 million teachers to be recruited by 2015, and we need to work harder to support them in providing children with their right to a universal, free and quality education.”
Sub-Saharan Africa would have to recruit about 225 000 additional teachers from 2011 to 2015 per year to achieve universal primary education.
To achieve universal lower- secondary school education, the region would have to recruit an additional 394 000 teachers every year over the same period.
The report estimated that by 2020, the region would need about $4bn annually to pay the salaries of the required primary school teachers. This is equivalent to 19 percent of the region’s combined 2011 education budget.
For sub-Saharan Africa to achieve universal lower-secondary schooling by 2030, it would have to add $9.5bn to the education budget annually.
The EFA global monitoring report director, Pauline Rose, said the report showed that equality should be placed central to educational targets.
“What’s the point in an education if children emerge after years in school without the skills they need? The huge number of illiterate children and young people means it is crucial that equality in access and learning be placed at the heart of future education goals,” she added.
Highlights in the report:
* In sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, nearly 3 million girls are married by the time they reach 15.
This is below the legal age of marriage in most countries. If all young women completed primary education, the number of child brides would be reduced by nearly 500 000. Completing secondary education would reduce that number by 2 million.
* If all children, regardless of their background and circumstances, had equal access to education, productivity gains would boost economic growth. Over a 40-year period, per capita income would be 23 percent higher in a country with equality in education.
* In many countries, women are still dying of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
Education can prevent these deaths by helping women detect early signs of illness, seek advice and act on it. If all women in poor countries completed primary education, child mortality would drop, saving nearly a million lives each year. If all women had a secondary education, the child mortality rate would be halved.