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Africa and its millions of illiterate children

África foto de Pixabay 3

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), children are not reaching educational objectives. For this reason they are hindered in adulthood from supporting themselves financially and contributing to their respective countries’ economies.


Benito Joaquín Milanés


Unicef says that some 24 million young people worldwide do not go to school. <

In Africa, this often happens due to armed conflicts that obstruct education on a wide level, principally in South Sudan, Niger and Sudan.

In South Sudan, nearly two million children of primary and secondary school age (between 6 and 15) don’t know how to read or write and don’t have access to education, according to official figures.

The United Nations estimated recently that the war in South Sudan destroyed more than 800 schools.

África foto de Pixabay 8In the Nigerien region of The Sahel, 47% of children face problems attending school because of armed conflicts and endemic poverty.

Niger has an illiteracy rate of close to 90%, one of the highest in the world, according to figures from its National Ministry of Education, Literacy and Promotion of National Languages.

In Sudan, 41% of children between 5 and 15 are unable to be academically evaluated because they can’t attend classes, the government said recently.

Motives and reasons

Violence and attacks by dozens of armed groups, some of them identified as terrorists, such as Boko Haram which acts against the civilian population in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, threaten the education of another million children.

África foto de Pixabay 7Childhood in Somalia and Kenya is affected by Al Shabab, while extremists of the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) impede schooling in Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Ethiopia, among other countries where they seek to overthrow the government and establish their own law.

The Nigerian Tribune estimates that over two thousand schools remain shut in the regions where these armed groups operate, some for over a year.

Several hundred schools have been destroyed in these same territories by attacks, plundering and fires caused by fundamentalist groups like Boko Haram and AQIM, among others.

In Nigeria, some 600 teachers have been assassinated by Boko Haram since 2009, claimed Manuel Fontaine, the Unicef regional director for Western and Central Africa.

The immense majority of young people in the countries affected by armed conflicts lose their homes, close family and friends, and live in permanent uncertainty and instability, said Unicef’s Chief of Education, Jo Bourne.

OÁfrica foto de Pixabay 5thers find themselves too weak to attend school, or have to go with their parents to cities in search of work and to sell their items and produce.

Because of this millions of African children are deprived of the knowledge and benefits needed to rebuild their communities once the armed conflicts end.

Non attendance at school deprives children in the short term of stability and the structures neccessary to confront the trauma caused by war.<

Effects of the tragedy

The absence of education carries with it higher risks of cases of abuse, exploitation and recruitment to armed groups, according to analysts.

Africa doesn’t only suffer from the physical damage to the schools, but also the desperation of a whole generation of students who see their hopes and future destroyed.

Africa 1In the Middle East and North Africa attacks against schools and education infrastructure are the primary reasons why many children don’t attend classes.

In Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, almost nine thousand schools have been left unused due to damage or destruction, while some of them are used as refuges for displaced people or are occupied by factions in the conflict.

Fear is another factor in the problem, driving thousands of teachers to abandon their jobs, or stopping parents sending their children to school in the dread that something could happen to them on their way or in school buildings.

Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have more than 700 thousand Syrian refugee children who cannot attend school because the education system is overwhelmed, and cannot cope with the additional loads of students.

África Foto de PixabayThe international objectives of schooling all these children appears to be far from the horizon in Africa, and this void leaves the future of the continent at risk. (PL)

(Photos from Pixabay)


(Translated by Duncan Cordy – Email:








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