Girls still find it just as difficult to continue their studies in sub-Saharan Africa: 55 million girls versus 49 million boys do not go to school, according to the UNESCO global report on early school leaving among boys. However, in several countries where parity was achieved, the situation has reversed in recent years to the detriment of children.
In Senegal, for example, “Boys were far less likely than girls to drop out of school in 1999. This trend was reversed a decade later, in 2011, with more boys dropping out of school than girls – 113 boys for every 100 girls. In 2019, only 88. boys were enrolled in primary school for every 100 girls “, Matthias Eck, a specialist in UNESCO’s education and gender equality program and co-author of the recent study by the United Nations organization, explains to franceinfo Africa.
Gambia, Rwanda and Burundi are experiencing a situation similar to that of Senegal. In these countries, “Poorer boys are now less likely than poorer girls to complete primary education. In Lesotho, which has one of the largest gender gaps in the world at the expense of boys, only 67 poorest boys complete primary education every 100 poorest girls “, continues the expert. “Early school leaving is a phenomenon that has grown. What was previously a problem of rich countries, in this case those of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), it has also become a problem in low- and middle-income countries. “
Poverty is still one of the main reasons for this trend. Encourage parents to put their children to work to increase the family income. “In southern African countries where fewer boys than girls complete primary and secondary education, particularly in Lesotho and Namibia, boys are taken out of school very early to raise cattle or migrate to South Africa to work in the mines.”he claims Mattia Eck. Likewise, “Child labor is highest in sub-Saharan African countries. In Ethiopia, 51% of children between 5 and 17 work, as well as Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Madagascar, where two fifths or more of these children work.”
The social and cultural constraints observed at all levels in sub-Saharan Africa also contribute to the worsening of the phenomenon: 32% in primary school, 30% in lower secondary school and 38% in upper secondary school. “In Lesotho, explains the Unesco expertinitiation ceremonies are the basis of this transition to work and adulthood “.” Our children are forced by their peers to go to initiation school, regrets a father from the Highlands of Lesotho whose testimony was collected as part of the UNESCO investigation. Those who are not circumcised are discriminated against by their friends. It is because most of the children in our community have attended initiation schools that this leads them to drop out of school earlier. ” When it is not peer pressure, initiates inflict it on themselves. “When they come back from initiation schools, underlines another testimony, you see men and cannot go back to school with children (…). The boys, after reaching a certain age, must go to initiation, marry and have children, so that the child grows up being channeled in this way “.
Among the social norms that hinder the permanence of children in school, we find the role assigned to men, namely that of protecting and providing for the needs of their families. Young boys can also suffer from the prejudices of their teachers who find them more rowdy than girls and from the corporal punishment inflicted on them.
Repetition, which is on the rise all over the world, also promotes school dropout among children. In South Africa, Algeria, eSwatini, Lesotho, Morocco and Namibia, girls repeat less than their peers of the opposite sex. Early school leaving associated with youth unemployment in African countries is a time bomb in states where conflict or insecurity is on the rise. Boys are easy recruits for armed groups. “The countries with the highest percentage of young men aged 15 to 24 who do not attend studies, work or training are mainly found in sub-Saharan Africa”, says Matthias Eck. With a rate of 57%, Niger, in the fight against jihadism and terrorism, beats all records.