The children

Early years

Primary school years



Primary school years

At a glance:

  • Almost one quarter of rural children who enrol in first grade fail to complete primary school 
  • One quarter of primary school teachers are not qualified
  • The great majority of ethnic minority children do not attend school
  • About 3 per cent of gross domestic product is dedicated to education

During the Communist period virtually every Albanian attended school, but that success has eroded seriously. In 2003, the net enrolment rate was 94 per cent. Thousands of teachers have left the field due to poor salaries. Many schools were destroyed during the collapse of the former regime in 1991 and the anarchy following the collapse of pyramid savings schemes in 1997.

Problems are especially severe in rural regions, where almost a quarter of children who enroll in first grade fail to complete primary school. Thirty per cent of rural schools have no bathrooms, which particularly increases dropout rates for girls as they reach adolescence. A significant portion of children, especially girls, are kept out of school by their families due to fears of violence and abduction related to trafficking.

The great majority of children from minority groups (mainly Evgjit and Roma) do not attend school. Of Albania’s 12,000 children with disabilities, 94 per cent do not attend school, as the schools have no capacity to accommodate their special needs. In the north, several hundred children affected by blood feud (revenge killings) are kept at home for protection. Even for those able to take advantage of home-schooling, the lack of social contact leaves them isolated at a crucial time of life, hindering their psychosocial development.

The education system has lost its appeal to both children and parents due to its failure to adapt to the country’s present reality. Classrooms are overcrowded and lack both teaching materials and modern, child-centred teaching techniques. More than a quarter of primary school teachers are not qualified. Lack of links between educational levels makes the transition from primary to secondary school very difficult.

Children who drop out of school face many risks. Extreme poverty, growing levels of organized crime and porous borders have made trafficking a dreadful reality for many children. Children, adolescents and young women are abducted in the street, deceived by false promises for a better life or sold by their own families. They are trafficked to nearby countries (especially Greece and Italy), the younger ones to beg or sell petty items in the streets, the older girls forced into sex work.  

© UNICEF Albania/2004/ A.Celi
Hard at work in a primary school in Korça

Official data suggest that around half of the 700 children living in institutions have at least one living family member. Many of these institutions lack proper hygienic and living conditions and fall far short of providing a nurturing environment, leaving young people unprepared to integrate into society. In addition, around 8,000 children are working on the streets during school hours. While these children are not technically abandoned, their parents either approve of the children working when they should be in school or no parent figure is effectively monitoring their situation.

Some statistics may differ from UNICEF's official data due to differences such as definitions and sample size. Complete official UNICEF data can be found on the main UNICEF website at



 Email this article

unite for children