Preschool years and School Age
If children do survive to their fifth birthday, they seldom enjoy their basic rights. Only a few young children under six years of age have access to preschool programmes, which are vital for their cognitive development as well as socialization.
A significant number of children, particularly girls, never go to school. The primary school gross enrolment rate is 70.7 per cent for girls and 89.5 per cent for boys. The quality of education is compromised by high teacher-student ratios and overcrowding in poorly constructed classrooms. Primary school repetition and dropout rates are high especially among girls in rural communities.
Girls are also more prone to drop out of school early to marry, to help with heavy household chores or to migrate to cities or neighbouring countries, often in futile attempts to escape abject poverty back home. They are particularly vulnerable to traffickers and other forms of exploitation. In a study conducted in Mali in 2008 with UNICEF support, 8.8 per cent of the children interviewed said they had been victims of trafficking.
Many other children are subjected to other forms of exploitative labour. About two children out of three between five and 17 years are working, representing three million girls and boys. Girls are particularly vulnerable as the majority are employed as domestic workers in households.