|The lost children|
|Data briefs: Progress and disparity|
City to countryside: A long way to go in schooling
The gap between the number of children attending primary school in urban areas and those in rural areas is large and proving hard to bridge, according to surveys in 54 countries conducted between 1990 and 1999. In 34 countries (see graph) there is at least a 10 percentage point urban/rural gap.
The urban/rural divide is greatest in Eritrea, where 79% of children in urban areas attend school, while only 24% attend in the countryside a 55 percentage point difference. In 24 countries the gaps are 20 percentage points or more.
Urban and rural disparities above 30 or more percentage points were found in 10 countries. Burkina Faso, Eritrea and Niger showed disparities of 40 or more percentage points.
Girls in rural areas are at a double disadvantage. Not only are many of them not in school, as in urban areas, but they must also contend with more severe challenges such as fewer schools, longer distances from home to school and stronger cultural constraints, as well as deeper poverty and discrimination.
Research shows, however, that efforts to get and keep girls in school, regardless of whether they work, are over age for the appropriate grade level or live in rural areas, benefit boys as well sometimes even more than girls.
To date, the most successful methods of reducing the attendance gap between city and countryside have also been those designed to increase girls attendance.