Access to Learning
Expanding Access to Learning
Situation and Challenges
When only 12 per cent of children aged 7-14 years have basic reading skills and only 7 per cent demonstrate numeracy skills,1 the Education Sector needs reforming. This is the reality in Guinea-Bissau. Many children do not access education, and many of those who do have access are not learning as the quality is below standard.
One third of school-age children are out of school while many of those in school lack conducive learning conditions, including qualified teachers, school materials, and adequate water and sanitation facilities. Only a quarter of the schools offer a complete six-year cycle of primary education. Government allocation from the national budget to Education is 14 per cent, and most of that goes to salaries.
Although early learning is critical for success in school, most children have no access to pre-primary education services. Many early learning centres are private with fees beyond the reach of most families. In 2018, only 14.3 per cent of children aged 36–59 months attended an early childhood education programme with stark disparities between regions. For example, just 3 per cent of children have access to pre-primary education in the northern central Bafatá region compared with 53.5 per cent in the capital region, Bissau. Pedagogical materials are insufficient for children and teachers, and many centres lack water points and/or functional latrines.
Primary education net attendance rate rose from 62 per cent to 69 per cent (70 per cent for girls) between 2014 and 2019 but the lower secondary education net attendance fell from 20 per cent to 9 per cent (8.7 per cent for girls). Factors contributing to the drop in attendance probably include frequent teachers' strikes, incomplete school cycles in remote rural areas, lack of sanitation facilities, extreme poverty, sexual harassment, and early marriage. Moreover, the situation is likely to have worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
Guinea Bissau has a primary education completion rate of under 30 per cent. Some 27.7 per cent of primary school-age children are out of school with over 10 per cent in urban areas and over 36 per cent in rural areas. The net attendance rate is 59 per cent among children in the poorest quintile versus 89 per cent among children in the wealthiest quintile. The Gender Parity Index has improved for primary education, reaching 1.00 (parity) but remains a challenge for secondary education, standing at 0.89 for lower secondary with more boys than girls in school. Aside from cultural norms that can limit girls’ access to school, the long distances to school, inadequate water and sanitation facilities and gender-based violence tend to impact girls more than boys.
Among the most disadvantaged groups are children with disabilities. A study in 2020 found that 12-year-old boys with disabilities were on average three grades behind the boys without disabilities and the 12-year-old girls with disabilities were four grades behind their peers without disabilities.
“My father had taken me out of school because he couldn’t pay for my classes but now, I’m in Grade 11,” Iama says. She adds that the project has also helped to end forced marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM) in her community. “Our elders listen to us now.”