Contributing for quality education for girls and boys
Significant progress in school enrolment has been achieved since 2000 despite the challenges caused to the education system by rapid population growth. This progress has stalled in recent years, with net primary school attendance falling from 67 to 62.4 per cent in 4 years (2010-2014). The net enrolment rates from yearbook 2014/2015 show that 34 per cent of children aged 6-11 years are not enrolled. Among them, only 14 per cent of children who enrol in Grade 1 complete Grade 12.
The gender gap in net primary school enrolment rates increases with the age of students. In the 10-11 age group, 25.7 per cent of girls are out-of-school, against 17.5 per cent for boys. Girls are more likely to drop out of school due to early pregnancy or marriage.
In the academic year 2016-2017, 92 teaching days (46 per cent) were lost to strike. The new academic year of 2018/2019 began again with teacher strikes. 46 school days (out of a potential 60 days) have been lost in the first trimester of the academic year which have a negative impact on children’s education and contribute to high proportion of children out-of-school and poor learning outcomes. Furthermore, the schooling system faces critical challenges to ensure secondary education for children aged 12, meaning that many of them will have to move to urban areas to complete secondary school.
However, despite these hindrances, the country reached gender parity for primary education (Situation Analysis Of Children And Women Guinea-Bissau, 2015).
UNICEF aims to provide all children access to inclusive and comprehensive education, with a focus on early childhood care and education promoting school readiness and enabling a successful transition into primary school at the right age. These priorities will be achieved through partnership building, sector coordination and partner building capacity to lead analysis, advocacy and policy dialogue. Equally important is the support to infrastructure construction and rehabilitation of classrooms and gender disaggregated WASH facilities, according to Child Friendly School standards, and supporting the ministry of education for the strengthening of quality assurance systems.
Revitalizing school inspection system standards and teacher training
In partnership with PLAN international, Fundação Fé e Cooperação (FEC), and Handicap International, UNICEF supported the ministry of education to revive the monitoring of schools by supporting the induction training of 180 school inspectors. They are responsible for monitoring over 1700 schools with specific focus on teacher attendance and teaching learning processes. UNICEF-led advocacy resulted in the addition of 14 inspectors for pre-school monitoring in the ministry of education, which had only 5 inspectors in 2014. In addition, 62 pre-school teachers were trained to enhance their knowledge on early grade literacy and use of locally-made learning materials. As a result of the construction of three regional teacher training centres, 500 teachers will increase their capacities in pre and in-service annually.
UNICEF has also continued to support the ministry of education in the validation and development of standards:
- National quality Ssandards (NQS), which are expected to improve retention, quality and learning in schools and
- Early learning development standards (ELDS) which will provide the necessary framework to achieve quality pre-school education.
As only 30 per cent children enter school at the right age of six years, this campaign, whose motto is “Start at 6 and study for 6 years!” was launched to sensitize on the right age of enrolment, as per the education law, and on the importance of completing at least 6 years of primary education and not dropping school earlier. This affects girls more particularly with 25.7 per cent of girls being out-of-school in the 10-11 years age-group, against 17.5 per cent for boys.
Out-of-school children (OOSCs)
The completion of the UNICEF supported study on out-of-school children was a major highlight in 2018. Among others a key finding was the presence of a substantial proportion of overage children (12-14 years) in the lower primary grades. This study and the recommendations are now being used by Country Office to develop strategies to address the issue of OOSCs.