We’re building a new UNICEF.org.
As we swap out old for new, pages will be in transition. Thanks for your patience – please keep coming back to see the improvements.

The State of the World's Children 2004

African countries move closer to education goals

© UNICEF/HQ-94-1182/Pirozzi
The willingness of donor governments to invest in an idea at a critical time meant a huge difference in the lives of scores of thousands of girls, and in the lives of their families.

The African Girls’ Education Initiative, a partnership among countries, donor governments and UN agencies, has produced remarkable results towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the Education For All commitments.

From 1997 to 2001, the multi-country Initiative saw increased gross enrolment ratios for girls in such countries as Benin (9 per cent), Guinea (15 per cent) and Senegal (12 per cent). This at a time when the global average for combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratios increased by only one percentage point.

The progress made by Chad in school enrolment is particularly striking. Begun in 1996 when Chad’s gross enrolment rates were 51 per cent overall and 37 per cent for girls, the first two years saw the number of girls enrolled in first grade jump fourfold; the drop-out rate decrease from 22 per cent to 9 per cent and the number of female teachers increase from 36 to 787.  In the 10 participating areas, girls’ net enrolment was 18 percentage points higher than the national average. By 2000-2001, Chad’s gross enrolment for all children had risen to 75 per cent.

Under the umbrella of the Global Girls’ Education Initiative, the African Girls’ Education Initiative began with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency. Later, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs invested more than $45 million for the period 1996-2005. The Governments of Denmark, France, Germany and Japan have also contributed to girls’ education programmes in the Initiative.

Applying best practices

The African Initiative countries systematically review their programmes to identify what works to ensure girls enrol and stay in school. Chad, for instance, adapted Colombia’s ‘Escuela Nueva’ approach to multigrade teaching. Learning is directly related to the specific needs of the community so students, who progress at their own pace, can apply their schooling to their lives. 


Extraordinary progress in Africa must be made in the next few years if the Education For All goals are to be met. A recent estimate has sub-Saharan Africa at its current pace achieving universal primary education by 2129.

The Governments of Finland, Norway and Sweden are taking the lead in thematic funding for agencies committed to girls’ education. When funds are committed to gender parity, nations will move closer to fulfilling the Millennium Development Goal of gender parity by 2005.



Español   Français

New enhanced search