Central and West Africa home to almost a quarter of out-of-school children worldwide

08 September 2022
A young boy writing on a blackboard with his teacher in the background

Fifty-seven million children, adolescents and youth are barred from attending school in the Central and West Africa region, representing 24.1 per cent of the 236 million out of school worldwide, warn the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in a report published on the eve of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack.

“Every child out of school, every day of learning lost, is one brick fewer to build peace and prosperity in the region,” said Maureen Magee, Regional Director for NRC in Central and West Africa. “In this context of relentless violence and families repeatedly uprooted from their homes, the leaders of the Central and West African Region must do their utmost to ensure the full implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration and protect every child’s right to go to school.”

The number of school closures has spiked in eight countries of the region, with over 12,400 schools closed by the end of the 2021-22 school year*. In Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger more than half of all children and adolescents do not have access to education. Over the last school year, the number of closed schools increased by 66 per cent in the Central Sahel region alone. Schools are either the direct target of attacks by non-state armed groups or deserted by students in fear of attacks. Violence also forces entire communities to lose their resources and flee, cutting off children and adolescents' access to education.

The region is facing an unprecedented challenge to ensure there is not a whole generation of lost learners. Their future depends on the ability of governments to prioritise the rehabilitation, reopening and securing of damaged or destroyed schools, and to reinforce alternative learning solutions when that is not possible. Concrete measures should be taken by parties to the conflicts in the region to end the military use of schools.

"Sadly, learning institutions have not been spared from attacks by armed groups. Maintaining access to safe, quality education for all children, including refugees, is crucial," said Millicent Mutuli, Director of UNHCR Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa.

International funding to the education sector is also often among the lowest of the humanitarian responses in the Central and West Africa region. In 2021, donor governments provided less than a quarter of the funds needed to meet emergency education needs, half of the 2018 allocation. In Burkina Faso, which has a third of all schools currently closed in the region, the amount allocated by donors so far this year represents barely 20 US Cents per month per displaced child under the age of 15.

As tomorrow marks the International Day to Protect Education from Attack , the three humanitarian organisations call on governments, armed forces, other parties to conflicts and the international community to take concerted action to stop attacks and threats against schools, students and teachers, as well as to step up sustainable support for quality learning for every child in the region.


Notes to editors

  • The new report by the Regional Education in Emergencies Working Group “Education Under Attack in West and Central Africa – 2022 Update” is available in English and French.
  • In Central and West Africa, 57 million children, adolescents and youth aged from 6-18 years old are barred from attending school representing 24.1 per cent of the 236 million out of school worldwide (UNESCO).
  • *12,400 schools are closed in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mali, Niger, and Nigeria.
  • The Safe Schools Declaration is an inter-governmental political commitment to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities from the worst effects of armed conflict.
  • Central and West Africa is home to almost a quarter of the 6-18 years old out of school children, adolescents and youth, while the region’s share of the global population of children of corresponding age is 12.05 per cent (UNPD).
  • 52 per cent of all children and adolescents in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger do not have access to education (Project 21).
  • In the Central Sahel, 4,139 schools were closed as of June 2021 and 6,879 as of June 2022 (Education Clusters).
  • In Burkina Faso, only 3.4 per cent of funding appeals had been met by the end of August, i.e. 1.5 million disbursed, whereas 45 million are needed to cover all the educational needs linked to the humanitarian crisis (UNOCHA).


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

NRC global media hotline: media@nrc.no, +47 905 62329

Tom Peyre-Costa, Regional Media Adviser in West and Central Africa: tom.peyrecosta@nrc.no, Whatsapp: +33 658 518391

Alpha Seydi Ba, Senior Communication Officer, UNHCR Regional Bureau for West & Central Africa: baalp@unhcr.org, +221 77 345 74 54

John James, Communication Specialist (Emergency & Public Advocacy), UNICEF WCA regional office: jjames@unicef.org, +221 78 638 0252

Media contacts

John James
UNICEF West & Central Africa
Tel: +221 78 638 02 52


UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in West and Central Africa, visit https://www.unicef.org/wca.

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