Secondary Education in Sub-Saharan Africa
BackgroundUNESCO's most recent regional overview of sub-Saharan Africa, enrollment in sub-Saharan Africa increased significantly at all education levels between 1999 and 2006. Overall, sub-Saharan Africa, like the Arab States, and South and West Asia, still lags behind other regions in terms of distance from universal education. While sub-Saharan Africa is also lacking in the attainment of many Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), many believe that progress in education could help unlock progress on the MDGs, but will require a strengthened commitment to equity. Persistent inequalities are hindering progress towards the Education For All (EFA) goals at global, regional and national levels. The EFA Global Monitoring Report 2009 finds that within countries, disparities based on wealth, location, gender, immigration or minority status or disability are the main factors which deny millions of children a good-quality education.
Increasing the levels of participation in secondary education are explicit goals of the Dakar Framework for Action, as well as MDG 3 on gender parity and equality.
Unfortunately, progress in secondary education in Sub-Saharan Africa isn’t growing as quickly as Primary Education in Sub-Saharan Africa.
For the school year ending in 2005, the median transition rate from primary to secondary was 62%. And it was noticeably lower for girls (57%) than for boys (66%).
Overall, enrollment in secondary education is rising in sub-Saharan Africa, with 12 million more students in 2006 than in 1999, up from 20.6 million to 32.6 million. However, despite this significant trend, the average secondary Net Enrollment Ratio (NER) in sub-Saharan Africa was 25% in 2006. This implies that nearly 78 million of the region’s secondary school-age children were not enrolled in secondary school.
The regional average figure conceals significant differences between countries. For example, while secondary NER levels in 2006 were less than 20% in Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Mozambique, the Niger and Uganda, they were over 80% in Mauritius and Seychelles. Participation in secondary education increased between 1999 and 2006 in most of the twenty-nine countries with data, and particularly in Benin, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Guinea and Mauritius secondary Gross Enrollment Ratios (GERs) rose by thirteen percentage points or more. On the other hand, substantial decreases were recorded in Malawi, where the secondary GER declined from 36% to 29% during the period.
Many factors inhibiting access to education are gender-based, though many, and sometimes more important factors, are not. Often, wealth, race, religion, ethnicity, disability, rural habitation, child labor, health barriers and language are important factors regarding attendance and access to secondary education in Sub-Saharan Africa. The issues faced disproportionately or solely by girls are the issues of early marriage, pregnancy, cultural norms and practices, and especially poverty. Poverty weighs more heavily on girls than boys because it is generally an indicator of higher instances of the other inhibiting factors that girls face in Sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty is aligned with greater instances of child marriage, malnutrition, pregnancy, child mortality, cultural preference for males and child labor; all of which magnify the negative affect on girls more so than on boys in Sub-Saharan Africa. 
Speaking an indigenous or non-official language remains a core marker for disadvantage in secondary education. For example, in Mozambique, 43% of people aged 16 to 49 who speak Portuguese (the language of instruction) have at least one grade of secondary schooling; among speakers of Lomwe, Makhuwa, Sena and Tsonga, the shares range from 6% to 16%. 
At the secondary level, gender gaps existed in all of the region’s countries with data in 2006 (except Mauritius and Swaziland), and the mean regional Gender Parity Index (GPI) was 0.80, slightly lower than in 1999 (0.82), as compared to 0.89 for primary education. Overall, sub-Saharan Africa has a combined low participation in secondary education and low GPIs. In Benin, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali and Niger, the secondary GERs for girls were less than 70% of those for boys. On the other hand, Cape Verde, Lesotho, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles and South Africa had significant disparities favoring girls. Trends show a strong correlation between higher levels of expenditure in education and greater gender equity. There is also a strong correlation between more poor girls dropping out of secondary school due to school fees than poor boys or either gender with more wealth.
Within countries there is a strong association between poverty and gender inequalities in education. Gender differences in net attendance rates tend to be wider for poorer households in countries with relatively low school attendance. For school attendance, poverty weighs more heavily on girls than boys – far more so, in some cases. For example, in Mali girls from the richest households are eight times more likely to go to secondary school than those from the poorest households. 
Around one-quarter of 5- to 14-year-olds in sub-Saharan Africa were engaged in child labor in 2004. Because population growth has increased faster than child labor rates have fallen, there were about 1 million more child laborers in 2004 than in 2000. 
As of 2004, early marriage rates were higher in sub-Saharan African than any other region in the world. On average in the region, 52% of girls were married, divorced, or widowed by the age of 18. This rate varies widely from 18% in Botswana, to nearly 80% in Niger. 
The World Bank adds that factors affecting the participation of girls in secondary include policy and direction of aid ﬂows at the international level, economic policies at the national level, family level economic decisions, and sociocultural norms.
International Gender Parity and Equality Protocols
Millennium Development Goal 3:
Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.
Education for All
Education for All (EFA ) is a set of six internationally agreed upon goals which are used to address the main hurdles to achieving universal education.
These six goals are:
Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality.
Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programs.
Achieving a 50 percent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.
Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.
Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.
In order to achieve the UNESCO EFA goals, the Dakar Framework for Action, agreed upon in 2000, sets out a two-part gender equity agenda: first, to achieve gender parity in school participation and second, to improve gender equality in educational opportunities and outcomes.
Gender Parity Index (GPI)
The GPI is defined as the ratio of female to male values of a given indicator. A GPI of 1 indicates parity between sexes; a GPI above 1 indicates data in favor of females, while a GPI below 1 indicates data in favor of males. In sub-Saharan Africa, the secondary school GPI fell from 0.82 in 1999 to 0.80 in 2006. 
Gross Enrollment Rate (GER)
The GER is defined as the total enrollment in a specific level of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the population in the official age group corresponding to this level of education. The GER can exceed 100% due to late entry or/and repetition. 
Gross Intake Rate (GIR)
The GIR is defined as the total number of new entrants to a given grade of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the population at the official school entrance age for that grade.
Net Enrollment Ratio (NER)
The NER is defined as the enrollment of the official age group for a given level of education, expressed as a percentage of the population in that age group.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 UNESCO. (2009). Education For All Global Monitoring Report. UNESCO.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Sutherland-Addy, E. (2008). Gender Equity in Junior and Senior Secondary Education in Sub-Saharan Africa. The World Bank, The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Washington D.C.: The World Bank.
- ↑ UNFPA. 2004. Child Marriage Advocacy Programme: Fact Sheet on Child Marriage and Early Union.
- ↑ UNESCO. (2010). EFA Goals. Retrieved August 3, 2010, from UNESCO: http://www.unesco.org/en/efa/efa-goals/
- ↑ UNESCO. (2000, April). UNESCO- Education For All- The Dakar Framework for Action. Retrieved August 2, 2010, from UNESCO: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001211/121147e.pdf
- Millennium Development Goals
- Primary Completion Rates
- Statistics:School Enrolment
- Statistics:Literacy Rates
- Education for All
- GID Variables: School Enrolment
- GID Variables: Literacy Rates
- GID Variables: Political Empowerment
- Maternal Mortality
- Adolescent Birth Rate
- Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
- Under-Five Mortality Rate