Narrowing Africa's Education Deficit

Editor's Note: This chapter is part of the 2013 Foresight Africa full report, which details the top priorities for Africa in the coming year. Read the full report here.


  • When it comes to education, Africa is running a twin deficit in access to school and learning in school.  Far too many children are out of school and far too many of those in school are not learning.
  • Governments across Africa have systematically failed to put in place the poli­cies needed to reach the most marginalized children—the rural poor, young girls from disadvantaged homes, slum dwellers, pastoralists and others.
  • Around one in three children around primary school age in Africa are in­volved in hazardous employment, working in dangerous environments for pitifully low wages instead of nourishing their minds at school.

Despite some recent gains, sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a two-pronged education crisis of quality and access.  Thirty million primary school-age children in Africa—one in ev­ery four—are out of school, and a growing number of African students are unable to read a simple sentence or successfully complete basic math.

Kevin Watkins examines this twin deficit in African education and offers policy recom­mendations to African governments.  Watkins also calls for prioritizing education as a top-tier issue, improving teacher training and support, increasing attention to early childhood development, addressing inequalities in educational systems that are marginalizing the poor and girls, and increasing involvement of international donors.