Survey reveals why thousands of children are missing school

A pupil listens to a teacher as he writes notes in a previous lesson. [Getty Images]

Thousands of children are being locked out of school due to the failure of the government to finance their education, according to a new report.

It also emerged that the current disbursement of government funds per pupil is low, in turn negatively affecting vulnerable households, especially those in rural communities.

The finding is contained in a report titled ‘Transforming Education Financing in Africa, A Strategic Agenda for the African Union Year of Education 2024.’

The study was supported by several organisations - the Centre for Economic and Social Rights, OXFAM, ISER, Global Alliance For Tax Justice, Tax and ED Alliance, Tax Justice Network, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Grade, Action Aid, Tax Justice Network Africa, and Global Campaign for Education.

Some 38,904,483 pupils in primary schools in the region have been forced to drop out of school because of the high cost of education out of which 727,200 pupils are in Kenya, it says.

On capitation requirements, the report says each primary school pupil in Kenya requires at least Sh62,577 to cover the cost of their education every year.

The report says if the government can provide Sh173.5 billion, as per the IMF estimates (20 per cent) of GDP, some 2,772,616 primary school children in Kenya will return to school.

The report released this month further indicates that the acute budget cuts freezes, or squeezes in government funding have compounded the challenges.

The document indicates that the region is behind in spending on education with only seven out of 35 countries able to allocate 20 per cent of their GDP to education. Kenya is among 10 countries in the region spending less than 15 per cent share of their budget on the sector.

“If African countries are to achieve the continental education strategy and SDG 4, a significant increase in education investment is necessary. CESA 16 – 25 acknowledges that education systems that ‘nurture African core values and promote sustainable development’, are only achievable with sustainable financing and mobilization of resources, especially national resource mobilization,” the report reads.

It also emerged that while there has been commendable progress in getting learners into school and addressing inequality in education, significant disparities persist. These include gender, disabilities, parental education, ethnicity, and migrant and refugee status which continue to affect completion and progression rates, especially among girls.

“Girls are more likely to be excluded from basic education when budgets are cut; women lose access to some of the best opportunities for decent work as teachers and other education personnel,” reads the report.

This shows that many may be facing unique challenges that require additional interventions, protection and support.

“Girls experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination because of their class, social origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or migrant status, amongst other dimensions,” reads the report, raising concerns about the quality of education learners receive.

For the last 50 years, the report says, schools have continued to experience acute teacher shortages with the 44 million primary and secondary teachers needed to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, globally. In Africa alone, in the next six years, some 17 million teachers need to be recruited in both primary and secondary schools.

But with the intention of the majority of African Union countries planning to decrease total government spending in the next two years, there is worry that teachers will also be affected.

“When there is an overall squeeze on public spending, it is evident that the education budgets will also be affected. This will require cuts in the number of teachers or cuts to teachers pay,” according to the latest report that calls for increased investment in the sector.

The report also points an accusing finger at debt repayment as well as hash conditions imposed on grants given to African regions as some factors that continue to create inequalities in education.