High rates of learning poverty in Western and Central Africa suggest that too many children are either not attending school or are not learning enough in school.

The World Bank’s strategy for this region seeks to widen opportunities, improve teaching and learning and build job-relevant skills.

Below is an exploration of how to protect children’s right to education, ensuring they have widespread access through to higher education and beyond.

November 20 marked World Children’s Day. The fundamental right of children to an education is reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Unfortunately education is often not a reality for many children living in Western and Central Africa, where almost 80 percent 10-year-olds are learning poor, unable to read and understand a simple text – the highest percentage in the world. High rates of learning poverty indicate that too many children are either not attending school or are in school but not learning.

Our recent blog highlighted the stories of Leah, Hauwa, and Hussaini, three children from the region, whose education has been disrupted primarily due to conflicts. Their stories illustrate challenges millions of children face in accessing and completing education and demonstrate that learning and children’s rights in the region are under pressure.

A renewed hope and vision for children in West and Central Africa

The region has the potential to create equal and inclusive opportunities for all girls and boys arrive at school ready to learn, attain quality learning, and enter the job market with the right set of skills to become productive and fulfilled citizens. This is the vision for the World Bank’s forthcoming Regional Education Strategy for Western and Central Africa (2022-2025).

Though still under preparation, the proposed strategy seeks to promote high-impact interventions and system-wide reforms across the learning lifecycle – from early childhood to tertiary education – building on evidence of what has worked in the region, and globally. It is anchored around three pillars:

1. Widening opportunities

2. Improving teaching and learning

3. Building job-relevant skills

The strategy also calls for strengthening strategic leadership, improving governance and financing of the sector to drive critical reforms, and enhancing implementation capacity for long-term impact.

Equal and inclusive opportunities for all

Although the region has made tremendous gains, provision of universal basic education (primary and secondary education) remains a challenge for many countries. Widespread poverty and school shortages are contributing to low access. In addition, approximately 101 million children were affected by school closures at the peak of the pandemic. We are facing an unprecedented crisis within a crisis.

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