Education is an elementary tool for development and growth. The progress of any nation is closely related to the level of education and the literacy of her citizens. Growth, development and poverty reduction of any nation correlates strongly with the knowledge and skills of the citizenry. Education raises people’s productivity and creativity, thereby securing economic and social progress of the nation. Which country is the least educated in Africa? Let us look at the continents Africa and compare its educational level with the rest of the world.
As noted earlier, only people who are educated can contribute to the growth of the nations , help develop their country and increase the economics. Conversely, uneducated population have little or nothing to contribute to the development and progress of any nation. These citizens suffer the more risk of unemployment and poverty. Little wonder these least educated countries are also the poverty capitals of the world!
Africa, as a continent, is a mixture of countries on either sides of the coin. Whereas some countries in Africa are mostly educated, some are least educated. The later is the focus of this post.
It is worthy of note that 9 out of the 10 least educated countries in the world are in Africa, further pointing why the continent is progressing sluggishly. Here is the list of countries with the highest illiteracy rates:
Niger is the least literate country in Africa and among the top 10 in the world. With the population of 22.4 million (estimated), only 19.1% of the population above the age of 15 can read and write with comprehension.
The worst hit gender in the illiterate population is the female, with 89% of illiterate girls in Niger. The illiteracy rate within the male population is 72.7%. Although the government has mandated primary education at no cost to residents, the enrollment rates still remain significantly lower and lowest among the girls.
2. South Sudan
Officially referred to as the Republic of South Sudan, South Sudan is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa. South Sudan has a population of about 12 million and has a literacy rate of only 26.8%. 73.2% of the population are illiterates. 65.2% of this population are male while 80.8% are female. South Sudan has experienced a long period of Civil War which has spanned over 50 years.
According to the Ministry of General Education and Instruction, during the Civil War, educational and health facilities were incinerated and shut down, school teachers evacuated towns or were displaced, and the resulting lack of infrastructure contributed to a generational denial of education to children in the region. Since becoming an independent nation, South Sudan has been working to improve its educational system. South Sudan is also the second least educated country in the world.
Officially referred to as the Republic of Guinea, Guinea is a west-coastal country in West Africa with a population of 12.4 million. Only 30.4% of the population are literates, 69.6% of the population are illiterates. 61.9 % and 77.2% of the male and female population respectively are illiterates.
Guinea has a very low public school enrollment rate. Although the primary education is compulsory for 6 years, most of children do not go to school for so long, and many do not attend at all. Children, particularly girls, are kept out of school to either assist their parents with domestic work or agriculture, or to be married. Guinea has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.
Mali has a 33% literacy rate in the adult population and are majorly men. For example, as of 2013, 43.1% of men over the age of 15 in this country are considered literate. That percentage is only 24.6% for women, although some reports estimate the amount to be much lower.
Public education in Mali is provided at no cost to the population, with the exception of books, uniforms, and other fees. Because of the high rates of poverty in this country, many families are unable to afford the costs associated with sending their children to school. This makes the enrollment rate low when compared to the global average, which results in high levels of illiteracy.
5. Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa with a population of about 21 million. The country has a literacy rate of 36%, with 64% of the population being illiterates. 57% of the male population and 70.7% of the female population are illiterates. However, there is a significant improvement in the education sector, compared to the 2008 where the literacy rate in the world was just 25.3%. Schooling is compulsory from age 6 to 16.
6. Central African Republic
Central African Republic is a landlocked country in West Africa with an estimated population of about 4.7 million. Public education in the country is free and is compulsory from ages 6 to 14. However, more than half of the adult population of the country are illiterates.
The literacy rate is 36.8%. 49.3% of the male population and 75.6% of the female population are illiterates. Generally, 63.2% of the adult population cannot read and write with comprehension. The higher illiteracy rate among the female population is a reflection of the fact that girls often stop attending school after first few years of primary education, due to pressure to get married.
In Benin, only 38% of the adult population is able to read and write. However, In 2006, this number was 28.7%. In 2007, the government made public education free to the population, which led to a significant jump in student enrollment numbers. Additionally, the literacy rate has increased by roughly 10% over that time.
Chad is considered the 8th least literate country in Africa. Only approximately 40% of the adult population here is literate. Since 1993, when the literacy rate was only 10.9%, this country has experienced an annual average increase of 46.54% which can be attributed to government’s efforts to improve classroom environment and teacher training during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
9. Côte D’Ivoire
Cote d’Ivoire stands as the 9th least literate country in Africa with literate population of 43%.This is however, a significant leap compared to 1988, when only 34.1% of the population could read and write. During the 80’s, the government of Cote d’Ivoire invested a higher percentage of its budget in the educational sector than any other country in the world, in terms of percentage of the gross domestic product.
Liberia has a 48% literacy rate, which represents an 18% increase over the 1984 report. The warfare experienced by this country has contributed to this low level of literacy, making development and improvement in its public sectors difficult to achieve. It is the tenth least literate country in Africa.