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Sahel Alliance Members’ Priority: Education and Training for Young People

  • Over 40% of children in the primary school age group do not attend school.
  • A child born in the Sahel can expect to attend school for 3 years, compared with 7.8 years in the rest of the world.
  • Just over one young person in two (57%) is literate, compared with 75% overall in sub-Saharan Africa.

The conflicts led to many schools closing down and had a devastating social impact on education. Strikes in this sector, resulting from administrative malfunctions, have exacerbated the vulnerability of the education system in the Sahel region, with heavy consequences for the number of schooling months per year.

The development of vocational or employability skills is reduced due to inadequate or underdeveloped vocational and technical education. Yet, improving attractive employment opportunities for young people is essential to breaking the cycle of poverty and boosting social inclusion and resilience in the region.

Funding for education in emergencies in the Sahel (ESU) remains essentially humanitarian and is provided by multilateral international organisations and local NGOs. Although donors also finance ESU to a lesser extent, general coverage of needs remains low even though demand has grown exponentially over the period.

Despite these challenges, the data shows that a number of initiatives supported by NGOs and communities are allowing a minimum education service to be provided in crisis situations in the Sahel.

Copyright: Plan International Canada
Copyright: Aude Rossignol / Alliance Sahel

Education is not a privilege, it is a fundamental human right, a powerful vector for development and one of the best ways to reduce poverty, raise health standards, promote gender equality and advance peace and stability. Yet, it is severely undervalued, particularly in times of crisis.

In the Sahel, the needs are considerable; the number of forcibly displaced people rose by 33% between 2022 and 2023, reaching over 4 million people. Insecurity, extreme poverty, climate change and the impact of the COVID crisis are structural challenges for education for all, overturning decades of progress. In the central Sahel, the school drop-out rate is one of the highest in the world, with almost half of children not attending school – 12 million children in 2023, twice as many as in 2020 – the majority of them being girls and young people with disabilities, particularly in rural areas. Attacks on schools have led to the closure of more than 64% of schools in 2 years.

To tackle this major crisis, the mobilisation and coordination of technical and financial partners (TFPs) is essential, particularly within the Sahel Alliance, as is the use of local stakeholders and their strengthening.

AFD has been operating in the education sector in the Sahel for over 20 years, supporting public policies and education systems in the region’s countries. We are currently funding nearly 50 projects for a total of €461 million, mainly through donations (80%) from funds allocated to us by the French government or delegated to us by the Global Partnership for Education.

Thanks to this funding, France has contributed to the enrolment of 900,000 students, the majority of whom are girls, in primary and secondary education, and to improve teachers’ professional skills and the effective management of education systems.

Our actions are always carried out at the request of the partner countries and tend to respond as precisely as possible to the specific needs and context of each territory. Therefore, we provide support for public policies, through budget financing and tailor-made programmes or projects, taking into account the diversity of challenges faced by the population: education, but also health, climate, security, etc. We ensure that our actions are coordinated with other partners in order to provide complementary and effective actions.

In Burkina-Faso and Niger, AFD was chosen as a partner agent for Global Partnership for Education financing and has carried out high-impact actions for education systems up until the last few months. In Chad, in the Lake region, AFD has simultaneously taken into account the various concerns of populations: in addition to security issues, there are significant needs in terms of access and quality of education for young children, as well as health and nutrition. The implementation of this project, carried out in close collaboration with other TFPs, in particular the Swiss cooperation, has been entrusted to local NGOs, working as closely as possible with the affected populations.

Access to the basic service that is education as part of an integrated territorial approach, advocated by the Sahel Alliance, seems to be most relevant in the Sahel; it is an excellent means of coordination between development partners to ensure better territorial coverage, including in the most fragile areas.

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