Six reasons why 89m youth in sub-Saharan Africa are out of school

About 89 million young people in sub-Saharan Africa – almost half of all those aged 12 to 24 – have either never been to school or dropped out before completing their secondary education.

The statistic is revealed in a report by The World Bank, which identified six major characteristics of out-of-school youth across the region.

It said: “The out-of-school problem is particularly large in low-income countries, Francophone countries and fragile or conflict-affected countries.”

It added that students’ experiences of education can vary greatly in different African countries. In Mali – where 68% of youth are out of school – one in seven of them is a dropout while the other six never attended school. But in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe, most out-of-school youth went to school at some point.

The report – Out-of-School Youth in sub-Saharan Africa: A Policy Perspective – warned that, in the next decade, an estimated 40 million more youth are expected to drop out of school and face an uncertain future due to inadequate skills.

The World Bank report classed out-of-school youth as those aged 12 to 24 who had never attended school or who had dropped out before completing secondary-level education.

It said there are:

Six characteristics of out-of-school youth


  1. Most drop out before secondary school and many never set foot in a school
  2. The prospect of an early marriage is a key barrier to young females’ education and affects girls’ schooling even before they get married
  3. Rural youth are more likely to be excluded from education than urban youth, with most of them working
  4. Parental education is the single most important determinant of youth’s education outcomes
  5. The number of working adults in a household matters a great deal for schooling choices and school/work decisions
  6. Lack of formal schools and low educational quality are binding constraints to improving enrollment and retention of students

Three ways to address the problem


  • Improve retention through greater early intervention to get children enrolled at the right age; renew focus on improving the quality of primary education; expand secondary education with support from the private sector; create a greater awareness for the importance of education, especially for girls and rural youth; and, as needed, cash incentives
  • Remediation requires reliable and longer-term funding for successful alternative programmess, a greater recognition that youth must work to survive and large-scale co-ordinated interventions for youth in conflict areas
  • Labour market integration requires – among other factors – better impact evaluations and longevity of effective workforce development programmes, co-ordinated action between government actors, regional entities, NGOs and the productive sector, and removal of legal and institutional barriers to financing for youth enterprises

One way to turn strategy into practice


The report said: “The international community could make a difference by promoting out-of-school youth as a single-issue area, looking for co-ordination, and developing holistic programs that consider the constraints that youth face.

“One such programme can be found in Mali where, after the 2012 political and security crisis, many youth with no or very limited skills found themselves in a situation with even more limited prospects of productive employment.”

Read the full report here.