Literacy Is a Human Right

“Those who cannot read and write are “destined to be on the social and economic margins of our world. Being able to read and write has profound benefits not only on a person’s educational opportunities but also for their health, economic prospects, and their children.” Unesco

AU Watch believes that education is the key to the future of Africa. Too many of our youths cannot read and write. The project will work to achieve universal reading, writing and IT proficiency for all our youths. This includes helping them to engage solidly with the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is now with us. We are exploring ways to achieve such goals, like establishing libraries, reading clubs / books clubs all over the continent and offer every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.


A disturbing report from UNESCO shows that the number of African children and adolescents who are out of school is on the rise and figures released by UIS and GMR shows that international aid to education remains below 2010 levels and is grossly insufficient to meet new education targets to achieve universal primary and secondary education.  According to UIS estimates, 24 million children in Africa will never enter a classroom and that half of all out-of-school children in sub-Saharan Africa will never enrol. Girls are the most disadvantaged. They reckon that there is an annual gap of $39 billion to provide 12 years of good quality education by 2030, twenty years before the anticipated centenary celebrations of the AU.


This is criminal neglect!

The way our state managers treat our children is nothing short of criminal neglect. While GMR shows that, despite a small increase of 6% in aid to education, levels are 4% lower today than in 2010. Without renewed commitments, assistance will continue to stagnate until at least 2017.


Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Population in 2018 -1.3 billion
  • Life expectancy – 58 years
  • 44% of people live below the international poverty line of $1.25/day
  • More than 1 in 3 adults cannot read
  • 182 million adults are unable to read and write
  • 48 million youths (ages 15-24) are illiterate
  • 22% of primary aged children are not in school
  • That makes 30 million primary aged children who are not in school.

Some More Statistics

Of all regions, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of education exclusion. Over one-fifth of children between the ages of about 6 and 11 are out of school, followed by one-third of youth between the ages of about 12 and 14. According to UIS data, almost 60% of youth between the ages of about 15 and 17 are not in school.

Without urgent action, the situation will likely get worse as the region faces a rising demand for education due to a still-growing school-age population.

Education in Africa is major priority for AU Watch. We are developing indicators to help AU Member States; donors and the AU better address the challenges of education. For example, we will be tracking the extent to which schools lack basic amenities, such as access to electricity and potable water, while monitoring classroom conditions – from the availability of textbooks to average class sizes and the prevalence of multi-grade classrooms. We will be producing a range of data on teacher training, recruitment and working conditions.

Girls’ education is a major priority for AU Watch. Across the region, 9 million girls between the ages of about 6 and 11 will never go to school at all, compared to 6 million boys, according to UIS data. Their disadvantage starts early: 23% of girls are out of primary school compared to 19% of boys. By the time they become adolescents, the exclusion rate for girls is 36% compared to 32% for boys.

To help policymakers bridge this gender gap, AU Watch will be disaggregating all indicators by sex to the extent possible, while producing gender parity indices and developing specific indicators related to access to separate toilets for girls and boys and the presence of female teachers, who can serve as role models and encourage girls to continue their education.


These are just some of the ways in which the AU Watch will be assisting the AU and its Members, donors and civil society groups strive towards Agenda 2063 goals to reach the most marginalised children and youth.


Corruption and Poverty Remains the Primary Cause

Many African countries who have been reported as having very low literacy rates are also among the poorest in the world. A huge majority of the people living in these countries are barely able to eat three square meals per day let alone worry about going to school or learning how to read and write. Nigeria is an enigma. The largest economy in Africa with the most dynamic population has no business being poor, let alone being associated with the dishonourable distinction of being the world’s poorest nation, and with over ten million of it’s most valuable asset – children not in school. An absolute disgrace! The causes: corruption, corruption corruption! No amount of progress will equal to the freedom of being able to empower oneself and be given equal opportunities that people from other more countries are enjoying.


Don’t you think we have a good case for dragging our governments in front of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights or even in front of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights for failing to get all of Africa’s children to school?

Countries With The Lowest Literacy Rates In Africa



Literacy Rate %


South Sudan

27.0 %


Burkina Faso

28.7 %



28.7 %



33.4 %



35.4 %



37.8 %



39.0 %



41.0 %



42.4 %


Sierra Leone

43.3 %



49.7 %


Gambia, The

51.1 %



55.3 %



56.1 %


Central African Republic

56.6 %


Cote d’Ivoire

56.9 %



58.6 %



60.4 %

Courtesy World Atlas