After years of sustained focus on its public education system, Djibouti has made significant progress in school enrollment but still faces a number of challenges. Net student enrollment at the primary level, representing the percentage of children of official school age who are enrolled in primary school, is around 60% percent, according to latest World Bank figures. Unpacking this number reveals an even more challenging situation. Enrollment rates are lower and dropout rates higher for girls, those living in rural areas and those living in poverty.
The Ministry of Education has spearheaded the drive to expand access to education, with support from international donors, including the World Bank, in the form of grants and concessionary loans. These efforts have resulted in a four-fold increase in access over three decades. According to World Bank documents, there were 31,000 students enrolled nationally at the primary, middle and secondary levels in 1984. In 2014, the Ministry of National Education numbers count 125,000 students enrolled at these three levels in 2014.
As part of the ongoing campaign, the Access to Quality Education Program was recently launched in the town of Arta, south-central Djibouti. The program is funded by the Global Partnership for Education and supervised by the World Bank. The Access to Quality Education Program is financing the construction of classrooms, rehabilitation and extension of schools in rural areas, teacher training and student learning materials as well as hearing-aids and glasses for students who need them.
The students pictured above are about to finish third grade. The program will finance the construction of fourth, fifth and sixth grade classrooms for them, while the Ministry will assign teachers for those grades to the school. “What’s most remarkable about this program,” says Tahina Razafindramary, country lead for Djibouti at the Global Partnership for Education, “is that out-of-school children, particularly those living in remote areas as well as children living with physical impairments will be able to access and complete primary and junior secondary school.”
In a neighborhood that includes Somalia and Eritrea, which both have much lower levels of enrollment, Djibouti has made significant progress. However, despite the many achievements, Djibouti is not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals and is at risk of remaining in a low-level equilibrium in terms of both access and quality for years to come.