Youth in Sub-Saharan Africa Are Out-of-School



Around 89 million youth, ages 12-24 years, are out of school in Sub-Saharan Africa.  In the next decade, an estimated 40 million more youth will drop out and face an uncertain future without adequate work and life skills.

Characteristics of out of school youth

  • Most out-of-school youth drop out before secondary school and many never set foot in a school.
  • The prospect of an early marriage is a key barrier to young females’ education. It affects girls’ schooling even before they get married.
  • Young people living in rural areas are more likely to be excluded from education than youth living in urban communities, and most of them work.
  • Parental education is the single most important determinant of youth’s education outcomes.
  • The number of working adults in a household has an important impact on schooling choices and school/work decisions.  
  • Low educational quality affects the decision of going to and/or staying in school.
  • Access is a key problem for poor and rural communities, where distance to a school can be a major constraint.

Entry points to address the out-of-school youth problem

Three policy entry points are particularly important to address the out of school issue:

Retention of at-risk youth in school:  Given that most youth drop out before they start secondary school, retention efforts must begin before youth enter secondary education.

  • Retention could be improved through greater early intervention to get children enrolled at the right age and a renewed focus on improving the quality of primary education.
  • A greater awareness for the importance of education, especially for girls and rural youth, is also essential. To retain students who are interested in learning but cannot afford it, cash incentives or subsidies can be an important tool in keeping children in school.

Remediation through alternative education:  For youth already out of school, the most likely path to complete their education is alternative education systems.

  • Small-scale alternative education schemes that target out-of-school youth are especially successful when they mix cognitive and technical skills development with life skills training and mentoring.
  • Successful alternative programs also require a greater recognition that youth must work to survive and therefore factor in the necessary flexibility to accommodate this.
  •  Reliable and longer-term funding is critical to keep these programs going.

Integration with the labor market: Youth who are not likely to go back to school require practical training and experience to increase their employability.

  • Workforce development programs must consider, in terms of skills and services offered, that most youth will be self-employed or work for a small, informal enterprise.
  • They require coordinated action between government actors, regional entities, NGOs and the productive sector.
  • More and better impact evaluations and longevity of effective workforce development programs will help improve their outcomes. 

Last Updated: Jul 15, 2015