More than half of Ethiopian children have been excluded from pre-primary education, despite impressive gains made in increasing enrolment, UNICEF said in a report released Thursday April 11th.
According to the report, Ethiopia’s commitment to promoting pre-primary education has led to an increase in gross enrolment from less than two per cent in 2000 to more than 45 per cent in 2017.
However, despite these impressive gains, more than half the children of pre-primary age across the country remain excluded, contributing to the 175 million children missing out on pre-primary education globally.
Ethiopia is estimated to have 20 million children, representing 25% of the total population.
The report notes that the growth in pre-primary enrolment in Ethiopia was encouraged by the National Policy Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education, which focused on making one year of pre-primary education widely available for children.
The capital, Addis Ababa and Tigray state of the country have high gross enrolment rates of 93% and 88% respectively; only 4.5% of children in the Somali Region and 14% in the Afar Region are enrolled.
Countries with the highest numbers of children not in pre-primary education are missing a critical opportunity to build human resources and are at risk of suffering deep inequalities from the start, the report notes. In low-income countries, on average only 1 in 5 young children are enrolled in pre-primary education.
“Pre-primary education is foundational for our children’s success in primary and secondary education and beyond,” said Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF’s Representative in Ethiopia. “Yet too many children in Ethiopia are denied this opportunity. This increases their risk of repeating grades or dropping out of school altogether and relegates them to the shadows of their more fortunate peers.”
Globally, the report notes that household wealth, mothers’ education level and geographical location are among the key determinants for pre-primary attendance. However, poverty is the single largest determinant. Across 64 countries, the poorest children are seven times less likely than children from the wealthiest families to attend early childhood education programs.
Across countries with available data, children born to mothers who have completed secondary education and above are nearly five times more likely to attend an early childhood education program than children whose mothers have completed only primary education or have no formal education.