With 2030 just 11 years away and just three years after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) along with the promise to provide universal primary and secondary education, the time is suitable to ask if there’s progress towards SDGs, especially the SDG 4.

What’s the situation like?

According to a fact sheet by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), providing latest data on education as of February 2018, in 2016, 263 million children adolescents and youth were out of school – this is almost one-fifth of the global population of this age group.

Despite the fact that after the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the adoption of the Education for All (EFA) movement in 2000, the number of children, adolescents and youth who were excluded from schooling decreased in the decade just after 2000, according to the UIS. Available data shows that this progress clogged in recent years.

Which gender has been largely excluded?

The number of out-of-school girls has always been alarming when compared to boys. However, as of 2016, the number of out-of-school girls was 1 million short compared to boys at the lower secondary age. There also has been some progress at the upper secondary age – in 2000, there were 92.7 million girls out of school compared to the 84.4 million boys. After 16 years, the number of girls out of school was 67.4 million compared to the 71.1 million boys.

It took 16 years to get 25.3 million girls of upper secondary age in school, the same years it took to get 13.3 million boys in school.

What about African countries?

It is reported that the countries with the highest out-of-school rates are in Africa. According to the fact sheet these are the numbers:

“More than one out of five children of primary school age is out of school in several countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Northern Africa, Western Asia, and Southern Asia. The countries with the highest out-of-school rates include South Sudan (68%), Liberia (62%), Eritrea (57%), Equatorial Guinea (56%), Sudan (44%), and Djibouti (41%).”

Is there enough time?

Since 2000 we managed to get only 114.5 million people of all age groups in school, and we are left with 263 million. Looking at the numbers, it seems impossible to get 263 million in school just under 11 years, especially if things continue as they do, with countries making careless decisions in education.

In all honesty, I don’t believe we would have achieved this goal in 2030. I don’t see us getting this kind of number in school so fast. Averagely, we can possibly do 114.5 million per 15 years, perhaps if we work hard enough we can even do this number in 10 years. Then and only then can we say we have a chance to achieve 263 million in 30 years.

The truth is that there is an urgent need for greater investment in education all around the world.

The difficult part with universal schooling is that the ability to go to school is affected by many aspects from poverty to health. Some countries like Sierra Leone still have to deal with the challenge that a young girl is more likely to be abused than to go to school, while in South Africa teenage pregnancy in girls as young as 10-11 years old is on the rise.

Getting every age group that has to be in school in time, in just under 12 years it’s going to be impossible – the numbers say so.

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