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Education is a human right and a cornerstone of democracy, gender equality and the fight against poverty. It is also crucial to economic development. Sida works to ensure that all children can attend school and to strengthen the education systems in our cooperation countries.

Progress has been made

90 %

approximately, of the world's children start primary school. More girls attend school today than ever before.

Free education

Reforms for free schooling contributes to more children enrolling in school, but government funding is not increasing at sufficient rate.

More toilets school toilets

An increasing number of schools has access to water and toilets, even though a third of schools in sub-Saharan Africa still lack toilets.

Free schooling

While education reforms aimed at providing free schooling contribute to children starting school, state funding is failing to keep pace with needs.

Access to water and toilets

Although more schools than ever have access to running water and toilets, one third of schools in Sub-Saharan Africa still lack toilets.

Challenges remain

617 million

children leave school lacking basic knowledge in mathematics, reading and writing. That is more than half of all children globally. High drop out rates and the low quality of education are two reasons.

1,5 billion

children and students are or have been affected of the covid-19 closures. 24 million children risk not to come back to school ever.

Fewer educated girls

The obstacles to children attending school include long distances, lack of toilets on school grounds and high school fees. Fewer girls than boys complete primary and lower-secondary school and go on to a level equivalent to upper-secondary. Child marriage and teenage pregnancy prevent girls from continuing their studies. Even more children are at risk of not returning to school after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sida's work on education

According to Unicef, 258 million children worldwide do not attend school. The vast majority of these live in countries badly affected by crises and armed conflicts. There are 750 million illiterate adults in the world, almost two thirds of whom are women.

A fit-for-purpose education system

The greatest challenges facing education systems are a shortage of teachers and classrooms and excessive pupil-teacher ratios. This exacerbates efforts to improve the quality of education.

Schools are often forced to remain closed due to crises and armed conflicts, further weakening the state’s already fragile role in society. Over one third of the countries that accept refugees and migrants do not recognise their right to an education.

Bringing schools closer to children

In many countries, such as Afghanistan, it is common for children to have a long way to school. This may lead them to drop out of their studies prematurely or make it impossible for them to go to school at all. Sida supports community-based education programmes in Afghanistan aimed at bringing schools closer to children. This is an especially effective method for helping girls who might otherwise be unable to reach a school.

Gender equality strategy for schools

Half of the world’s children of primary and lower-secondary school age currently live in one of 50 countries badly affected by armed conflict and crises. In order to reach children and young people in situations of conflict, post-conflict and humanitarian crisis, Sida supports the global fund Education Cannot Wait, which has succeeded in creating educational opportunities for some 2.5 million children over recent years. More girls than boys are denied an education. Education Cannot Wait has developed a gender equality strategy to strengthen education for girls and women.

Education Cannot Wait website

Financing national education plans

The biggest challenges within education is the lack of teachers and classrooms. Classes are often too big. This complicates the work with improving the education quality. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is committed to gender equality and to ensuring that all girls and boys enjoy equal opportunities to obtain a good education. This is achieved by reinforcing education systems and financing national education plans in 67 lower-income countries.

Global Partnership for Educations website

An equitable and free education

Fee-paying schools exclude many children from education. Thanks to reforms aimed at offering free education, more children than ever now attend school. That said, 63 million children still do not attend primary school, 61 million do not attend lower-secondary school and 139 million do not go on to upper-secondary education.

Bringing school closer

In many countries children often have a long way to school. This can lead to quitting school or not being able to get to school at all. In Afghanistan, Sida supports so-called Community Based Education programs. The aim is to bring the school closer to the children, as a way to reach, above all, the girls.

Education for mothers and girls

Girls who get pregnant often have difficulties completing school. Through the Education Program for Results the government in Tanzania makes it possible for more young women and mothers to complete primary school. Karibu Tanzania Organization (KTO), together with the ministery of education in Tanzania offers education for girls and young mothers through more than 40 Federal Department Colleges, free of charge.

The web site of Karibu Tanzania Organization

School financing

In Cambodia, the state-financed School Improvement Fund (SIF) has facilitated the transfer of school policymaking from central to district level. This means that spending decisions can be made locally to ensure that more children are able to complete school.

About the project on the Cambodian Ministry of Education website

Combating child marriage

Sida supports the global partnership Girls Not Brides, which works cross-sectorally to highlight the issue of child marriage as an obstacle to girls’ education and why it is important for girls to obtain an education.

Girls Not Brides website

Comprehensive sexuality education

Early and unwanted pregnancies, gender-based violence and child marriage: these are all obstacles to young girls completing their studies. While sexual literacy can contribute to countering harmful traditions and gender inequalities, in many countries there is a complete lack of access to comprehensive sexuality education.

Preventing teenage pregnancy and violence

A lack of knowledge regarding teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence and child marriage has an adverse affect on young girls’ schooling. UNESCO provides comprehensive sexuality education through Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (the O3 Programme) and education for sustainable development.

The O3 Programme on the UNESCO website

The scope and governance of Sida’s support

In 2020, Sida’s support to the education sector totalled almost SEK 1.1 billion, equivalent to 4% of Sida’s total budget.

Updated: 24 March 2021