Under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, every child is entitled to free primary school education and access to secondary school or occupational training, and education has become one of the basic indicators of child wellbeing. Large scale studies published in the 1990s and early 2000s generally showed that significant educational disparities existed based on orphan status and a child's relationship to the head of the household. Poverty, gender and rural residence were also shown to contribute to the disparities. Since the data relied on by these studies were collected, the global community has conducted major campaigns to close these gaps, through the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
This study (N = 124.592) examined these factors using eight country-years from five sub-Saharan African countries, since half of the children out of school live in that region. The study relied on DHS data from eight surveys collected in five African nations: Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
The findings show that considerable progress has been made to close the disparity based on orphan status, and the gender gap is also closing. However, poverty remains a challenge across all variables, and there are pockets of gender disparity for both boys and girls, particularly in areas where deeply rooted cultural and child raising patterns are retained. Most alarmingly, children who live with non-relatives have the lowest attendance rate. Continued efforts to target these groups of children and their households are urged, as well as research on the underserved children.