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Primary School Education around the Globe

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

According to UNICEF, one in five children in the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries are not in school and 60 million children are out of school worldwide.

Every child deserves access to an adequate education. A vast number of countries around the world have been devastated by civil war, natural disaster, high poverty, and high unemployment rates. It is the mission of Life for Relief and Development to provide support, resources, and opportunity for the less fortunate to thrive.


It wasn’t until 1969 that schooling became mandatory in Afghanistan. The 2008 Education of Law officially enforced six years of compulsory primary education. Afghanistan’s current state of unrest has had a direct effect on education, primarily that of young Afghan girls who have been hindered from attending school. Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, at 28.1% as of 2015. As of 2017, 4.06% of the government’s GDP was allocated to primary school education. UNICEF’s 2020 education allocation for Afghanistan is 23 million dollars.

While the Philippines allocates the largest portion of government expenditure to education, its budget falls short of the other ASEAN countries. As of 2009, the Philippines’ total education expenditure was 2.65% of GDP. One predominant issue the schools face is overcrowding of classrooms, with anywhere between 40-100 students per class. Finally, the inadequate number of qualified teachers prevents the Philippine Basic Education Curriculum from being implemented.

Indonesia’s economy is slowly on the rise but faces difficulties with a pronounced poverty rate and quality of education. As of 2015, education spending was 3.58% of the GDP. Indonesia has made great strides in offering access to education, but now faces the challenge of improving the quality of that education, underperforming neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia.

Middle East

Jordan’s primary education falls into a “middle education,” with primary school being grades 1 through 6. As of 2017, education spending was 3.6% of GDP. Unfortunately, only 28% of children between the ages of 3-5 have access to early childhood education. Due to civil unrest in Syria, over half a million Syrian refugees now take asylum in Jordan, making up 10% of Jordan’s population. Given this, it explains issues with school overcrowding and maintaining that all Jordanian and Syrian children have access to education.

As a result of Yemen’s ongoing civil war, over 2000 schools have been shut down and 2 million children are out of school. Yemen has a startling 78% poverty rate and 16 million Yemeni citizens require humanitarian aid. As of 2008, Yemen’s total education spending is

5.15% of the GDP—a 4 percent decrease since 2000. Between 2013 and 2016, there was a 2.6% increase in primary school completion rate, putting the rate at 72.3%. Due to the underpay of Yemeni educators, humanitarian organizations have stepped in to pay teachers. The Global Partner for Education (GPE) program allocated $82.6 million dollars to support quality education, girls’ education, and to reduce the number of out-of-school children. UNICEF has paid 127,400 teachers financial incentives for transportation and living expenses and has restored over 1000 schools since 2015. UNICEF’s 2020 education allocation for Yemen is 100 million dollars.

In the midst of recovering from its own economic turmoil from the civil war ending in 1990, Lebanon offers asylum for Palestinian and Syrian refugees. Lebanon houses 1 million Syrian refugees, which has resulted in 280,000 Syrian children who are not enrolled in school. As of 2015, Lebanon’s total education expenditure falls at a low 2.1% of its GDP. Primary school enrollment rates have dropped from 93.3% in 2011 to 84.3% in 2016. Fortunately, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) focuses specifically on targeting unenrolled students and engaging with communities to promote child safety and education.


The start of Sierra Leone’s civil war in 1991 has impacted education in a fundamental way. Over 1200 primary schools were shut down in 2001, resulting in 67% of children out of school that year. The Ebola outbreak in 2014—which killed 4,000 citizens in 2 years—prevented the Education Sector Plan (ESP) intervention plans from being implemented. Primary school is considered grades 1-6 in Sierra Leone. As of 2017, Sierra Leone’s education expenditure is 4.64% of GDP. As of 2016, the primary school completion rate is 74%.

As of 2017, Ghana’s education expenditure is 3.6% of its GDP—a significant 4.5% drop since 2011. Fortunately, the number of children out of school has dropped from 600,000 in 2016 to 153,986 as of 2018. Ghana’s complementary basic education (CBE) program has had a large role in increasing enrollment rates. This program has supported 250,000 out-of-school children and aims to aid a minimum of 450,000 children between the ages of 6 and 14. While this is a great accomplishment, there is still much work to be done in Ghana’s education system. Ghanaian children still face issues with accessing clean water, which Ghana’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) program has been trying to address.

As a result of high poverty, high unemployment, and natural disaster emergencies, Somalia’s education has been greatly impacted. Somali has one of the lowest literacy worlds in the world, at 37.8% as of 2015 and one of the lowest primary school enrollment rates at 30%. Further, Somalia’s poverty rate was at a drastic 73% in 2017. The most recent update on Somalia’s education expenditure was in 1973 at 1.28% of GDP. As of 2016, the enrollment rate for primary school education is 30%. UNICEF’s 2020 education allocation for Somalia is 18 million dollars. UNICEF’s 2020 education allocation for Somalia is 18 million dollars.

In 2008, the number of Kenyan children out of school in rural areas was 8%--twice as high as those from suburban areas, putting low-income students at a great disadvantage. In 2010, one million Kenyan children were out of school. As of 2017, Kenya’s education expenditure was 5.24% of the GDP with a 103.9% primary school gross enrollment rate—a 6% decrease since 2012. UNICEF’s 2020 education allocation for Kenya is 5.9 million dollars.


The “Two Schools under One Roof” policy describes the state of Bosnia’s school system, which segregates Bosniaks from Croat students. Depending on their ethnic placement, students are taught a different curriculum corresponding with their background. As of 2016, Bosnia’s education expenditure was 4.42% of the GDP. However, the allocation of this budget seems to focus more on teacher hiring and less on teacher training and school infrastructure.

While efforts have been made by UNICEF and other nonprofit organizations to aid these countries, there remains a great deal of work to be done in the primary school education sector. Educating the world’s children ensures an educated future.

Article by: Salwa Abdalla



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