Female Education in Africa

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Guest blogger Alessandro Bruno looks at the effects of education – Sustainable Development Goal 4 – especially focusing on female education in Africa.

Women’s education is increasing in the seven to 15 age group, and it is leading to a sharp reduction in the overall fertility rate in some African nations. In areas where labour is the main source of earnings, this fertility decrease could involve a further reduction in national income.

The education of young people, particularly girls, means the African continent is catching up to the rest of the world. The opportunity to learn means that women can plan ahead and decide the family size they wish to have, and when they want to start. Since 1980, the female population from the age of seven has spent 80% time more in schools in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Educated girls lead to a lower fertility rate and a reduction in child mortality. Prenatal care and basic hygiene courses give them the knowledge to take care of their children. A respectable health standard is guaranteed, thanks to the girls that now are conscious about the risk of prenatal diseases and the importance of hygiene. Education changes the way they act.

Leading nations in this process are Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya, where in recent years, mothers prefer smaller families in favour of more education for the children. Kenya implemented a reform in 2012 that, thanks to an extension of primary education, raised the average age of marriage and first pregnancy.


An interesting case is Nigeria. Education reform has had a big impact on the earnings of women and on the costs of raising children. Increasing female education by one year reduced early fertility.

Unfortunately, the power that families can have to developing the country and improving the life expectancy of their children has been a potential danger for all those who profit from ignorance. That is why we are seeing more and more mass killings of children and young girls – such as by Boko Haram – within the school system or in places representative of a culturally different point of view.

Some who have worked to provide female education in Africa have paid with their lives. Without forgetting traditions, education could be the way to freedom and ensure rights for every child.


Canning, David, Sangeeta Raja, and Abdo S. Yazbeck, eds. 2015. Africa’s Demographic Transition: Dividend or Disaster? Africa Development Forum series. Washington, DC: World Bank. doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-0489-2. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO

Article and photos submitted by Italian Alessandro Bruno, who is a registered nurse and currently an Intern at IFAD.

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