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Middle East and North Africa Out-of-School Children Initiative Regional Report (October 2014)

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The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Report is part of the Global Out-of-School Children Initiative (OOSCI), launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) in 2010. The overall objectives of the Initiative are to:

  • Improve the statistical information and analysis on out-of-school children;

  • Identify and analyse the barriers that contribute to exclusion from education;

  • Analyse existing policies and strategies related to enhanced school participation.

The Regional Report bases its analysis of the problem of out-of-school children on the model developed by the Initiative, the so-called Five Dimensions of Exclusion Model.
The model works with five main target groups:

  • Dimensions 1, 2 and 3 include children who are not participating in formal education in three age groups: pre-primary, primary and lower secondary age; and

  • Dimensions 4 and 5 include children who are enrolled in primary or lower secondary education respectively but who are at risk of dropping out.

The report builds on nine recent national studies on out-of-school children in MENA:
Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen, by bringing in analysis and key findings on profiles as well as barriers and policy responses from these studies.

Profiles of MENA’s out-of-school children

Children’s exclusion from education remains a significant problem in MENA. Data from the UIS show that in 2012, an estimated 7.2 million children in MENA were out of school. The figure comprises 4.3 million children of primary school age and 2.9 million of lower secondary age. A further 5.1 million children of pre-primary school age were not enrolled in pre-primary or primary education in 2012.

Education exclusion is intimately linked to the region’s challenge of early school leaving.
Many of the countries in MENA have children dropping out of primary and lower secondary education, which reflects the need for greater attention to school retention and underlines the exclusion patterns in these countries. The problem is particularly severe at the lower secondary level, where half of the countries struggle with dropout rates at or above 10 per cent before the last grade of the lower secondary school cycle.
Reasons for children’s exclusion include persisting and mutually reinforcing inequalities in school participation based on household wealth, location and gender. Excluded children are predominately from the poorest households in rural areas, with poor rural girls often the most disadvantaged.