Somalia, stricken by more than two decades of civil war, was declared the world’s worst place to go to school in a report released on Monday.
The battle for Mogadishu becomes more bitter by the day and aid agencies operating in the east African country accuse Somali war lords of forcibly enlisting children into their militias.
“Ongoing conflict, civil unrest and fragility have had a catastrophic effect on education, with the most recent data estimating that only 10 percent of children are enrolled in primary school,” said the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) report, released on the sidelines of the UN Millennium Development Goals summit.
Somalia was one of four countries where more than 70 percent of the population is illiterate, GCE said.
It came bottom of a table of the world’s 60 poorest countries, behind Eritrea, Haiti, Comoros, Ethiopia, Chad and Burkina Faso.
“The ‘School Report’ table findings paint a stark picture of the lives of children from around 60 of the poorest countries, demonstrating that a dramatic upscaling of effort is needed in order to give the next generation better prospects than their parents,” the report said.
“A country like Chad, languishing close to the bottom of our table, has shocking indicators across the board: Just 14 percent of its population go to school for five years, child labor and early marriage are rife, and two-thirds of adults cannot read or write.”
The report said Nigeria has more children out of education than any other country in the world — 8.2 million.
“This is made all the more appalling by the fact that Nigeria is far from poor, by African standards. On paper at least it is among the continent’s richest countries,” it said.
GCE, which was backed by aid groups such as Oxfam, Save The Children and Action Aid, in making the report, said that “decades of failure to invest in education have left the basic school system hardly functioning” in Nigeria.
Adult illiteracy remains “a major stain” on efforts to end poverty with 759 million adults, the majority of them women, unable to read and write, the campaign said.
Half of the illiterate adults in the world live in South Asia, particularly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Fewer than 20 percent of Afghan women are literate
“Illiterate adults and their families struggle without even the most basic of skills to navigate life, access healthcare for their families and enter the labor market,” it said.
Haiti was bottom of the rankings in 2008, with just half of children attending primary schools. The earthquake in January destroyed 80 percent of schools.