Anti-Poverty Group’s Data Misleads on Women’s Education in Africa


Young school girl from the Central African Republic

Researched by: Gopolang Makou

Source: Africa Check

Anti-poverty campaign group ONE is shining a spotlight on 10 countries, nine of them in Africa, where girls find it “toughest” to get an education. But does the data bear this out? 

To highlight the difficulties women worldwide face in trying to get an education, anti-poverty campaign group ONE recently published a report comparing the situation in several countries.

The toughest places for a girl to get an education” report ranked 122 countries and assessed women’s access to and quality of education.

Of the 10 countries with the lowest access, nine are in Africa, the organisation co-founded by popular rock musician Bono claimed. These are Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger and South Sudan. Afghanistan was the only non-African country on this list.

“On average, women in these countries have spent less than two years of their lives in school,” ONE stated.

Does the available evidence support this startling claim?

How was the ranking compiled?

To compile its index, ONE says it used 11 measures. These ranged from out-of-school girls and completion rates to government expenditure on education and average years of schooling for women older than 25 years.

The data had to be no older than from 2010, Yannick Tshimanga, a ONE spokesman told Africa Check. Data from UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics was the primary source for the rankings, he said. (Note: The institute is the official data agency of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, providing internationally-comparable data on education.)

If information for a particular country or measure was missing, data from UNESCO household surveys and the World Inequality Database on Education was used, Tshimanga said.

What do the different data sources capture?

The World Inequality Database on Education relies on a variety of surveys: demographic and health, multiple indicator cluster, national household and learning achievement surveys. This data is used in UNESCO’s annual Global Education Monitoring Report, Nicole Bella, a senior statistician for the annual study, told Africa Check. WIDE’s mean years of schooling measure provides data for people aged between 20 and 24.

The Institute for Statistics obtains its data from annual questionnaires completed by officials of national statistics offices and education departments, Anuja Singh, an analyst with the data institute, told Africa Check.

The UIS is not involved in the production of WIDE data, but the two datasets “can be complimentary”, Singh said.

Average years of schooling ‘best indicator’

In trying to verify the average number of years women spend in school, the mean years of schooling measure would be the best indicator to use, Friedrich Huebler, who is with the institute’s education standards and methodology section, told Africa Check.

Mean years of schooling provides an average of the number of completed years someone older than 25 spent in school.

Using ONE’s index and that provided by WIDE and the institute, Africa Check compiled this table:

Via: Africa Check