The world faces a learning crisis: 53 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple text by the end of primary school, and in sub-Saharan Africa alone, this figure is nearly 90 per cent (World Bank and UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 2021). While being at school does not guarantee learning, large numbers of children remain out of school and unable to access learning opportunities. In sub-Saharan Africa, 18.8 per cent (32.2 million) of primary school-age children, 36.7 per cent (28.3 million) of lower secondary school-age children and 57.5 per cent (37 million) of upper secondary school-age children are out of school as of 2018 (UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 2019). Moreover, these numbers are expected to rise in the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 24 million students across the globe (from pre-primary to tertiary education) are at risk of not returning to school in the aftermath of school closures due to COVID-19 (World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF, 2021).
In Mozambique, the extent of the learning crisis was concerning even before the school closures in March 2021. Only 4.9 per cent of third-grade students were able to read at the expected level in 2016 (World Bank, 2020b). While around 92 per cent of children attended primary education, only 5 per cent of adolescents attended upper secondary education in the country between 2014 and 2017 (Ministério da Educação e Desenvolvimento Humano, 2020). These statistics underscore the need for additional evidence to understand why children in Mozambique are dropping out of school and not learning when in school. The COVID-19 context brings a heightened sense of urgency: the Government has an opportunity to address further loss of human capital among the current generation of children.
The Avaliação Longitudinal da Desistência Escolar (ALDE), or Longitudinal Assessment of School Dropout, provides unique data and evidence to inform education policy and support the improvement of children’s learning in Mozambique. Since 2018, the ALDE survey has annually collected longitudinal, nationally representative data from around 5,400 primary school students (from grades 1 to 7) in 60 schools across the country. This report presents the results of the quantitative data collected in 2019 and identifies the main drivers of primary students’ dropout at the individual, household, school and community level. Below are the key findings of the analysis.