Although there has been notable progress in educating girls across the world, research shows that millions of girls still do not have access to education. In fact, UNESCO estimated that 31 million girls of primary school age and a further 32 million of lower secondary school age did not access school in 2013.

The situation is worse in developing countries such as those in Sub-Saharan and South and West Asia. The reasons why girls stay out of school vary from cultural norms, marriage, poverty, genital mutilation, and unfavorable school environments. According to UNESCO, the following countries are ones in which girls have the least access to school.


95% of the poorest females in Somalia have not been to school. For nearly two decades, Somalia has been locked in civil war. The war has disrupted the education system in the country. Only 18% of Somali children from rural families attend school. High rates of poverty further make it hard for households to send girls to school. Social norms place a higher value on the education of boys over girls and safety concerns also make parents hesitant to send girls to school.


78% of the poorest females in Niger have not attended school. Only an estimated 31% of Nigerien girls go to primary school, and a less than 8% attend secondary school. Widespread poverty in Nigerien households is a hurdle in sending girls to school and boys are often given priority. Early marriages also cause many Nigerien girls to drop out of school.


The culture in Liberia embraces the education of boys more than that of girls. An estimated 77% of the poorest females in the nation have not gone to school. Only 13% of girls from rural families complete school. Unfortunately, the risk of sexual harassment is a primary reason why girls quit school in Liberia.


75% of the poorest females in Mali have not attended school. Mali is recognized as one of the poorest nations, and many girls stay at home doing housework or they find themselves working in gold mines. In the northern part of the country, families, who are mostly nomads, attach little value to education.

Burkina Faso

71% of the poorest females in Burkina Faso have not been to school. Although Burkina Faso's government has made great progress in educating children, including girls, much work remains to be done. In rural families, polygamy is rampant, and many children often depend on the income of the father as the mothers are uneducated. The cost of giving girls education is therefore prohibitive.


Guinea is plagued with low education quality, and it records low rates of primary school enrollment. Guinean girls stay in school for only an average of eight years. Further statistics indicate that 68% of the poorest females in the nation do not go school. Girls in Guinea fail to attend school primarily because of early marriage, pregnancy, and physical as well as sexual violence.


62% of the poorest females in Pakistan have not gone to school. Access to schools is a hurdle for girls in rural areas, and safety concerns make girls hesitant to travel for long distances.


58% of the poorest females in Yemen have not been to school. Fewer Yemeni girls are enrolled in school in comparison to boys, and they are more likely to drop out. Early marriages, a shortage of female teachers, and financial and cultural barriers are only some of the number of issues facing Yemeni girls in pursuit of education.


In the rural parts of Benin, girls marry young and spend their life looking after their families. Unfortunately, there is often little initiative to educate girls. As a result, 55% of the poorest females in the nation have not gone to school.

Cote d’Ivoire

In Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), women have less access to essential services in comparison to men. 52% of the poorest females in the nation have not been to school. The woman's role has long been inferior to the roles of men in the Ivorian society although the government is keen to reverse this trend.

Measure to Improve Education Access for Girls

To encourage the enrollment of girls in schools, governments in developing countries have intervened in various ways such as covering enrollment costs and conditional cash transfers. Governments have further sought to build more schools, hire and train more teachers, and to improve education systems and facilities. Non-governmental and international organizations such as the UN have been at the forefront in implementing different initiatives and programs to encourage girls’ education. One example of this is an initiative put forth by UNICEF in Benin dubbed “big sistering”, where older girls act as mentors by taking younger girls to school with them.

Countries by their Rate of Uneducated Females

RankCountry NamePercentage of Poorest Females Who Haven't Been to School
1Somalia95 %
2Niger78 %
3Liberia77 %
4Mali75 %
5Burkina Faso71 %
6Guinea68 %
7Pakistan62 %
8Yemen58 %
9Benin55 %
10Cote d'Ivoire52 %