86 percent of children in Africa cannot read or understand a simple story at age 10, says World Bank President David Malpass

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The World Bank President, David Malpass, said on Thursday that close to 86 percent of children in Africa cannot read or understand a simple story at age 10.

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“Learning poverty is a global crisis, but it is particularly stark in Africa where close to 86 percent of children cannot read or understand a simple story at age 10,” Mr. Malpass said in an opinion article sent to TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA in Washington DC.

Learning poverty is a global crisis, but it is particularly stark in Africa where close to 86 percent of children cannot read or understand a simple story at age 10

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David Malpass, World Bank President, Washington DC

He lamented that “more than half of all 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries – cannot read and understand a simple story”, adding that “we are in the middle of a global learning crisis that stifles opportunities and aspirations of hundreds of millions of children. That is unacceptable”.

In October, the World Bank released data to support a new learning target to cut by half the global level of learning poverty by 2030.

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He explained that this was done because learning to read is an especially critical skill.

“It opens a world of possibilities, and it’s the foundation on which other essential learning is built—including numeracy and science”.

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“Wiping out learning poverty – defined as the percentage of children who can’t read and understand a simple story by age 10 – is an urgent matter. It’s key to eliminating poverty in general and boosting shared prosperity. It’s key to helping children achieve their potential”. 

The World Bank chief said over the last several years, progress in reducing learning poverty has been stagnant.

For example, “globally between 2000 and 2017, there has only been a 10 percent improvement in learning outcomes for primary school-aged children. If this pace continues, 43 percent of ten-year-old won’t be able to read in 2030”.

He said while some countries have made improvements over the years, there are significant discrepancies between low-income and high-income countries, and regions within countries. 

“The good news is, the children who will turn 10 in 2030 will be born next year. If we work urgently, there is an opportunity to reverse this trend”.

He cited the example of Kenya where the government’s national reading program has more than tripled the percentage of grade two students reading at an appropriate level.

“This was accomplished through technology-enabled teacher coaching, teacher guides, and delivering one book per child”.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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