A recent study covering eight African countries revealed concerning statistics: 9 out of 10 children are not developmentally on track in literacy and numeracy. From birth to age eight, these critical years in a child's life significantly shape their future in terms of education, health, and earning potential.

Sub-Saharan Africa faces the highest risk globally for developmental delays in children, and it’s mostly because they are not getting enough stimulation at home. Many parents and caregivers in the region lack the resources or awareness to engage their young children in activities that promote learning, such as reading, counting, playing, or providing educational materials like books and toys. As a result, the region exhibits the lowest proportion of children reaching developmental benchmarks in literacy and numeracy.

The study was conducted on children aged three to five. And according to the MICS Early Childhood Development Index, kids this age are considered on track in literacy and numeracy if they can do at least two of these:

  • recognize or name 10 letters in the alphabet
  • read at least four common, easy words in any language
  • know the name and recognize numbers 1 through 10

Kids who were read to, told stories, and taught naming, counting, or drawing by a family member (aged 15 or older) were more likely to meet literacy and numeracy milestones compared to their peers.

The study shows how vital it is for caregivers to help young children learn. Parents, especially those who didn’t have much schooling, need help understanding why activities like telling stories and drawing are important. Getting older siblings or relatives involved in these activities can also help kids learn more.


Picture: Play and storytelling are a crucial part of children’s cognitive development (PixelCatchers)