Aims Following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2016-2030, the health and wellbeing of adolescents are in focus for global health policy. Comprehensive investment in adolescents’ health and wellbeing, including education, is estimated to generate high economic and social returns, in particular in resource-poor countries. Here the aim was to identify socio-economic determinants for school attending Bissau-Guinean adolescents aged 14-19 years.
Methods In June 2017, a survey with locally adapted and pilot tested Planet Youth questionnaire was conducted in the capital Bissau. School classes in 16 schools, both public and private, were weighted by size and randomly selected from a special registry of 114 classes with 4.470 students aged 14-19 years.
Results In total, 2,039 students completed the questionnaire (52% girls), and 52% attended public schools. The mean age of girls was 16,3 years compared to 16,4 years (median 17) for boys; girls were 1.29 times (95% CI 1.08-1.55) more likely to attend a private school compared to boys. Adolescents from better-off families were 2.10 times (95% CI 1.49-2.95) more likely to attend private school compared to those worse off. Further, those who reported speaking Portuguese (official language) in their homes were 4.13 times (95% CI 2.65-6.44) more likely to attend a private school compared to participants speaking other languages, including the lingua franca Creole. There was no statistically significant difference between adolescents in the two types of schools to report absence from school because of illness during the last months before the survey. Nonetheless, participants in public schools were 2.22 times (95% CI 1.64-2.99) more likely to skip classes one or more days in the same period compared to participants in private schools.
Conclusions In a setting of political instability, and socioeconomic hardship, better-off parents choose private schools to give their children better educational opportunities than are on offer in public schools that are frequently on strike. The Bissau-Guinean ‘SDG generation’ needs support through better public school infrastructure and staff to improve their educational opportunities and thereby allow them to attain their full potential as adults.
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