Somalia and Haiti are the two worst countries to go to school in at a time when £3 billion has been cut from education budgets worldwide, a new report says.
Serious under-investment in education means that 69 million children are out of school around the world, said the report put out by the Global Campaign for Education yesterday.
The study, Back to School? said poor countries are "teetering on the brink of an education crisis."
Among the five countries at the bottom of the list, four are in Africa, and three of those are in East Africa. The ranking rated Somalia, Eritrea, Haiti, Comoros and Ethiopia in the bottom worst countries to be a school child, based on access to basic education, teacher-pupil ratio, and educational provision for girls.
Even Kenya, which is considered successful compared with its East African neighbours, had to delay free education to 9.7 million children over the last year because of budget cuts, the report said.
The report by charities, Education International, Plan International, Oxfam, Save the Children and VSO, warned that the financial crisis had stalled improvements in education for children in poor countries.
And if all those 69 million children out of school around the world could be educated to leave school with just basic reading skills, about 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, it said.
"If scientists can genetically modify food and NASA can send missions to Mars, politicians must be able to find the resources to get millions of children into school and change the prospects of a generation of children," said the campaign's president, Kailash Satyarthi.
Ten years ago the United Nations agreed on eight Millennium Development Goals, which included ensuring that by 2015 all children will be able to finish primary school and that the gap between boys and girls in all levels of education be wiped out.
"The momentum of the last 10 years could still be harnessed to make education for all a reality within five years," said Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister and a member of the Global Campaign for Education High Level Panel.
"If education budgets are not protected from the ravages of the financial crisis all that progress could be jeopardized and generations will be condemned to poverty," he said.
"Poor countries are on a worsening trajectory as severe and deepening pressure from the economic downturn caused by the crisis of the rich world's banking system bites on their budgets," the 34-page report said.