Education – different ways of learning

Schooling in Niger is free and compulsory. Despite this school attendance is one of the lowest in the world. Around 30 per cent of Niger’s primary-school-age children actually go to school. Attendance is even lower in secondary schools, at about 6 per cent. As a result less than 14 per cent of people above 15 years of age can read or write.

Government schools

Government school students study in French
Government school students study in French

Nigerien schools follow the French education system. Instruction is in French. Primary school lasts six years, from age seven through to age thirteen. Children who pass are awarded a certificate. To enter secondary school, students must first pass an entrance exam. Secondary schooling is divided into two parts. Junior high lasts four years. After that, students who pass a national exam can go on to three years of senior high school. Prior to 1973, Nigeriens had to leave the country to gain a university qualification. Today, many complete tertiary education at Niger’s universities like, Abdou Moumouni University and Oum Al-Qura University of Niger.

Islamic schools

Devout Islamic parents send their boys to Islamic schools – the medersa. A religious leader teaches the students the meaning of passages from the Koran, Islam’s holy scriptures. Then the students copy the verses onto wooden tablets in Arabic script and recite the passage out loud until they memorise it. This way they learn how to read and also learn about their religion.

Student from Islamic school with wooden slate of Arabic script
Student from Islamic school with wooden slate of Arabic script

Many parents send their girls to Islamic school too. But girl students rarely advance as far as the boys.

When the boys are teenagers, they recite lengthy passages of the Koran before a gathering of men. For Muslim boys, it’s a rite of passage. After this ritual, they are considered to be men.

New initiatives

The Nigerien government, educators and development organisations are working to improve education levels, especially for girls and women. Alternative schools for children unable to attend government schools, and programmes that support girls to achieve higher grades, are two initiatives having an impact. The government has opened village libraries with books in some of Niger’s native languages. Nigerien educators are also hoping to introduce local-language books into primary school.