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 school students study in French
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 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
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.
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.