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Niger: Newsline

Promoting quality education for every girl and boy in Niger

©UNICEF/NYHQ2007-2691/Giacomo Pirozzi
Eleven-year-old Tanalher Abdoulaye stands in front of the blackboard at her school in Azamalan Village, Agadez Region.

Niamey, Niger, 29 June 2009 - In Niger, children's education is a national challenge.

One child in three does not go to school. And if a child is at school, chances are, she or he won't complete the primary cycle,

For girls, the situation is an even bigger concern: only one in two girls goes to primary school, one in ten to secondary school and one in fifty to high school.

Working towards achieving universal primary education and gender equality, the Ministry of Education and UNICEF have placed the improvement of quality teaching and of the school environment at the heart of their strategy. The child-friendly school (CFS) model is used for ensuring children their right to quality education.

Interview with Akhil Iyer, UNICEF Representative in Niger

Q: Can you tell us about the child-friendly school approach?

A: The child-friendly school approach is UNICEF's signature approach to advocate for and promote quality education for every girl and boy. It has been implemented in Niger, as well as in several countries around the world, for a few years now.

The idea is that fulfilling the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) requires not just getting all children into school, but making sure to provide schools that are safe and protective, adequately staffed with trained teachers, equipped with adequate resources and graced with the appropriate conditions for learning and completing quality education.

If you look at the situation in Niger, it is clear that both quality and access are a challenge. The primary school enrolment rate more than doubled since 1991 but far too many children, especially girls, are not in school and/or drop out before completing the first cycle. And if the reasons are complex and multiple, evidence shows that when certain elements of quality are absent, such as water points or separate latrines in schools, children tend to drop out. So, it is essential to invest in quality.

Quality education is not just about pedagogy in the classroom process, but about the whole school environment and about the links between schools and communities. It's about the way schools are managed, the way the classroom process takes place, the way children are treated. At school, children should be learning, developing their potential and learning and enriching their lives.

Quality education is also about ensuring that the school building is giving a priority to the best interests of the child. For instance, it means that the school is equipped with access to drinking water and separate sanitation facilities, that it promotes adequate nutrition through school meals and is a point of entry for basic health care.

Q: Given the gap between girls and boys in terms of access to education, does the model reach out to girls?

A: A child-friendly school is sensitive to gender issues, both for girls and boys. There's an awareness of the extra burden on girls, whether it's housework or not allowing them to study enough. And therefore, in child-friendly schools, a special attention is given to respond to the special needs of girls.

In Niger, bridging the gap between girls and boy in terms of access to education is a top priority. Demonstrating the political will to address this gap, the Government, with support from UNICEF, has notably initiated during this school year, a national campaign to promote girls' education (see a clip in French here).

Q: How many schools are currently incorporating the child-friendly school model in their plan?

A: A school becomes child-friendly when it takes the first step on this path. In Niger, at present, approximately 600 schools have engaged on this journey. Based on the evidence that the model does make a difference for promoting quality education for every girl and boy, the aim is to scale up the model progressively to ensure that every child has access to a stimulating learning environment across the entire country.

Q: Can we talk about a new type of relationship between teachers and students through this approach?

A: The new relationship between teachers and students is in fact based on a human rights approach. While we continue to heavily support teacher training in technical or subject areas, increasing attention is given to developing new, innovative, stimulating and participatory approaches in the classroom. For that to happen, a special effort is made to recognize their crucial role and status.

Q: How are local communities involved?

A: As mentioned, the approach goes well beyond the classroom, it takes education into the community at large so that education is recognized as everyone's business and the challenges in the education sector are discussed and addressed with the community, among participatory school management committees.

For example, we all know that girls and boys often walk very long distances to schools in Niger, particularly in rural areas. But the girl child is in particular exposed to a number of risks along that journey. This type of problem and the solutions to this type of problem can be found if the issue is discussed not just within the school facility itself but within the community at large because this is largely a problem that exists before the student, before the girl actually arrives at the school building.


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