Education in Niger like that of other developing nations, particularly in the Sahelian region of Africa, faces challenges from poverty and poor access to schools. Niger has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world.
Primary education in Niger is compulsory between the ages of seven and fifteen. The primary school enrollment and attendance rates are low, particularly for girls. Some figures suggest that in 1997, the gross primary enrollment rate was 29.3%, and in 1996, the net primary enrollment rate was 24.5%. However reliable statistics vary because there is no definitive count of the number of school-age children.
About 60% of children who finish primary schools are boys, as the majority of girls rarely attend school for more than a few years. Children are often forced to work rather than attend school, particularly during planting or harvest periods. Traditionally, parents have been reluctant to send their children to school. In the 1960s, the government sent the army to rural villages to compel school attendance and villagers hid their children, fearful of what would happen to them. More recently parents have failed to register their children's births to avoid later school enrollment. Head teachers, who are responsible for recruitment in rural areas, can be reluctant to travel outside their own villages to persuade parents to allow their children to attend school.
Determined to raise the Gross Enrolment Ratio of primary education from a low rate of 41.7% in 2002 to 94% by 2012, the Government of Niger designed Comité de Gestion des Establissements Scolaires, or COGES, by establishing a management committee for each school. Each management committee includes three representatives of the parents’ association, a representative of the mother’s association, a representative of the teachers, and where applicable a pupils representative. The Head teacher serves as secretary of the committee. The Government of Japan provided technical assistance towards the implementation of the “Project to Support the Improvement of School Management through Community Participation”, though known generally as the “School for All” (SFA).
COGES currently manages approximately 97% of Niger’s primary schools. The responsibilities of the COGES encompass monitoring teacher attendance and performance, management of the school’s finances (including raising funds) and school infrastructure, including the construction of classrooms and sanitary facilities, procurement of textbooks and other relevant supplies. In short, the committee oversees the overall expenditure of the school. The key components of a functional COGES are: democratic elections of the leadership of the committee; school action plans for the year; and systematic monitoring of the activities of the project.
In view of these developments, the elementary school intake ratio at Grade 1 improved from 40% to 98.6% between 2001 and 2010 and the gross school enrolment ratio also went up from 37% to 72.9%. The school completion rate during the period also improved from 25% to 48%.
There are two higher education intstitutions in Niger. Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey was founded as the University of Niamey in 1974 and is the only public university in the country. It is run by the Ministry of Education. The Islamic University of Niger in Say was opened in 1986.
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- Behnke, p. 40
- "Niger". 2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Bureau of International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor (2002). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- Wynd, p. 104
- Wynd, p. 105
- Education Statistics Summary (2005). UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
- Profile of Niger's Educational System. Adama Maiga Oumar. United States of America, Department of State (2001).
- Behnke, Alison (2008). Niger in Pictures. Twenty-First Century Books. ISBN 0-8225-7147-1.
- Wynd, Shona (1999). "Education, Schooling and Fertility in Niger". In Heward, Christine; Bunwaree, Sheila S. Gender, Education, and Development: Beyond Access to Empowerment. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 101–115. ISBN 1-85649-632-5.