Un blog sur l'éducation dans les pays du Sud – A blog on education in the developing countries

9 juin 2010

Support schooling in Guinea Bissau

Filed under: Comparaisons internationales — Étiquettes : , , , , — education_south @ 11 h 21 min

Should Guinea Bissau be supported to develop its education system, « without rest« ? YES, but why? Guinea Bissau is a country caught between Senegal and Guinea Conakry, two francophone countries. The official language is Portuguese, but the majority of the population speak Crioulo, a Creole and national languages, such as the Balante, Peul …

Brief History of Guinea Bissau

Following an armed struggle led by Amilcar Cabral, Guinea Bissau gained its independence in 1974 and got free from the Portuguese colonization imposed by the Salazar’s regime. Amilcar Cabral has many similarities with the Che, besides a taste for cigars and a certain austerity, he developed a real theory of guerrilla warfare and struggle against colonialism. He placed education at the heart of activities in 1965 and wrote: « If the fight continues to grow, we need to educate ourselves, educate others and the general population. »

He also said « If we had money we would have been a struggle with schools, not with weapons. »… But he was assassinated in January 1973 in Conakry, a few months before independence. Since then, the country has not had a real political stability and a civil war took place in 1999. In March 2009, the President was assassinated and in April 2010 the Prime Minister was briefly arrested by the military forces. As a result, Guinea Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world, according to the United Nations statistics.

The guerrillero Legacy

Cuba has largely supported the « revolution » in Guinea Bissau, but is ranked 51st in terms of poverty against 173rd for Guinea Bissau. Cuba has been able to develop a performant health and educational system, quantitatively and qualititatively, although we can not verify the modes of production of Cuban statistics…
To get out of colonialism, the Guinean « liberators »  have opted to develop the national language, Crioulo, at the expense of the Portuguese, still the language of instruction. The geography, history and life sciences now account much of the national curriculum and textbooks, as Cabral original goal is « to eliminate gradually the face of bid nature and natural forces, « . The first schools were made of bamboo and some time was devoted to productive work in the fields. We will see that this type of school has not totally disappeared …

Cabo Verde brother

Politically, the country is relatively isolated and skipped away from Cape Verde that has received much of the political elite in the 80s. Torn between the Lusophone and Francophone sphere of influence (its geographical neighbors), Guinea Bissau is not very present in the various meetings and initiatives in Africa. In terms of tourism, Guinea Bissau has nothing to envy in Cape Verde, with its archipelago of Bijagos, but failed to really capitalize on it.

Satellite image of the archipelago of Bijagos
The Scarface Fantasy

Guinea Bissau is often on the headlines for for its coups d’Etat. Its bad reputation of narco state, is making it the appointment of adventurers of all kind. In the capital, there is no electricity, just bad roads and « downtown » is a small square with restaurants where you can cross several kind of people. We do not know who is who and who does what and you do not ask too many questions. A John le Carré’s atmosphere.

However, you don’t usually find any armed military in the streets, people are very welcoming and peaceful, it’s a good place for living. If some 4×4 Hummers, the daily business is far from Scarface movie. The music is omnipresent as the cheap alcohol. Music is excellent and close to that of Cape Verde, propelled  by Cesaria Evora. The cabo zouk dominates and currently Philip Monteiro from Cabo Verde is on the top of the Dakar discos. Listen to Guinean music here. Cabo Verde leads the music and education too.

Some comparisons
Indeed on the educational side, Guinea Bissau is harshly compared to Cabo Verde where over 95% of children complete primary school. But indicators of Guinea Bissau have nothing to envy to the Senegalese statistics, as evidenced by the table below.

Primary completion rate

We will see later that the situation in Guinea Bissau and Senegal are intimately linked. The indicators are calculated in complete disregard of migration flows. Compared to Senegal, Guinea Bissau is doing equal and faces additional challenges. The aftermath of the war but also a fairly high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, causes a significant proportion of orphans and displaced people.

The completion rates of Guinea Conakry are higher, but the political crisis in Conakry will surely slow down the rapid increase in enrollment in recent years, especially with the suspension of international cooperation. The failure of public education services is in turn a factor of instability, it is a vicious circle. Educational issues are largely undervalued as a factor for peace and social construction of a state of law. However, Amilcar Cabral defined training and education as the basis of a successful development. Nowadays, it is noted that many members of the assembly Guinea Bissau are illiterate …

The public sector is badly equipped to develop the education system and the political legacy of the founding fathers seem a bit distant.

The crucial role of NGOs

Handicapped by the weight of military spending and by few little help help from donors (unlike Senegal), the state budget leaves little manover. Education expenditures represent 9% of the budget, against 20% on average in Africa. To meet the social demand, a parallel system supported by NGOs (such as Plan International and Effective Intervention) or UNICEF has been developed. Local communities are involved in recruitment and training of teachers and school construction. The NGOs works mainly in the regions of Bafata and Gabu, where only 20% of children reach the end of primary education according to UNICEF MICS survey. These are the poorest regions of the country where the public schooling faces a quite hostile population for religious and cultural reasons.

The quality of education

Until recently, the payment of salaries of teachers were months behind, triggering strike on strike. Thus, the school years often begin in January or February instead of October, but the support of the World Bank has temporarily stabilized the situation in 2009/2010. The cashew nuts harvest, which uses part of the population during a period of the year and the carnival that does not help. School provision is very limited, lessons are given through rotations in the same classroom (turmas), up to four per day in secondary schools in the capital city. Effective schooling time is very low.
The following picture shows a public school located in a small town, not far from the capital city. The class size is relatively modest, there are tables and textbooks and teachers … The textbooks have been produced by various projects including the Palop (Portuguese-speaking countries) community or come directly from Portugal. There is really no endogenous method of teaching the Portuguese language, but rather a collection of texts. However, the PAIGC (movement of Amilcar Cabral) produced the first textbook of Guinea in December 1964 …

A few miles away, a public school resembles nothing so much as a community school. Despite the sign at the front with sponsors, that has nothing to envy to the Tour de France, the « public » school is poorly equipped.

Female students are busy throwing shoes at each other, while boys work in a field …
Some will see a reminiscence of sessions of productive work, others laisser aller.

Anyway, these schools are not very motivating for the parents who are certainly reluctant to send their children there. Therefore, NGOs have taken over the state in certain regions to ensure a minimum quality standards for the education delivery.

The Talibe of Guinea Bissau

According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, which is very shocking, the phenomenon of street children and talibés tends to develop in Guinea Bissau. Read the summary here and the full report here.

If the government of Guinea Bissau did not sign the various conventions on the children rights(unlike in Senegal), local authorities have taken initiatives, which is far from being the case with the neighbors. See my post here which deals with Koranic schools, to be separated from the phenomenon of street children begging.

According to the HRW report, a significant proportion of street children in Dakar actually come from Guinea Bissau and in particular from the regions of Bafata and Gabu. See pages 90-96 of the report.

Child migration map extracted from the HRW report

It’s a good reason to support the education system of Guinea Bissau and offer a credible alternative to child begging and mistreatment.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Norberto Bottani, taken in 2008 during a mission in the country. guinea-bissau.net for Bijagos, blogger for the City Centre Photo taken in April 2010.


27 mai 2010

Soutenir l’école de Guinée Bissau

Filed under: Post par pays — Étiquettes : , , — education_south @ 17 h 00 min

Faut-il aider la Guinée Bissau à développer son système éducatif, « sans relâche et sans condescendance » ? OUI, mais pourquoi ? La Guinée Bissau est un pays pris en tenaille entre le Sénégal et la Guinée Conakry, deux pays francophones. La langue officielle est le portugais mais la majorité de la population y parle le crioulo, un créole et les langues nationales, telles le balante, le peul…

Brève histoire de la Guinée Bissau

Suite à une lutte armée menée par Amilcar Cabral, la Guinée Bissau obtient son indépendance en 1974. Elle s’affranchit ainsi de la colonisation portugaise imposée par le régime de Salazar. Amilcar Cabral a beaucoup de ressemblances avec le Che, en dehors du goût pour le cigare et une certaine austérité, il développe une véritable théorie de la guérilla et de lutte contre le colonialisme. Il place l’éducation au centre de son action et écrit en 1965 : « Pour que la lutte continue à se développer, nous devons nous éduquer nous même, éduquer les autres et la population en général ». Il dit aussi « Si nous avions eu de l’argent nous aurions fait une lutte avec des écoles, pas avec des armes ». Une phrase prémonitoire…

Il meurt assassiné en janvier 1973 à Conakry, quelques mois avant l’indépendance. Depuis lors, le pays n’a pas connu de véritable stabilité politique et une guerre civile l’a secoué en 1999. En mars 2009, le Président est assassiné et en avril 2010 le premier ministre a été brièvement arrêté par les militaires.

En conséquence de quoi, la Guinée Bissau est un des pays les plus pauvres du monde, selon les Nations Unies.

L’héritage guérillero

Cuba a largement appuyé la « révolution » bissau guinéenne, mais est classé 51ème pays en termes de pauvreté contre 173ème pour la Guinée Bissau. Cuba a pu développer un système de santé et d’éducation performant, tant que sur le plan quantitatif que qualititatif, bien qu’on ne puisse pas vérifier les modes de production des statistiques cubaines…

Afin de sortir du colonialisme, les « libérateurs » guinéens ont pris le parti de développer le crioulo comme langue nationale, au détriment du portugais qui reste la langue d’enseignement. Les questions de géographie et d’histoire ainsi que les sciences de la vie occupent encore aujourd’hui une bonne partie des programmes et manuels scolaires, puisqu’il s’agit au départ : « d’éliminer peu à peu la soumission face à la nature et aux forces naturelles » selon Cabral. Les premières écoles étaient faites de bambou et une partie du temps devait être consacrée au travail productif dans les champs. On verra que ce type d’école n’a pas disparu…

Le frère Cap verdien

Sur le plan politique, le pays est relativement isolé et s’est éloigné du Cap Vert qui a accueilli une bonne partie de l’élite politique dans les années 80. Tiraillée entre la sphère d’influence francophone (ses voisins géographiques) et lusophone, la Guinée Bissau a la langue entre deux chaises. Elle est très peu présente dans les différentes réunions et initiatives africaines. Sur le plan touristique, la Guinée Bissau n’a rien à envier au Cap Vert, avec son archipel des Bijagos, mais n’a pas su véritablement en tirer parti. Voir ici une adresse sympa pour faire de la pêche sportive.

Le fantasme scarface

La Guinée Bissau fait souvent la une de presse internationale pour ses coups d’Etat. Sa réputation sulfureuse de narco Etat, en fait le rendez vous des aventuriers de tout poils. Dans la capitale, il n’y a pas d’électricité, à peine des routes, le « centre ville » est une petite place avec des restaurants sous des loupiottes où l’on croise une faune interlope. On ne sait pas qui est qui et qui fait quoi et on ne pose pas trop de questions. Une ambiance à la John le Carré.

Ceci dit, on ne croise pas de militaires armés dans les rues, les habitants sont très accueillants et pacifiques, il y fait bon vivre, si quelques 4×4 Hummers aux vitres teintées circulent, le quotidien n’est pas celui du film Scarface, réservé à la sphère politique et militaire. La musique, omniprésente tout comme l’alcool pas cher, y est excellente et proche de celle du Cap Vert, propulsée par Cesaria Evora. Le cabo zouk domine et c’est actuellement Philip Monteiro, d’origine cap verdienne qui tient le haut du pavé des discothèques dakaroises pour ceux qui veulent se reposer du mbalax. Ecoutez ici de la musique guinéenne. Encore une fois, l’ombre du frère Cap Verdien empêche quelque peu les artistes en herbe de Bissau de pousser.

Quelques comparaisons

Sur le plan éducatif, la Guinée Bissau ne souffre pas non plus la comparaison avec le Cap Vert où plus de 95% des enfants achèvent le cycle primaire. Par contre, les indicateurs bissau guinéen n’ont rien à envier aux statistiques sénégalaises, comme l’atteste le tableau ci-dessous.

On verra plus tard que la situation bissau guinéenne est intimement liée au Sénégal en notant de forts mouvements de population entre ces deux pays, via la Casamance. Les indicateurs calculés ici font complètement abstraction des flux migratoires. Comparativement au Sénégal, la Guinée Bissau s’en sort plus tôt pas mal et fait face à des défis supplémentaires. Les séquelles de la guerre mais aussi un taux de prévalence du VIH Sida relativement élevé, entraîne une proportion non négligeable d’orphelins et de déplacements de population.

Le taux de scolarisation de l’autre Guinée sont plus élevés, mais la crise politique à Conakry entraînera surement un ralentissement de la progression rapide des effectifs enregistrés ces dernières années, en particulier avec la suspension de la coopération. La défaillance des services publics éducatifs est en retour un facteur d’instabilité, c’est un cercle vicieux. Les questions d’éducation restent largement minorées comme facteur de paix sociale et de construction d’un Etat de droit. Pourtant, Amilcar Cabral a défini la formation et l’éducation des cadres politiques comme étant la base du succès du développement. De nos jours, on notera qu’une bonne partie de l’assemblée bissau guinéenne est analphabète…

Le secteur public est donc mal outillé pour le développement du système éducatif et l’héritage politique des pères fondateurs semble un peu lointain.

Le rôle prépondérant des ONGs

Handicapé par le poids des dépenses militaires et recevant jusque récemment peu d’aide des partenaires institutionnels (contrairement au Sénégal), le budget de l’Etat laisse peu de mages de manœuvre. Les dépenses d’éducation valent à peine 9% du budget de l’Etat, contre 20% en moyenne en Afrique. Pour faire face à la demande sociale, s’est développé un  système parallèle alimenté par les ONGs (telles Plan International et Effective Intervention) ou l’UNICEF qui assurent avec les communautés le recrutement et la formation des enseignants et le fonctionnement des écoles, dites communautaires. Dans certaines zones, il est en effet difficile de trouver les enseignants ayant les diplômes académiques requis pour exercer dans le public. Dans la pratique et la règlementation, dès qu’une école se voit affecté un enseignant rémunéré par l’Etat, elle devient une école « publique ».

Les ONGS interviennent principalement dans les régions de Bafata et Gabu, où seuls 20% des enfants parviennent en fin de cycle primaire selon l’enquête MICS de l’UNICEF. Ce sont les régions les plus pauvres du pays, où l’offre scolaire publique est la plus faible et les populations longtemps hostiles à la scolarisation pour des raisons culturelles et religieuses.

La qualité de l’éducation

Jusque récemment, le paiement des salaires des enseignants accusait des mois d’arriérés, déclenchant grève sur grève. Ainsi, les années scolaires débutent souvent en janvier ou février au lieu du mois d’octobre, mais l’appui de la Banque Mondiale a permis de stabiliser temporairement la situation en 2009/2010. S’ajoute à cela la récolte des noix de cajou, qui mobilise une partie de la population pendant une période de l’année et le carnaval qui n’arrange pas les choses. De plus, l’offre scolaire étant très réduite, les cours sont assurés à travers des rotations dans une même salle de classe (turmas), pouvant aller jusqu’à quatre par jour dans les lycées de la capitale. Le temps scolaire est donc très réduit.

Les quelques photos suivantes présentent une école publique située dans une petite ville, non loin de la capitale. La taille de classe y est relativement modeste, il y a des tables bancs et des manuels et des enseignants…Les manuels scolaires ont été produits par divers projets notamment de la communauté Palop (pays de langue officielle portugaise) ou viennent directement du Portugal. Il n’y a pas vraiment de méthode endogène d’enseignement de la langue portugaise, mais plutôt des recueils de textes. Pourtant, le PAIGC (mouvement d’Amilcar Cabral) a produit le premier manuel scolaire de Guinée en décembre 1964…

A quelques kilomètres de là, une école publique ressemble à s’y méprendre à une école communautaire. Malgré le panneau à l’entrée présentant les sponsors, et qui n’a rien à envier à la caravane du Tour de France, l’école « publique » est démunie.
Les élèves filles jouent à se lancer des sandales, tandis que les garçons travaillent dans un champ…Certains y verront une réminiscence des séances de travail productif, d’autres du laisser aller.

Quoi qu’il en soit, ces écoles ne sont pas très motivantes pour les parents qui rechignent certainement à y envoyer leurs enfants.

C’est pourquoi les ONGs ont pris le relais de l’Etat dans certaines régions afin d’assurer un minimum de standard de qualité.Selon le dernier rapport de Human Right Watch, qui est très choquant, le phénomène des talibés et enfants des rues tend à se développer en Guinée Bissau. Lire le résumé ici. Si le gouvernement bissau guinéen n’a pas signé les différentes conventions sur les droits des enfants (contrairement au Sénégal), les pouvoirs publics ou les autorités locales ont pris des initiatives, ce qui est loin d’être le cas chez le voisin.« Après avoir ignoré pendant des dizaines d’années l’exode massif des enfants bissau-guinéens vers les daaras du Sénégal, où des milliers d’entre eux ont été maltraités et exploités, le gouvernement bissau-guinéen a mis sur pied un Comité national pour la lutte contre la traite des personnes (Comité national contre la traite des personnes) en 2008 et a reconnu la gravité du problème. Depuis lors, il a pris des mesures positives pour réduire le transfert illégal d’enfants vers le Sénégal, entre autres en dispensant des formations aux gardes-frontières et à la police civile. Son action demeure toutefois limitée et lente. Il laisse la police face à un manque cruel de moyens financiers pour combattre le problème, n’a pas criminalisé la traite des enfants et s’abstient de réclamer des comptes. »Voir ici mon post qui traite des écoles coraniques qu’il faut distinguer du phénomène (majoritaire) des talibés des rues.Selon le rapport de Human Right Watch, une proportion importante des enfants des rues de Dakar viennent en fait de Guinée Bissau et notamment des régions de Bafata et Gabu. Voir page 90 à 96 du rapport.Carte extraite du rapport HRW« Les principaux itinéraires de la migration des talibés sont bien connus au Sénégal et en Guinée-Bissau. Les itinéraires signalés ici ont été identifiés sur base d’entretiens réalisés par Human Rights Watch avec des talibés, des marabouts, des parents, ainsi que des responsables humanitaires et gouvernementaux du Sénégal et de Guinée-Bissau ; d’une étude quantitative sur les enfants mendiants de Dakar réalisée en 2007 par le Fonds international de secours à l’enfance des Nations Unies (UNICEF), l’Organisation internationale du Travail et la Banque mondiale ; et de données détaillées recueillies par SOS Enfants Talibés (SOS Crianças Talibés) auprès d’enfants revenus en Guinée-Bissau après s’être enfuis de daaras au Sénégal. »C’est une bonne raison pour soutenir le système éducatif bissau guinéen et ainsi offrir une alternative crédible à la mendicité et aux mauvais traitements.Crédit photos : Avec l’aimable autorisation de Norberto Bottani, prises en 2008 lors d’une mission dans le pays. guinee-bissau.net pour Bijagos, le bloggeur pour la photo du Centre Ville prise en avril 2010.

6 mars 2010

Koranic schooling in Senegal

Filed under: Post par pays — Étiquettes : , , , , — education_south @ 17 h 41 min


Please note : When (FR) is specified after a link, the reference documents or pages are in French, otherwise in English.

The Koranic schools is a controversial issue, but research in education can serve to calm down the debate. The Koranic school and pupils, talibés, are an inescapable social fact in Senegal. Despite their high visibility they has long been overshadowed by discussions on development aid and thus receive little support from donors and supervision from national authorities.

Several approaches can be followed to address this issue: Statistical  and economic, right-based, moral or by following the pedagogical  path … All are equal, but the western media privileged the moral  aspect. The work of Dan Wagner (Indigenous Education and Literacy  Learning) and Pierre Andre & Jean-Luc DEMONSANT (Koranic  schools in Senegal: a real barrier to formal education?) used  extensively in this post allow us to go a little further. The central  question is whether the Koranic schooling is genuinely opposed to a      formal education system inherited from colonialism.

In February 2010, the Senegalese government issued a decree (FR) on the recognition of Koranic schools in the country, that was welcomed by Amnesty International. So far, few administrative or legislative texts relates to this issue, according to a brief review of the Senegalese Journal Officiel (FR) online. This is a first step towards a better grip of this type of teaching and schools by the government.  

For many years there was a clear distinction between the formal education system, the « French schools » and Koranic schools, or « a state system institutionally dichotomized in public and religious. » For a description of Islamic education in Africa, see Cahiers d ‘Etudes Africaines (FR).

Within the Ministry of Education, a service of the Franco-Arab education is officiating. But the “franco-arab” schools are supposed to follow the national curriculum while also introducing national courses in Arabic and religious education. They must be distinguished from Koranic schools strictly designed to teach the Koran.

The number of Franco-Arab schools are counted in official statistics, but the Senegalese government wanted to see talibés enrolment in education indicators. In reality, no administrative statistics is available on the koranic schooling and the household surveys or even child labor surveys do not provide the necessary information. Estimates from NGOs vary from simple to triple.

If the teaching of Islamic schools is at the origin aiming the knowledge of religious texts, it has sometimes diverted to highly criticized practices of throwing children into the streets to beg. See here (FR) a few stories. Moreover, talibés must often give every evening a minimum amount of money to Marabout teachers otherwise under pain of corporal punishment. At 200 CFA francs per day, a Marabout who teach thirty talibés earns 30 * 30 * 2 = 180 000Fcfa per month, equivalent to a salary of a teacher in the public sector, from which we must deduct the cost of food students and school expenses. In a completely liberal education system this seek for profit is the effect of an absence of regulation and strong social demand for koranic schooling, which is a free good for households. Reflection on this matter must be continued.

In terms of international law, it is simply exploitation and a form of « child labor in hazardous conditions » or harmfull as defined by the International Labor Organization and is covered by the Convention 182 signed by Senegal. See ILO web site for child labor statistics.

But again, the child labor statistical surveys (FR) does not provide us with all necessary information on the phenomenon: « The frame does not include children living in daaras (Koranic schools ) or makeshift houses, among others. The identification was made of children from households. This would affect in some measure the magnitude of child labor because the frame is thus underestimated”.

But it would be possible to consider area-sampling methods at least in Dakar and its suburbs. The subject of work and exploitation of children is relatively taboo. PLAN NGO in Togo have experienced some problems when publishing a report on the issue, but it is available on the Internet (FR). It is related in part to the practice of fostering children, out of the household. However, the link between this ancient custom and the exploitation of children is not systematic, the primary goal being the education of children. Browse jobs by Marc Pilon (FR).Economic constraints mean that some parents cannot afford to support their offspring and confide them in another household or a school / institution. In times not so long ago in France, we observed the same phenomena, there was Victor Hugo’s Cosette, now Fatou. But it is also for some parents a way to invest in education, by “giving” the child to a household easier. The host family will use children for domestic work while issuing him an education, which even if not in an institution, may be better than the one he would have received in the household of origin. There are thus different practices.

For some, the wandering and begging in the streets is good training for later life, given the high rates of youth unemployment, one cannot deny. For others it is a factory of offenders and potential terrorists, hordes of jihadists. Again, such statements have to be taken with caution. International terrorists like those of September 11 have had advanced studies, they were sometimes introduced to religion late in life. In the Middle Ages, all students who attended school from Catholic fathers do not all turn into great inquisitors. Again on the current practice of teaching by the Catholic fathers, there is much to say.

The moral question is legitimate, but despite the international conventions, it has a variable geometry. In fact, some current practices in Senegal and elsewhere, are a enlargement or dilatation of practices that took over in the West, not so long. In Asia, including Burma, all young people must go through a Buddhist teaching which is not far removed from practice of the Koranic school. The monks are begging with bowls all day long, while memorizing sacred texts and performing household chores in the temples. Buddhism following great vehicle mode is not very fun neither. But no one is offended.

Asceticism is the foundation of most religions, prophets roll rarely in Hummer. Pedagogically, again the methods of corporal punishment and the belt blows are the basis of any school, whether Roman, Greek, Christian, Buddhist or Islamic. Browse jobs from Dan Wagner.

On the Roman school (wikipedia): « Teachers are badly paid by the fathers of students. They are quite authoritarian with students. They fought through a wooden rod, the rod, or even strips of leather. Teaching is based on the heart and through imitation and the pace is relatively slow. « . In Africa, we use the term « chicote » that comes from the Portuguese whip. View this article (FR) or this one (FR) on the use of the “chicote”.
See especially the discussion on the Facebook profile of President Yayi Boni (FR) of Benin.

Not until mid-twentieth century thought and practices have really evolved in the West on teaching methods. Certainly, there are some deviations in Senegal, see the broadcats of Thalassa or RFI (FR), which caused much debate, but there are also modern Koranic schools (FR).

In Senegal, the Marabout are said to host significant spiritual and magic powers. In the holy city of Touba, the Caliph General of the Mourides (a fraternity) has banned the « French schools ». It is a sociological pattern, some parents do not wish in any way that their children go to the “French school ». The “indigenous school” is not likely to disappear and the systems of formal and informal education must coexist. Until now it has been neglected by aid policies and development funders but there are new evolutions.

The United States Ambassador to Senegal recently said (FR): « We plan to put some 4,000 scholarships in institutes and schools to support these teachings but also English books and videotapes to support the Koranic teaching and learning of English.
We seek to convince our government to help Islamic institutions and build new ones.

Senegal is very influential internationally and generally concentrates all the initiatives and pilot projects in francophone Africa, the diplomatic corps is walking on eggshells . Unless this is an opportunity for a switch to Senegal in the teaching of English rather than French through Koranic schooling. In fact, it is simply to support the Government in the framework of Koranic education, see no evil everywhere …

The decree taken by the Senegalese authorities is a first step towards the regulation and funding of these schools and the inclusion of Koranic education in development policies. In terms of investment or initial bet, the Koranic school is just a few dollars: a room, Korans, shelves. It remains to discuss whether this is a real barrier to formal education and if this is not a lever for acquiring reading and numeracy skills other than the knowledge of the Koran.

On the first point and a paper entitled Koranic Schools in Senegal: a real barrier to formal education, Pierre Andre & Jean-Luc DEMONSANT, researchers, sheds new light. The role of educational research is to clarify the debate, taking a little distance, but the reason is often opposed to religion and the topic is as thorny acacia. But in the eye of a polytechnician (french MIT) with fitted data, everything becomes clearer. Out of respect for their work, I’d settle for copy pasting the abstract of the paper.

« The public education systems in the Sahelian countries do not teach religious education, which is issued by the informal sector. This article is a first attempt to study quantitatively how the education system works in two dimensions and whether potential competition is a key factor in low primary enrollment rates in Senegal. The analysis is based on a single set of national data on 1800 households, with detailed information on formal and Koranic children 5 to 21 years.

In our sample, more than half of girls and 60% of boys attend Koranic school for at least a year, although most of them stay for only two to three years. We present a brief background on Islam and the Koranic schools in Senegal to provide a better understanding of the complexity of the topic. We then examine the determinants of the Koranic school before studying its compatibility with formal education.

A descriptive analysis shows that children who attend Koranic school for several years, were more likely to attend formal primary school than those who did not attend the Koranic school at all and those who are studying the Koran long. To identify the substitution between the madrassas and the French school, we use a strategy based on the instrumental opening of schools formelles.Nos IV estimates show that the substitution effect dominates in boys. This substitution shows without doubt that the two school careers are considered relevant educational choice by choosing some Senegalese households, and that there is competition between schools and formal Koranic education in Senegal. While the establishment of formal schools are changing the enrollment decisions, the choice of a full-time education in Koranic schools is probably due to the poor quality of education in formal schools. Therefore, improving the quality of Koranic education could improve formal schooling.

The existence of Koranic teaching full-time could be in part a signal indicating the poor quality of formal schooling, but also reflects real preferences for religious education. The preferences of some households for Quranic education could therefore hinder the development of formal primary education, even if the quality of teaching was really good. The potential existence of these aspirations household raises the question of an integrated education system to facilitate a balance between the two types of education.  »

The article engages sophisticated econometric techniques and provide substantial evidence for understanding Koranic schooling but does not cover all aspects of this complex phenomenon. This is not a criticism, but if the two types of education live in « the mind of the households”, they also share the field. Indeed, in Dakar and the suburbs there is a real problem of urbanism (it’s a peninsula) and many public schools have no real wall or fence bounding and are running in double shift. The rhythm of authorization of private schools approved by the State is slow and there is a fertile ground for the multiplication of Daraa (Koranic schools). See the works of the Education Project in the suburbs of Dakar.

One should further explore what is the effect of schooling in Koranic schools on the skills covered by the national curriculum, as did a study from UNICEF. Does being enrolled in daaras a few years lead to learn to read, write and count in French or another language more easily? Learning the Quran is first learning Arabic, which is a complex language. The Wolof, the language spoken in Senegal contains many words borrowed from Arabic, like the Spanish, the pronunciation of both languages are relatively close. In terms of cognitive skills, memorizing the book can reinforce skills. PASEC had attempted to measure the impact of knowledge of the suras and hijab on the achievements of the school curriculum, in Mauritania. International assessments such PASEC and EGRA and national studies or could address this issue or secondary analysis could be conducted.
Exchanges of experience between Senegal and some Arab countries (see the work of Dan Wagner) who completed the integration of different forms of education could also be a solution to ensure improved living conditions for children and people.

Credit photos: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/1864346 and http://vudici.midiblogs.com/archive/2006/06/19/talibes-derniere-partie.htm

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