The education crisis remains acute in Sahel countries due to insecurity. With projects in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, Aide et Action is alarmed by this situation, of which girls are the first to bear the consequences.
As a leader of Coalition Éducation, a French coalition of 20 civil society organisations working on #education internationally and a member of Global Campaign for Education, we know the value of education and the impact exclusion from education can have on the world’s most marginalized population.
In a report titled “Meeting the challenges of education in the Sahel in crisis”, published by Coalition Éducation in 2019, the countries of the Sahel zone were described as facing demographic, security and migratory issues which weighed on the needs and capacities of their education systems, whose results were among the lowest in the world. Now, as we mark International Day of The Girl Child 2021, the crises are mounting.
Girls’ education is considered a lower priority than that of boys
During a time of crisis, girls, are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school in countries in crisis. According to the Coalition’s report, even before the COVID-19 crisis, in Niger, 54% of girls were not in school compared to 46% of boys (UIS). “Socio-economic contexts favour early marriages or the involvement of girls in housework. [..] In the region most affected by the conflict of the country, the rate of child marriage is the highest in the world with 89% of married girls “
Today, the figures are even worse, as according to the latest estimates, in the Sahel, 4 million girls have had to drop out of school due to insecurity. Beyond the security aspect, in this area, the obstacles to quality education are numerous: primary school teachers are insufficiently trained, educational resources are non-existent, insufficient or inadequate, and local supervision is proving to be essential. All these factors weaken access to education for girls, whose schooling is often considered a lower priority than that of boys.
Aissata’s story of hope
In Mali, Aissata, a fifth-grade student at Sossokoira Primary School, has received a scholarship from Aide et Action to finish her education and thankfully, the neighbouring security crisis has not impacted her school. “Education is very important for all children and especially for girls,” attests Aissata, who followed distance learning programs courses broadcast on national radio and local radio stations during school closures.
As part of Aide et Action’s sponsorship program in Mali, Aissata receives and writes letters to her sponsor. Being able to read and write these letters is something the young student appreciates. “When my sponsor talks to me about his home, his family and his environment, I discover life elsewhere, in France”, says Aissata. “Without school, I would not be able to read or write. Then I would risk being condemned to early marriage and housework. “
Next month, (November 2021), Aissata will start sixth grade – something she is very much looking forward to as she hopes it will guarantee her a bright future. “The sponsorship offered by Aide et Action has changed my perception of school” explains Aissata. “It is thanks to the school that I will be trained, that I will be able to graduate and have a job.”
On this International Day of the Girl, we wish to highlight the importance of breaking down the barriers posed by gender inequalities and exclusion, especially in conflict zones for children like Aissata.