When Burkina Faso gained independence from France in 1960, the school attendance rate was 6%. Now up to 66%, the country still has a long way to go if it plans to achieve the Millenium Development Goal of attaining universal access for children to primary education.
Why do Boys Have a Higher Literacy Rate?
A girl in Burkina Faso is more likely to be married and give birth before the age of 18 than she is to graduate secondary school. Before she received a scholarship, Burkinabe 15-year-old Lucie walked more than 10 miles to school each day. With her new bicycle, she has an easier time getting to school and fetching water for her family. Boys have a higher literacy rate than girls in Burkina Faso because they are given preference in schooling.
A project called Burkina Response to Increasing the Development of Girls’ Education sponsors school-aged children in Burkina Faso’s two regions with the highest dropout rates by building new secondary schools, adding more classrooms and girls’ dormitories to existing schools, providing scholarships for needy girls and working with community leaders, teachers and parents to build a supportive framework for girls’ education and development.
Primary Education: The First Step
Elementary education in Burkina Faso is required for children between the ages of 7 years old and 14 years old, but it is not strictly enforced. The elementary education system in Burkina Faso is based on the French model; thus, classes are taught in French. Only 29% of children finish primary school, according to UNICEF data. Burkina Faso has one of the world’s highest dropout rates, second to Niger.
Secondary Education Has a Price
Burkina Faso is the third-poorest country in the world as ranked by the United Nations. Some families hardly have enough money to buy necessities like food, much less pay for secondary education. While some countries in Africa are implementing a free secondary school system, Burkina Faso charges the equivalent of $166 per year for secondary school education, a mandatory fee that many Burkinabe families cannot afford.
Currently the free, public and compulsory education takes children through age 16. From age of 13 to 16 years old, children attend a “post-primary” school, which is intended to prepare the students for secondary school. When a fee is involved, as it is for secondary education, the government does not make schooling mandatory because many families do not have the means to pay for it.
A Pop-Star’s Dedication to Help
Burkina Faso is the seventh country to benefit from a BuildOn Project. Katharine McPhee, star of the NBC hit TV show SMASH and runner-up of the 2006 American Idol, and her husband, Nick Cokas, are partnering with BuildOn to expand access to schools in Burkina Faso. The couple provided mosquito nets to the country through Malaria No More and funded the construction of a school in the country’s capital, Oagadougou. Their dedication to Burkina Faso continues as they fund BuildOn’s first two schools in the country.
“Investing in education and opportunity for young people is a major priority in our lives, and we are thrilled that with the help of BuildOn, we can maintain our ongoing commitment to improving education for the children of Burkina Faso,” McPhee said.
– Haley Sklut
Sources: Looking to the Stars, UNICEF, Burkina Faso Embassy, Plan USA, Classbase, Intervida
Photo: Build On