Like many other African countries, education in Niger needs improvement. In its current state, Niger’s students lack the support and opportunities they need to fully thrive. Poverty and poor access to schooling both contribute to the struggling educational system in place. To make education in Niger more valuable and within reach, cooperative work from all levels is key, including those in Niger, Africa and abroad.
Although education in Niger is compulsory between the ages of seven and 15, the country has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Less than one-third of adults can read and write. Having such a low literacy rate throughout the country limits Niger’s ability to address its widespread poverty. Improved literacy can positively contribute to economic and social development by promoting economic growth, reducing crime, increasing civic engagement and preventing disease. Education is a truly powerful tool, and it is one that Niger desperately needs.
Education in Niger also needs to acknowledge girls and young women. In 2009, less than half of young girls were enrolled in primary school. The low attendance rates correlate with the high number of child marriages in Niger. When more than one-third of women in Niger are married before age 15, child-rearing takes precedence over finishing a basic education. This trend also reflects in female literacy rates: less than a quarter of young women can read and write. Other Niger populations vulnerable to limited educational opportunities include people in rural and nomadic areas and those with disabilities. If Niger wants to improve the state of its education system, it cannot forget those who can so easily be forgotten.
The government of Niger recognizes that building a better education system must be a priority for the country. A government program has been put in place to improve education in Niger and schooling is available free of charge. Partnering with the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the United States Agency for International Development, the Niger Education and Community Strengthening program aims to provide more opportunities for students and developing the links between local communities and schools.
However, progress is still slow. The population of those who are illiterate or uneducated is still staggering, and it takes time to implement effective outreach. A high population growth rate, low enrollment rates and high dropout rates also all hinder current efforts. Continued support and awareness of education in Niger is crucial in bridging the gaps and propelling the country toward a healthy, educated future.
– Allie Knofczynski