Why Burkina Faso

Pre-school classroom


Since initiating her first project in Burkina Faso in 2007, Canadian educator Allyson Tache, has observed first-hand the challenges faced by the country in their education system and she was inspired to help change things.

Teachers are:

  • poorly qualified due to inadequate training and outdated ideas about education especially as it pertains to very young children
  • poorly compensated – often resulting in attendance issues as teachers take on other jobs to make ends meet (??)

Classrooms are:

  • usually overcrowded as a result of teacher shortages – often classrooms hold in excess of 100 preschool-age children with two teachers.
  • lacking any kind of educational material or equipment

Schools are:

  • few and far between – especially in rural parts of the country
  • very limited government interest or community involvement in Early Childhood Education.

International indicators show that preschool education in Burkina Faso is still in its infancy with a 3.5% rate of preschool attendance (the West African average is 17%).

In response to this situation and as part of the Millenium goals UNICEF initially focused on building more preschools in Burkina Faso. A quote from the UNICEF website is below:

UNICEF “is profoundly committed to securing safe, rights-based, quality education for each and every child, irrespective of his or her circumstances.”

“For too many children, though, school is not always a positive experience. Some endure difficult conditions, like missing or inadequate teaching materials or makeshift sanitation facilities. Others lack competent teachers and appropriate curricula. Still others may be forced to contend with discrimination, harassment and even violence. These conditions are not conducive to learning or development, and no child should have to experience them.”

“Access to education that is of poor quality is tantamount to no education at all. There is little point in providing the opportunity for a child to enroll in school if the quality of the education is so poor that the child will not become literate or numerate, or will fail to acquire critical life skills”.

Quantity was the initial focus, however recently studies show that the focus needs to change to improve the Quality of education being provided in order for the desired effects to be realized.

According to Education Advisor, Charles Leadbeater, “This mainly quantitative approach… of getting more children into school won’t be enough in the future, especially if the teaching is boring.” le Monde, Nov 3, 2011.

To date, the emphasis in early childhood education in Burkina Faso has been to focus on directed learning activities, workbooks, and large group instruction, with very little value placed on independent self-directed learning. Cognitive development is stifled in these classrooms. The children usually not engaged, fall asleep or get into trouble….

REPT, through its Building Blocks Burkina initiative aims to improve the quality of early childhood education by providing tools and training that will encourage a shift from teacher directed rigid and unimaginative learning opportunities, to child-centered learning through discovery, manipulation and exploration – i.e. to create an environment to enable the preschool children to develop into capable learners.

Reference: UNICEF Report “Making Education a Priority in the Post 2015 Development Agenda”: http://www.unicef.org/education/files/Making_Education_a_Priority_in_the_Post-2015_Development_Agenda.pdf


Burkina Faso – Some Country Facts

Burkina Faso is a land-locked sub-Saharan nation of about 18 million inhabitants, limited natural resources and poor economic prospects for the majority of its citizens. The country ranked 181 out of 187 in the 2014 edition of the UNDP Human Development Index.

  • Gross per capita income is $690
  • 80% of the active population is employed in the agricultural sector
  • Cotton is the country’s most important cash crop
  • Gold exports are also important
  • The literacy rate among young people is very low: 28% in 2010 compared with the average rate of 70% for sub-Saharan Africa
    • 2013 figures on school enrolment were:
      • 81% primary school
      • 37% lower secondary school
      • 14% upper secondary school
  • Burkina Faso has faced many challenges in recent years which severely impacted public finances resulting in a decline in investments and public revenue. Some of those challenges have been:
    • A significant and persistent fall in gold and cotton prices
    • Customs and tax fraud
    • Political Unrest in 2014/2015 and the 2016 terrorist attack in Ouagadougou
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