Category Archives: Niger

There is “no data” in Africa… really?!

This sentence drives me crazy, and I have heard it from many researchers – Africans and non-Africans alike. I recognise and acknowledge many of the challenges related to compiling, accessing, and storing (digitally and manuscripts) data in many African countries. These challenges must be addressed so that we do not lose valuable contribution to world’s history, mathematics, economics, etc. The challenges must be addressed so that knowledge seating at the periphery could also become mainstream.

During my doctoral research, I have conducted some work in the national archives of the country and found “treasures” that debunk the overly repeated notion, “there is no data in Africa”. These findings further question the validity of the transactional nature of some fieldwork, especially in non-western contexts. How can you find data (in any form) when some fieldwork lasts at times lasts one or two weeks? There is a wealth of data, often unexplored or seating at the periphery of conventional sources of knowledge. Some of the most reliable sources of information are the libraries within old traditional palaces where the works of the likes of Nana Asmau laid “dormant” to the rest of the world until uncovered by contemporary scholars.

The sad truth is that when repeated, this notion about the unavailability of data becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, which impacts what we think we know and how we engage with certain places. This impacts even the very nature of what we teach and learn. If enough researchers repeat “there is no data in Niger”, for instance, then surely, it becomes acceptable when certain extrapolations are made… even if untrue.

Researchers need to stop being lazy and stop perpetuating single narratives about research in Africa based on their inability to search deeply, patiently, and differently. Furthermore, this is one reason why we need people with personal stakes to also research these issues because they would (hopefully) do it with their whole heart, settling for nothing but the very best, searching until they find (or at least try really hard), being patient with the challenges however long it takes…

To all researchers, especially venturing in a context that is not your own, before you utter the infamous “there is no data in [cite any African country]“, ask yourself some critical questions: Have I looked long enough? Have I looked in the right places? Did I ask the right people? Have I asked local researchers? Have I looked outside of what is usually considered a “source”? Am I doing justice to this community that has existed for centuries when I dismiss their forms of creating knowledge by saying ‘there is no data’? In what language(s) did I look for that data?

 

Niger Archives

I took this photo from a file in Niger’s national archives. In 1920, there were 455 students in total in the entire country; 712 students in 1921. In 2010, there were 1,554,102 students in primary schools alone.

 

 

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Les coûts du leadership féminin en Afrique… au Niger

Je suis fière de voir les changements qui sont en train de s’opérer dans nos sociétés nigériennes. Tout est loin d’être parfait – d’ailleurs beaucoup de défis restent à relever. Mais le constat que j’ai fait depuis quelques années est qu’il y a de plus en plus de femmes, jeunes tout comme plus âgées, qui apportent leur valable contribution à la construction de notre pays, dans différents domaines. Mais toute discussion honnête avec ces femmes font ressortir des craintes et des sacrifices dans une société qui leur prescrit des rôles, souvent rigides.

Aucun être humain ne réussit seul. Il y a un adage commun qui dit, « Behind every great man is a great woman – derrière tout grand homme il y a une grande femme ». Un exemple parlant est le couple Obama où Michelle a dû mettre ses ambitions de côté pour faire briller celles de son mari. Elle savait qu’elle devait être la femme parfaite pour que son mari puisse accéder au pouvoir dans une société qui a des racines misogynes encore profondes (Hillary Clinton en sait quelque chose). Cet adage est d’autant plus vrai pour les femmes qui aspirent à des positions de leadership, surtout en Afrique. Behind every great woman is a great man or a man who could not handle it and missed out on growth. Combien d’hommes africains, ou dans notre cas nigériens, seront prêts à soutenir leur partenaire dans leur épanouissement professionnel ? Combien le feront sans « punir » la femme d’une manière ou d’une autre ? Combien le feraient sans la forcer à masser leur ego, assis sur leur propre insécurité ?

Beaucoup de femmes “leaders” Africaines souffrent : plus que toute autre, elles se retrouvent dans des situations qui exigent des choix impossibles et des contraintes qu’elles doivent assumer… Celles qui décident de faire fi de ces contraintes sociales choisissent par défaut de vivre en isolation. Nous devons apprendre à nos frères et nos fils que leur grandeur ne réside pas dans la suppression des rêves de leur partenaire – tout au contraire… et le manque de soutien actif est aussi une suppression car personne ne réussit seul. Les modèles existent – connus ou cachés, historiques ou actuels. Ici à Cambridge, une amie d’un autre pays a eu une bourse exceptionnelle pour faire son doctorat – son mari a pris un départ momentané pour venir la soutenir en gardant les enfants, encore petits. Quand je raconte son histoire au Niger, les gens demandent si son mari est normal ou s’il est blanc. C’est des sacrifices incroyables qui font une réussite professionnelle équilibrée et épanouie pour les individus qui forment cette famille. C’est très fréquent de voir des femmes qui suivent leur époux pour des etudes, pour des positions à l’extérieur, etc. Mais une femme, en général, essaye même de ne pas « aspirer » à beaucoup d’opportunités de peur de…. (compléter par ce que vous savez déjà)

Pour celles qui aimeraient composer une famille un jour tout en ayant des aspirations personnelles qui dépassent les rôles traditionnels, un des choix les plus importants est le choix de son partenaire. Conférence après conférence, discussions après discussions, les femmes qui sont plus âgées, qui ont réussi a combiner vie de famille et carrière exceptionnelle, ou qui avouent avoir échoué dans l’un ou l’autre expliquent que la clé réside dans le type de soutien que nous avons (ou pas) à la maison. Quand le monde du travail te secoue de défis, quand être femme noire Africaine et jeune qui aspire à avoir un impact conséquent dans sa communauté demande ton engagement, que retrouves tu à la maison? Un partenaire qui te soulage dans les tâches et te soutient ou bien quelqu’un dont le soutien ne dépasse pas la rhétorique? Un partenaire qui sera content de te voir enterrer tes rêves ou bien quelqu’un qui n’aura pas peur de faire des sacrifices pour tes rêves soient aussi valides que les siens? Certes ceci n’est pas la garantie mais c’est une des inconnues innombrables avec lesquelles jongle la femme nigérienne qui veut voir ses rêves professionnels fleurir. Et pour ceux qui aiment les mathématiques (comme moi), on sait que dans une équation à plusieurs variables, l’interdépendance est une nécessité.

Je salue ces femmes nigériennes leaders qui dans leur moment de calme se retrouvent dans le type de changement qu’elles auraient apporté malgré les défis ; je salue ces femmes qui ont défié des normes sociales qu’on pensait inamovibles ; je salue ces femmes qui, dans leur combat, ont pris beaucoup de coups et se relèvent défaite après défaite ; je salue ces femmes qui ont été appelées par tous les noms, tout simplement parce qu’elles voulaient aussi valablement construire leur communauté et leur pays en plus du travail important qu’elles tiennent dans leur foyer ; je salue ces femmes aussi qui se sont senti dans l’obligation, avec des regrets peu exprimées refoulés naturalisés, d’enterrer leur rêve. Le leadership, c’est aussi transmettre ses rêves, dans notre combat, nos silences, et nos sacrifices, aux générations futures.

 

Is education in mother-tongue a silver bullet? (1)

Many countries have serious issues in their educational sector – from access to quality…. In Niger, gross enrolment rates at the primary school level are 72.5% and even lower  for girls (66.8%). Yet even as students enter schools in greater number, the quality of learning is low – many reach 6th grade with a 2nd grade level, unable to read or even write their own names. Countries are turning to mother-tongue education as a means to tackle the ‘quality’ challenge and use what remains one of the most basic principles of pedagogy, “going from the familiar to the new and the unfamiliar”. Some even view this as the last frontier in educational policy in African countries – teach children in their mother-tongue and learning would follow… but is this always true?

Recent fieldwork in Niger proves that mother-tongue education when done right could be a powerful tool to impart knowledge and rekindle minds. An experimentation started in 1973 under “ecoles experimentales” has been reviewed and has consistently shown remarkable results in the past. Countries like Tanzania have been even more revolutionary – primary education is in KiSwahili – despite resistance from some parents who view in the “foreign” language as a ladder for social mobility. Beyond the immediate learning outcomes, what language in mother-tongue does is that it reifies the importance of that language in its context and validates it as a means for the quest of learning. If introducing mother-tongues could keep children in school longer with better outcomes, then it becomes a matter of social justice. But does it always?

Mother-tongue education is not a silver bullet… In fact, if done ‘badly’ it can severely backfire. Some preliminary results from my ongoing research, observations and (non)cognitive skills tests in the bilingual schools in Niger show abysmal learning outcomes. A recent study done across 10 African countries shows that 91.5% and 92.4% of Nigerien children in 6th grade did not reach the minimum “required competency and skills” in reading and math respectively (see Table below, PASEC 2016). As something that seems like a desperate last resort to meet the challenges of a fast growing school population (Niger has the fastest growing population in the world), the country has adopted bilingual education in public primary schools. This will be rolled out gradually and is already effective in 5000 schools across the country. It could work, if done well… and could in fact open up learning opportunities for underserved students, left at the margin of learning.

Studies in various parts of Africa compiled in a rich book entitled “Optimising Learning, Education and Publishing in Africa: The Language Factor” shows that while mother-tongue education favours learning, it could have disastrous effect when the transition to the other language (in the case, French) is done too early or done in an inadequate manner. My PhD research shows similar results. Students in bilingual schools perform poorly and less than their peers in “conventional” schools in numeracy and literacy. This is not to say that bilingual education must not be done. However, if we are to embark on that road, it has to be done right. Based on what I have seen on the ground, there is much to be done to produce the type of positive changes we are hoping for.

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Figure from PASEC (2016). PASEC2014 – Performances du système éducatif nigérien : Compétences et facteurs de réussite au primaire. PASEC, CONFEMEN, Dakar. 

200 days since Nguelewa… Do all lives matter equally?

Today marks 200 days since 39 young women and girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in the village of Nguelewa in the region of Diffa in Niger. It was the first Boko Haram mass kidnapping in Niger. It is a tragedy that 39 women and girls would be violently removed from their families for an uncertain fate, probably ending up as slaves, abused sold or married off by force. What is also tragic is the silence surrounding the disappearance of these women in international as well national media. All those lives that disappeared, are they not human? Does one need to be French, American, Norwegian or a schoolgirl to garner international outcry when you disappear? An Amnesty International report found that in the span of a year (2014-2015), over 2,000 women and girls have been abducted. I could not find current numbers on how many have been kidnapped since the conflict started in the early 2000s. This testifies of the sheer difficulties associated with tracking who has been kidnapped and who has returned when so many of these movements go unheard. We rarely hear about them – they are women and girls (but also men and boys) from villages spread across the Sahel region and at the margin.

I recently attended an interesting talk by a friend and colleague from Adamawa State (Nigeria). She argues that Boko Haram casualties in schools is not a bi-product of the crisis; in fact, schools, as sites, are at the heart of the struggle. When looking at the outcry garnered by the kidnapping of over 200 girls in Chibok, I couldn’t have agreed more with her. Militants know that they make a clear statement, not only about their ideology but also about their power, when girls in school are involved. However, when the group wants to grow its ranks and make revenues, they simply kidnap women whose lives have institutionally been left at the margin of their societies. Women and girls in rural areas are often the poorest, the least educated (speaking here about formal educated), and the least embedded in formal political processes. They are also the ones most affected by the lack of basic services from health to education and water access. Therefore, when they disappear, it shakes their families, their villages…. but sadly, not more than that. The multiple marginalisations they face in their daily lives and the institutional inequalities they endure daily translate into a deafening silence when their lives are curtailed forever.

It is true that Security renders any analysis much more complex because security concerns are so dynamic and therefore often unpredictable. There are large scale efforts such the newly formed UN-backed G5 Sahel Force involving Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania (like you, I was shocked that like Nigeria was not part of the ‘GX’ Sahel Force…. but that’s a topic for another day). However as many experts point out, these military efforts must be matched with social development programmes and most importantly with creating a counter-narrative to militant groups with speech, action and real alternatives.

If women are being kidnapped, enough men, especially young men, are joining in the ranks of these groups swayed, for some, by their targeted messages or ideology but most because the grips of poverty are so dire on their daily lives and future prospects that they see joining a militant group that pays them a regular income as the only alternative. In a way, some of the forces leading African youth to pay significant amount of money on an uncertain journey on through the Sahara desert to the shores of Italy or Spain are similar forces throwing them into the hands of militant groups: poverty and lost hope that they can “make it” there.

While I am cognisant of the fact that the issues will not be solved on a one-to-one or village-to-village or even country-to-country basis, when such tragedies happen, when 39 lives (and with them families) will never be the same again, our collective responsibility is to never forget the ones who have gone and break this politics of silence when certain African lives suffer. None of these women will read this, but someone in their family might and must know that their lost ones are ours too. #JeSuisNguelewa

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Why has Chibok captured the imagination of the world while the women and girls of Ngualewa seem lost in a whisper of demands by the relatively small Nigerien twitter community?

 

10 reasons why Niger should have been in the news (beyond Tongo-Tongo)

This past October, Niger Republic came to new prominence in international news when five Nigeriens, four Americans, and twenty-one militants were killed in an attack in a village named Tongo-Tongo near the Malian border. Most of the Nigerien friends I spoke with had no idea where Tongo-Tongo was and neither did I. However, this singular event had come to define how the international media, especially in the United States, would remember Niger in 2017. Several friends from the US wrote to ask about how my family was doing in light of what was happening in Niger (or as I corrected what they perceived to be happening in Niger, a vast country, more than twice the size of France, larger than Texas and California combined). I have purposefully refrained from writing on this particular issue for various reasons, for now.

The stories we hear about “far away” places shape our perception and in turn how we choose to engage with these “far away” places. This, along with stories of migrants crossing via Agadez, has somewhat painted a single story of an otherwise vibrant country with diverse communities defying limits to recreate a new reality. Because I believe tragedies alone should not define any single place, here are 10 other reasons why Niger should have made the headlines but of course did not.

1. The Cissé Laboratory 

A Nigerien scientist, Professor Ibrahim Cisse, holds a major laboratory at the Massachusetts Institue of Technology (yes MIT) and is its Principal Investigator. The Cisse Lab started in January 2014. Prof. Cisse has since received several recognitions including the 2014 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award… and a presidential visit!

The opening page of the Cisse Lab reads “Welcome to the physics of life… at the molecular detail. We use physical techniques to capture highly dynamic – weak or transient – biological interactions, with single molecule sensitivity in living cells. We seek to understand the general principles by which emergent phenomena from these elusive interactions may help regulate genome function.” The research group has researching coming from several countries including Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, and the U.S.

2. SahelInnov

An international gathering for start-ups of the Sahel region held in February 2017 brought together African youth from seven countries with the hope to create an ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs. SahelInnov was organised by Cipmen, an incubator for small and medium enterprises. A young Nigerien inventor presented “Tele-Irrigation” which would allow farmers to control the supply of water to their plants from their cellphones. This technology uses solar energy and in a context where drought could be recurrent, this present a remarkable step-forward towards sustainable farming. If well-tapped into, I believe this technology could disrupt in the manner MPesa (Kenya) changed the way people share (and receive) money via mobil transfers.

3. A flourishing cinematographic industry

This year has seen the cinematographic industry shine for its ingenuity and the pertinence of the films and documentaries made by a new breed of Nigerien filmmakers. I would cite “L’Arbre sans fruit” (“The Fruitless Tree“) by Aicha El Hadj Macky. This autobiographic documentary touches on the sensitive issue of infertility and motherhood in a country where a married woman’s worth is often measured by her ability to procreate. This documentary has won international recognition including the award for the best documentary at the Africa Movie Academy Award in Lagos and at the Mashariki African Film Festival in Kigali. Other documentaries and films (non-exhaustive) contributing to the vibrancy of the industry in Niger are: “Le Mil de la Mort” by Jaloud Zaino Tangui coming out this December and “Solaire made in Africa” by Malam Saguirou which traces the life and contribution of Niger’s foremost scientist and pioneer of solar energy research, Abdou Moumouni Dioffo.

Mali has announced 6 billions CFA Francs fund to boost the cinematographic industry. With the bourgeoning cinematographic industry in Niger, a similar investment would be a serious push to a promising sector of which Niger had been a pioneer in the past with filmmakers such as Oumarou Ganda, Damoure Zika, Zalika Souley, and Rahmatou Keita among many others.

 

 

 

 

4.  Research hub in the heart of Niamey: LASDEL

During my PhD fieldwork this year I was housed at LASDEL (LASDEL: Laboratoire d’Etudes et de Recherche sur les Dynamiques Sociales et le Développement Local) a regional research centre with offices in Niger and Benin. In light of surging global interest on the Sahel region, LASDEL welcomes a plethora of researchers from universities worldwide seeking to do research in Niger. It has a small but rich library and is a vibrant intellectual space which hosts regular conversations on some of the most salient issues facing Africa. LASDEL’s summer school sessions often bring researchers from all over the continent. This space is one of the hidden gems in Niger’s capital and houses  some brilliant minds including Professor Tidjani Alou, former Dean of  the Faculty of Economics and Law at Abdou Moumouni Dioffo University.

5. Niamey, fashion capital of the Sahel

Against the backdrop of a certain “westernisation” of everyday wear in most African capitals, Niamey is home to some stylists who are shaping the national but also international fashion scene. A young woman, Hadiza Maiga, has started a yearly festival of fashion entitled Hadyline Creation which celebrates Nigerien cultures and creativity. Niger has nine main ethnic groups each of which has a recognisable identity. In the footsteps of internationally renowned Nigerien stylist, Alphadi who created FIMA (“Festival International de la Mode Africaine”) which brings on the same platform young stylist such as Samira Ben Ousmane as well as more seasoned ones such as Jean Paul Gaultier.

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6. Taekwondo and the Alfaga Factor

Issoufou Abdoul Razack Alfaga ended a 45-year old “medal-drought” by bringing Niger its second Olympic Games after Issaka Dabore in 1972! Alfaga is also the reigning world champion in his category – he won gold in his category (>87 kilos) this year at the world Taekwondo Championships in South Korea. Needless to say, many Nigerien boys and girls dusted off their Taekwondo gears to head to training centres across the country. His journey and victory have truly brought the country together. I was in the crowd (outside the Stade General) when he returned with the Olympic Medal – I was standing with an elderly woman on her way to Goudel after selling food in Katako market and her daughter, a boy who usually begs by the side of Grand Marche, a young man dressed for the occasion, a woman with strong amber perfume and a light shiny veil who was upset the road was blocked (so she was stuck with us), and a massive crowd where  notions of class, gender, age did not seem to exist as everyone (or most) was just there to welcome a national hero. Most importantly, Alfaga is an example of what could happen when young talented Africans get the opportunity to hone their talents, home or abroad…. they shine.

 

 

 

 

7. Bringing Africa together to erasing Africa’s Borders with CFTA

Niger’s President has been designated by his peers to lead the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) to fruition. This is a major development – Mayaki notes, a study by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that, with the CFTA, intra-African trade would be 52% higher in 2022 than it was in 2010. Current stats show that interAfrican trade remains low when compared with trade between Africa and the European Union and Asia. The latest African Economic Outlook 2017 found that trade between Africa and the rest of the world has expanded four-fold in two decades with the E.U. as Africa’s top trade partner (accounting for 30% of Africa’s global trade in 2015 down from 40% in 2000). If current trends remain, Asia will soon overtake the E.U. as Africa’s top trading partner – already at the country level, China and India are respectively the first and second largest trading partner of the continent (see report for more info). The CFTA, if well-implemented, will erase borders between African countries and hopefully improve inter/intraAfrican trade. My Fulani cousins have long understood that Africa’s prosperity resides in opening borders to allow free movements of people and goods.

8. Niger’s vibrant youth

Niger is the country with the highest fertility rates in the world. According to the latest estimate, a Nigerien woman has on average 7.3 children. Such a spectacular population growth rate certainly presents serious challenges given the high dependency ratio (which measures the pressure on those typically in the labour force). However, what this also means is that Niger could tap into this youth to rip the benefits of demographic dividend as the age structure of the population changes. Some of Niger’s youth have used their talent to tackle environmental issues in the likes of Mariama Mamane with Jacigreen, redefine architecture in the likes of Mariama Kamara with United4Design, create a university (ADU, African Development University) dedicated to prepare young people to lead the development of their nations in the likes of Kader Kaneye, or get PhD with flying honours in the likes of Fadji Maina who was awarded the Kepler prize for the best thesis in science & tech at the University of Strasbourg in France. Niger’s s future is so bright… and we, its youth, will write a new chapter in Africa’s success stories.

9. Vibrant cultural festivals from Niamey to Iferouane, Agadez to Ingall

The SAFEM (Salon international de l’Artisanat pour la Femme) just closed its doors in Niamey. It is a yearly gathering where close to 1,500 artisans, mostly women, from around 35 countries showcase (and sell) their products. My mother who is a community organiser at heart never misses the SAFEM and below are some of the photos she has shared. The SAFEM celebrates the best of Africa’s women’s craftsmanship, talent and creativity.

Other notable festivals across Niger are the Cure Salee where Fulani and Touareg herders meet to share information, trade and reinforce links, Bianou a 835-year old festival that celebrates unity among Touareg, or the festival of “cousinage a plaisanterie” (“joking-cousins”) which basically binds every ethnic group to another and gives me permission to tease Fulanis, Bagobiris and Kanuris alike with the expectation that there will be no hard feelings. Niger is rich because of all these manifestation of “zumunci” (i.e. brotherhood/sisterhood/familyhood) that, in a way, preserve social cohesion even in turbulent times.

10…… What would you add?

 

 

“I thought she was getting crazy”

As I do my research going into schools and communities, I also “follow” those people that seem interesting… the students that hitch my curiosity with hints of stories that demand to be listened to. One of these students is Hamsa in a school at the periphery of Niamey. She did not immediately catch my attention; in a classroom of over 70 students and with a programme that must go on, it was hard to see individualities. That was why I always looked forward to the individual “reading tests” I administered as part of my research – incredibly tiring yet rich, informative, and at times hilarious. Hamsa walked towards me with a disarming confidence yet it looked just normal. She was not trying hard. That day, she was one of 6 students in her 6th grade classroom of ~78 who could read properly. She intrigued me not because she could read but because she could analyse situations. She told me her father is an imam, and her mother works in the house. In her family, everyone knows she is smart so everyone is trying to direct her path, that her sister wants her to become a nurse but she is more keen on becoming a journalist because that is what she likes, “if my sister wanted someone to become a doctor, she should have studied to become one. I want to become a journalist. I like to uncover (yes she used that word) stories, reading into people and giving voice to those that we do not see”.

Simply put, she is bright eloquent and incredibly smart…. and she studies hard, so much so that her mother in a typical Sonrai accent told me, “I thought she was getting crazy because she read too much, always with books, always with books, so I would slap her so she could read less but I realised there was something there. She would teach her father French and math while he taught her Arabic.” She is the first in her family to go to “formal” school. All her older siblings went to Koranic education, and according to her father, they too are terrific scholar but only we are in a system that does not always equally value such knowledge systems. While her mother was more keen on having her contribute to house chores, her father wanted her to study and supported her as much as he could. What’s more interesting is that she really contributes to her family in many ways: she washes dishes everyday, she is the adhoc French teacher in the house, she watched her sister make traditional decorations (with calabashes) and now makes them better than her sister (I saw some of her work of art). Next year, she will be in a college not far from her house. I have been to that college which, this year alone, has had nearly 120 days of strike (by the students’ accounts even more)… that is 4 months “off” in an academic year that should have 9 months. I cannot begin to imagine how many students with potential end up in a system that fails to nurture their talent.

I cannot wait to start analysing the data I have collected across schools in Niger… but already, I can see some patterns emerge. A few extra hours at home have a tremendous effects on children’s reading skills and by extension mathematics skills at the primary school level. Unlike Hamsa, there are children whose parents are teachers who do not know how to read which I found quite surprising. One of those parents told me that at home, her children mostly watch ZeeMagic. Once at home, notebooks collect dust. In a context where classes could have over 70 students on average, even the most extraordinary teachers would have difficulty “properly” engaging with his or her students. That is why what happens in the family is crucial, critical, even for those who are from low income families.

L’école, une double perte ?

Si le thème de cette journée de la femme nigérienne fait le lien direct entre la scolarisation des filles, l’autonomisation des femmes, et le développement durable au Niger, ce n’est pas par hasard. Les filles et les garçons nigériens sont présents au primaire en nombre de plus en plus grandissant chaque année, ce qui démontre une avancée dans l’accès à l’éducation primaire. Selon des données de l’Institut National de la Statistique (INS), le taux brut de scolarisation était de 82,1% pour les garçons et 70,2% pour les filles (2016).

Néanmoins, le taux de survie tout comme le taux d’achèvement des cycles scolaires restent très bas, surtout pour les filles qui vivent la scolarité comme un parcours de combattant. Les données démontreraient que les filles comme les garçons ont du mal à « survivre » la scolarité… Mais c’est à partir du secondaire que l’écart se creuse sérieusement – les filles disparaissent au fil des annees. Sur la population entière d’enfants en âge d’être au collège (classe de 6eme), 43,7% des garçons et 30,6% des filles sont à l’école. Si l’accès au collège reste un privilège, très peu arrivent à franchir ce cap. Le taux d’achèvement du secondaire est de 20,3% pour les garçons et 14,1% pour les filles (2015). Ceci signifie que si on commençait avec une cohorte de 100 filles au CI, à peu près 69 finiraient le primaire et seulement 14 arriveraient à finir le collège. Ce chiffre est global et de ce fait cache des disparités régionales mais aussi entre les zones urbaines et rurales et entre les riches et les pauvres. L’accès, le maintien et la survie scolaire semblent être déterminés par plusieurs facteurs.

Ce qui ressort de ces données générales est que la scolarité est parcheminée d’embuches et d’obstacles divers pour les filles au Niger, et encore plus pour celles qui sont dans les zones rurales. Du fait du taux élevé d’abandon et des faibles opportunités, certains parents se demandent réellement si l’école en vaut la peine. Une femme explique que pour envoyer sa fille a l’école, il faut faire plusieurs calculs car souvent l’école est une double perte…. Les filles partent à l’école pendant 6 ou 7 ans sans apprendre grand-chose dans des écoles dont la qualité est généralement médiocre mais aussi ces filles perdent l’opportunité d’avoir pleinement cette éducation traditionnelle qui les prépare au rôle de femmes, épouses, mères dans leur communauté.

De ce fait, pour que la confiance entre les parents et l’institution scolaire soit reconstruite et consolidée, il faut nécessairement que l’éducation proposée soit de qualité. En changeant la perception et la réalité sur les acquis à l’école, nous pourrions amener les parents à voir l’école non comme une perte mais comme un investissement… Il est facile d’imaginer que ce sentiment de perte doit se faire sentir aussi au niveau de l’état qui continue de mettre des milliards par an dans un canari fissuré. Imaginez les pertes occasionnées considérant que l’éducation au collège coute un peu moins de 40.000FCFA par élève. Avec chaque abandon (et ce malgré les bénéfices sociaux de chaque année supplémentaire), le Niger perd sur un investissement non abouti.