Niger

“Between these children and me, there is a very strong bond that I cannot define,” Meet Aissata Maiga, School Teacher in Niger

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • In Niger 99% of 10 years old that cannot read and understand a short story

  • In the spring of 2020, when the government decided to suspend classes in all schools across the country to limit the spread of the virus, no large-scale distance learning solutions were available for school children in Niger.

  • The LIRE project will help the government improve the quality of education services and, in so doing, strengthen the country's human capital - a key issue for Niger's future.

NIAMEY, Niger, September 8, 2021—Several years have passed since she has started her job but her passion hasn’t changed a bit. “Between these children and me, there is a powerful bond that I cannot define. When they are happy, I feel at peace. On the other hand, when something happens to them, I feel a deep unease, “explains Aissata Maiga, a trained teacher and school director in the Haro Banda neighborhood—right bank of the Niger River—on the outskirts of Niger’s capital, Niamey. “That's why I will fight until the last day for their happiness. And this will come to pass through a quality education.”

Aissata Maiga has lived there for several years and started a family just a few steps from her school. "I cannot separate my private life from my professional life. I consider my children as my students and vice versa. I have a great attachment to children both at school and elsewhere."

The teacher is one of those who are said to have the job in the skin. "I started teaching in the early 2000s. At the time, we were faced with huge challenges. Overcrowded classrooms, lack of quality teacher training, lack of resources were our bottlenecks," states Aissata.

Twenty years later, the country still faces these same challenges. The education system confronts a high population growth rate, low enrollment, and high dropout rates. This situation is even more alarming for vulnerable groups, particularly girls in rural areas and children with disabilities.

In addition, there is an intense debate around the issue of the quality of education in Niger. Teachers lack training. In 2017, according to UNICEF, only one in three teachers held an acceptable level of competency. The alarming pass rates during the general secondary education exams, where only 20.50% managed to obtain their diploma, confirm this finding.

The COVID-19 health crisis further exacerbated this situation. In the spring of 2020, when the government decided to suspend classes in all schools across the country to contain the virus, no large-scale distance learning solutions were available for school children. The government did not develop alternative solutions in time to reach large numbers of children. Only a tiny minority could stay connected to their school through digital technology, and that was in Niamey.

Children living in rural areas have not been able to continue their education, plunging the country into a deepening learning crisis with 99% of 10 years old that cannot read and understand a short story.

To address these challenges, the World Bank will support the national education system through the LIRE project. This program is designed to help the government improve the quality of education services and, in so doing, strengthen the country's human capital - a vital issue for Niger's future. The goal of the $140 million project is to improve the quality of teaching and learning conditions.

The project's use of information and communication technologies will improve teacher training in colleges. In addition, it will enhance coaching activities at the school level, implement supervision and monitoring of educational services by regional education authorities. Finally, the project will develop a national online education platform.

Convinced that education is the key to a better Niger, Aissata really hopes the project will be a game changer. "I remember when I started as a temporary teacher, we could barely get paid. I lived in a rural area, far from my family, where I had to go door to door to convince parents who were reluctant to send their children to school. I did not sign up for this, but I had to do it. And I don't regret it for a moment."

It seems that Aissata’s efforts have paid off. These past years, another trend has given her hope. She has noticed that more girls attend her class. Like Rafia and Chahira, both 11 years old. Beyond their similarities, they share a passion for learning. They are also the best students in grade 4 and have a strong desire to become doctors to help their community. “I see more and more motivated girls. They are often at the top of their class and even compete with each other. This gives me great joy and confirms my choice of career, “exclaims Aissata with a big smile.