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Burkina Faso: International Women’s Day in Burkina Faso: Making Strides in Closing the Gender Gap in Education

Source: Unicef
 Burkina Faso has come a long way in addressing the education needs of its children. In 2000, just 44 per cent were enrolled in primary schools. By 2010, this had increased to almost 75 per cent.
In the last decade, the Government of Burkina Faso has also stepped up efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goal of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2015.

More girls attending school

Statistics show they are working, particularly in primary education. Last year, the boy-to-girl student ratio at primary school level stood at 0.94, up from 0.7 in 2000.

Mussa Kabore, Deputy Director of Amitié A, a primary school in Zorgho, central Burkina Faso, says the nationwide abolishment of fees in public primary schools three years ago has been a major factor in increasing enrolment rates.

“Parents no longer feel that they have to choose which children should receive an education,” he says. “Parents are sending their children, both girls and boys, to school.”

He has noted a steady increase in the enrolment of girls during his eight years at the school. They now make up more than 50 per cent of the school’s 600 students.

Community sensitization activities led by non-governmental organizations have helped contribute to the higher enrolment. They run debates and discussions with local leaders, while community volunteers provide door-to-door information and local radio programmes focus on girls’ education.

Improved school buildings

Another key element that has reduced Burkina Faso’s gender gap is the increased number of school buildings being built with a gender-sensitive approach.

Due to the growing enrolment rate at Amitié A, an extension was built last year with financial support from UNICEF. Known as Amitié B, it has six classrooms, six latrines and hand-washing facilities. There are separate latrines for girls and boys, particularly important since girls are vulnerable to dropping out of school when sanitation facilities are not private, or simply unavailable.

Sissao Rabiatou, 13, a student at Amitié A for the past four years, is very happy with the new conditions. “I think more of these schools should be built to make sure that all children can go to school,” she says. “All parents should send their children to school – it is important.”

Achieving gender parity

By strengthening and intensifying current efforts, there is a real chance that Burkina Faso could achieve gender parity at primary school level by 2015. Achieving such a goal is important for Burkina Faso’s progress, says Mr. Kabore: “I believe that if we educate girls, we will educate this nation.”

There is still more to be done, however, on narrowing the gender gap in secondary education. Eighteen per cent of secondary-school aged boys are enrolled in secondary school compared to 13 per cent of girls.

The issue of how to ensure children from poorer households have equal access to education is another challenge.  To tackle this, the Government is distributing free school kits – backpacks, exercise books and stationery – to all primary school children who attend public schools.

UNICEF is also focusing its efforts on government-identified priority areas across the country. Little by little, gender parity is slowly becoming closer to a reality.

© UNICEF Burkina Faso/2010/Tarpilga C.
School children at Amitié B primary school in Zorgho, Burkina Faso, are happy with their new school building. Girls now have separate latrines.