Eighty volunteer teachers combat illiteracy in Burkina Faso

17 Apr 2009

Children at an elementary school in Iolonioro (Photo: UNDP)
The school year could have started better for first-level elementary course students in Iolonioro, a village located in the middle of the bush in the south-west of Burkina Faso. In fact, following the maternity leave of their teacher, the 67 pupils were not able to start school at the beginning of the official school year in September 2008.
 
"The children were behind by a month and a half when I arrived," says Bibata Compaoré who is 29 years old and a voluntary teacher who has been in charge of the class since November 2008.
 
Burkina Faso has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world with more than 70 per cent of illiterate people among adults, and a rate of school enrollment of only 44.6 per cent. As a result, Burkina Faso suffers considerably from a lack of teachers at primary school level. Throughout the whole of the country, stoppages of school operations, and classrooms with over 120 pupils, are an everyday occurrence.
 
The better to address this situation, more than 80 volunteers have been brought on board throughout Burkina Faso so as to work in primary schools. These young Burkinabè have all been trained at the National School for Primary School Teachers. While awaiting the integration test, which enables them to become qualified teachers, they work as volunteers in the context of the Burkina Faso National Volunteers Programme (PNVB).
 
The PNVB is a new programme, financed by the UNDP, the United Nations Volunteers Programme and the government of Burkina Faso. The objective of the PNVB is to contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by enlisting the services of volunteers.
 
"A considerable proportion of the population of Burkina Faso is illiterate and at the same time a considerable number of individuals who are trained, skilled and available to work are not valued. It is in this area that the PNVB plays an important role," emphasizes Hélène Agnelli, the programme coordinator.
 
Bibata Comporé, one of the volunteer teachers
For Compaoré, "The Volunteers Programme is interesting because it has given me practical experience while waiting to pass the integration test". "Literacy is a key area of the MDGs and our partnership with the Ministry represents a response to this urgent need. These volunteers make a significant contribution to their country and gain work experience which, I hope, will stand them in good stead when it comes to passing the integration test and finding salaried positions," points out Hélène Agnelli.
  
The programme consists of a total of 250 volunteers who not only work in the field of education but also in health, decentralization, economic development and the environment. After the current pilot phase 2006-2010, the government of Burkina Faso will become responsible for the running of the PNVB.