» All committed for girls to better learn math and science in Niger
06.10.2017 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

All committed for girls to better learn math and science in Niger

©UNESCO/Salifou Boubacar

Since 2013, the Capacity Development for Education (CapED) Programme in Niger, coordinated by UNESCO Dakar, has been supporting the Nigerien government in its efforts to retain girls in school by improving their performance in mathematics and in science.

Gender disparities in education persist in girls’ disadvantage in Niger, particularly during adolescence, when gender roles for girls and boys are deeply rooted in society and people’s mentality.

According to a survey carried out by CapED at the lower secondary level in the Say and Torodi Districts (Tillabéri region), over 70% of the girls and boys interviewed felt that, contrary to prejudices, girls were capable to learn mathematics and science. Students cited the lack of textbooks, the lack of equipment or materials, and the behaviour of other students as important factors of demotivation to learning these subjects. In addition, teachers' pedagogical practices and attitudes were identified as partly responsible for girls' poor performance.

In light of the results of this survey, all 94 teachers in mathematics, life and earth sciences and physics/chemistry as well as the principals of 15 colleges, selected in the Tillabéri region, were trained on active pedagogy and teaching of mathematics and science, according to the gender-responsive approach. The seven inspectors and pedagogical advisers working in the area were also trained to monitor and to support teachers in this new pedagogical approach.

The dedication and enthusiasm generated at the level of teachers - most of whom had no pedagogical training - have been one of the greatest successes of the intervention. "According to some, the training enabled them to understand that, in reality, they did everything but teaching: for the first time they discovered the treasure contained in didactics ".

These teachers, whose mastery of content has been enhanced, are increasingly devoting themselves to designing practical exercises using local materials to illustrate theory. By this way, mathematics and science learning, built upon the social-cultural realities of students, has become much more meaningful. Teachers pay more attention to girls who were shy and have now less complex. Their motivation and confidence have increased and they take an active part during lessons and group work. According to teachers, their school performance has improved and more girls are becoming class leaders.

The dynamism of the lower secondary school of Ganki Bassarou, one of the CapED beneficiary schools, deserves to be highlighted. Mathematics and science teachers, of their own free will, have organized sharing sessions on CapED training with their colleagues, under the supervision of the pedagogical advisor. In preparation for the new school year, teachers are also asking for the support of pedagogical advisers whom they previously considered as the police and whom they fled. As for the director, he ensures that students do not miss courses on purpose by checking on young students who are wandering about or gathering at night in the village. Through their determination and initiatives, these educators have obtained increased support from parents who are regaining confidence in the school.

Regular follow-up of teachers in the 15 schools, by pedagogical supervisors, awareness raising on girls' education and the impact of gender stereotypes on school performance, relayed by strong media coverage, as well as the various monitoring missions of the Ministry of Secondary Education, have also contributed significantly to the observed changes. However, these are only the first steps towards retaining girls in school and equity in education.

The strong commitment of authorities and of educational managers to the success of this initiative, which is considered by the various actors as a collective undertaking, is a real opportunity for the Niger's education system. The CapED's intervention will continue with the strengthening of pedagogical supervision, and with its planned scale-up to other regions in Niger, targeting both lower secondary and primary schools. Its generalization through pre-service training of primary and lower secondary level teachers, within the teacher training schools and the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Niamey, is also under preparation. The aim is to help all girls to become actors for their own empowerment, for their families and society’s ones and to overcome some prejudices against women in general.

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