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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 16:58 GMT
Burkina boosts schools access
By Pierre Kazoni
BBC, Pantanloana, Burkina Faso

More than 100,000 children who may never have had access to primary school, have benefited from new satellite schools being built across the country.

Traditional schools are often too far for many children to attend.

Schoolchildren at a satellite school
Satellite schools fill a void left by the state
But the new satellite schools are designed to keep the girls and boys both physically and culturally closer to their village - placing an emphasis on local languages, customs and traditions, including health, nutrition, hygiene, family and civic education.

Since 1995, the United Nations children's agency Unicef has helped to establish and sustain the operation of 230 satellite primary schools throughout Burkina Faso.

The educational methods used in these schools involve starting to teach children aged 7-10 in the local language and gradually moving to the official language French.

Within three years, children have a basic knowledge and can read in the local language.

French, which is used in the conventional schools the children will move on to, then becomes that much easier.

No food

At a satellite school in Pantanloana, I witnessed a girl reading a story about an orphan who is routinely abused by his uncle.

The orphan, who has grown a beautiful garden, is congratulated by everyone but his wicked uncle.

it allows us to facilitate access to education to thousands of children who would have been excluded because of distance
Mathieu Ouedraogo, Education Minister

Among other aims, the schools seek to combat similar cases of abuse.

"Satellite schools have been built to try to bring education to children in outlying villages where, otherwise, they would not have a chance to be educated," says Joan French, the resident Unicef representative in Ouagadougou.

"Indeed, classical schools are too far for young children to walk to, and mothers are afraid to send their daughters along the road without accompaniment.

"It's also too far for them to go without food, and the parents don't have food to send with them."

The education authorities in Burkina Faso approve of the Unicef scheme.

"It's a very good idea because it allows us to facilitate access to education to thousands of children who would have been excluded because of distance," says the Minister of Elementary and Basic Education, Mathieu Ouedraogo.

Country profile: Burkina Faso
05 Mar 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Burkina Faso
04 Mar 03 |  Country profiles

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