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Last Updated: Monday, 19 September 2005, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Burundians flock to free schools
Teacher registering crowds of children
Burundi's children see education as a passport to a better life
Burundi's primary schools are struggling to cope with a huge increase in numbers of pupils on the first day of term after fees were scrapped.

Some children have been sent home because there are not enough desks. Other are being taught in tents.

In one province, three times as many children were registered as were expected before fees were abolished by new President Pierre Nkurunziza.

In some areas of the war-torn country, there are 150 pupils in a single class.

Mr Nkurunziza announced the abolition of fees shortly after being sworn in last month.

His former rebel group won elections this year intended to end 12 years of civil war.

Dropping out

Single mother of three Nzeyimana Marie Goreth, who sells second-hand clothes, told the BBC that the government had taken the right decision.

"It is not easy to feed them, clothe them and pay school fees, especially when you are alone," she said.

Nzeyimana Marie Goreth
Nzeyimana Marie Goreth backs the scrapping of school fees
But some parents have criticised the government for not doing more to prepare for the expected influx. They are also unhappy with the new huge class sizes.

"We need mobile classrooms," said Assoumpta Mbahonankwa, head of a primary school in the capital, Bujumbura, where more than three times its 150-child capacity turned up.

Teenagers born before the civil war, who have never had access to education, are clamouring to enrol alongside much younger pupils.

Journalist Judith Basutama says many children used to drop out of school because their parents could not afford the fees of 1,500 Burundi francs ($1.5) a year.

She says many people struggle to earn $1 a day and so could not afford the fees, especially if they had several children.

Expectations exceeded

Before fees were scrapped, the education authorities were expecting 226,000 new children to be registered for primary school.

More than 500,000 have now enrolled.

In Bujumbura Rural province which surrounds the capital, more than three times as many children have registered as were originally expected.

Some 300,000 people were killed in the civil war, waged by Hutu rebel groups to end years of domination by a Tutsi elite.

Donors have pledged $1bn to rebuild the war-torn country, but so far have provided only 20% of this amount.

Burundi: A question of justice
11 Sep 05 |  Africa
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26 Feb 04 |  Country profiles

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