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Official Country Name: Republic of the Niger
Region: Africa
Population: 10,075,511
Language(s): French, Hausa, Djerma
Literacy Rate: 13.6%
Number of Primary Schools: 3,175
Compulsory Schooling: 8 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 2.3%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 482,065
  Secondary: 97,675
  Higher: 4,513
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 29%
  Secondary: 7%
Teachers: Primary: 11,545
  Secondary: 3,579
  Higher: 232
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 42:1
  Secondary: 28:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 23%
  Secondary: 5%

Niger, officially Republic of Niger (Republique du Niger), is a poor, landlocked Sub-Saharan nation in West Africa. Niger declared its independence in 1960, but it wasn't until 1993 that it held its first free and open election. Ongoing trouble with the Taurag, a nomadic ethnic group, and coups in 1996 and 1999 resulted in a transition to civilian rule and the creation of a National Reconciliation Council.

The total population of Niger, based on a 2000 estimate, is 10,076,551 people, divided into several ethnic groups including Hausa (56 percent), Djerma (22 percent), Taureg (8 percent), and other smaller groups (14 percent). The country is almost entirely rural and the population is unevenly distributed, putting a great strain on the educational system. Another complicating factor to standardized education is the language; French is the official language, but at least five principal indigenous languages are also spoken and represent the major ethnic groups. One unifying factor is religion, as 80 percent of the population are Muslim.

Schooling is free in Niger, but many areas do not have a school and, as a result, Niger has one of the lowest literacy rates in West Africa. Most of Niger's adults cannot read or write, and the literacy rate is only 13.6 percent. However, facilities are being expanded with aid from France and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with the hope of correcting this problem.

The school system is based on the French model and consists of a primary school (Ecole Primaire), a secondary system (Lycée), and higher education system. Each of these is referred to as a cycle.

Primary schooling lasts six years and is attended by children from the ages of 6 to 12. At the completion of this cycle, students sit for an examination and are awarded the Certificat D'Etudes Primaires Elementaires (CEPE).

Schooling is compulsory in principle for ages 7 to 15 for a period of 8 years. However, there is only about a 25 percent school attendance by primary-school-age children, and even fewer 12- to 17-year-olds continue on to the secondary schools. An attempt is being made to reach more children by establishing tent schools or hut schools to serve the nomadic populations in the northern sector of the country. When the nomadic group moves, the school also moves, hoping to avoid the attrition that the frequent mobility causes. In addition, there has been a shift in the language used for primary instruction—from French to one of the four different languages that represent the ethnic group.

The common factor among the diverse ethnic groups is religion. Because of this, Koranic schools are widespread and continue their traditional teaching of Muslim theology, law, and history to preserve their heritage.

Secondary school follows the French model of education and is divided into a lower general secondary cycle that lasts four years, followed by a three-year upper cycle in which the student may specialize. On completion of the upper cycle and examination, students are awarded the de bachelier de l'ensignement du second degre (BEPC). There is also a technical secondary option that the student may take in lieu of the traditional model. This cycle is also three years and students earn their bachelier technicien (technical degree).

Niger's major institution of higher education is the University Abdou Moumouni in Niamey (the capital city) and the Islamic University. The councils or governing bodies of the institutions define all guidelines for teaching, the curricula and study systems, the organization of examinations, and vote on the budget. It is administered by Ministere de l'Enseignement superieur, de la Recherche et de la Technologie (The Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Technology).

There are also specialized institutions of higher education, such as the Ecoles Normales, which train teachers for the primary schools. There are two tracks that one may take to earn teaching certification. The short track takes two years but requires that the student hold the Brevet d'Etudes du primier (BEPC); the long cycle takes four years but gives the student a bachelor status and the opportunity to become a teacher in a general college.

Postsecondary vocational and technical studies are separate from the university and are provided by postsecondary institutions or centers that are administered by other relevant ministries.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from http://www.cia.gov/.

International Association of Universities (IAU). "Educational System — Niger," 1996. Available from http://www.unesco.org/.

—Jean Boris Wynn

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