Constitutional & Legal Foundations
The Societe d'Etudes pour le Developpment Economique et Social (SEDES) began examining the educational system of Upper Volta in 1959. Later that year the French agency put forth the Christol and Medard Report, which recommended a modest expansion of the current primary education efforts, along with the development of a system of rural nonformal education as a means in offering relevant education at a modest cost to larger segments of the population. According to the terms of the proposal, rural education centers (RECs) would be set up only in communities that requested such a facility and were also willing to fund it; enrollment would be restricted to children ages 12 to 14 years. Also, the three-year curriculum would consist of reading, writing, French language, arithmetic, humanities, physical fitness, and agriculture training. Local instructors, while not required to possess the qualifications of a formal educator, would receive training specific to the REC program. The Voltaic Legislative Assembly approved the recommendations of the Christol and Medard Report, seeing the rural system as a means of temporarily increasing access to some sort of education, particularly agricultural training, until the nation—one of the poorest in the world—was better able sustain the cost of universal primary education.
Despite the Ministry of Agriculture's heavy promotion of rural education, enrollment in the RECs dropped by roughly 20 percent between 1970 and 1971, mainly because "conventional primary schooling was regarded by the population in general as a means of escaping traditional society and economy and gaining access to the modern and privileged sector. To close off this only option for a better life was unacceptable to those living in the rural areas, so they just refused to send their children. . ." (Haddad 204). The rural education system was dealt another blow by a successful populist revolt, led by Captain Tomas Sankara in the early 1980. Believing the two-tiered educational system was elitist, the new regime began examining more equitable solutions to the nation's education dilemma. It was not only the rural education segment of the system that needed reform, but also primary enrollment rates were only 19 percent in 1983, compared to 14 percent a decade earlier. Although most officials agreed that a reduction in primary education costs was essential for an increase in accessibility, how to go about doing this remained an issue for debate well into the 1990s.
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