When the head of state, President Boni Yayi announced that Nursery and Primary Education was henceforth free a few weeks after the reopening of the 2006-2007 school year in Benin, there was a rush. Teachers, heads of schools and parents struggled to find desks, pencils and school text books for the additional pupils. Some years after this measure, the experiences have been bitter. Overcrowded classrooms, inadequate school infrastructure, a crying need for qualified teachers to train pupils. All this also had a negative effect on the training of the children.
The situation is not limited to only one public primary school. While acknowledging the reality of the problems raised by school heads, the Minister for Nursery and Primary Education, Eric Kouagou N’Da, contends that efforts have been made since 2006 following this measure, to offset the lack of teachers, which compelled parents to make financial contributions towards the recruitment of unqualified community teachers.
In spite of these efforts, Eric Kouagou N’Da admits that the needs were far from being met in the light of the effects of free education which each year draws a consierable number of children to school and which occasions the opening of new schools and new classrooms.
Those measures were intended to improve the standards of the pupils. This is because the creation of certain infrastructure should place not only the children in good learning conditions, but teachers also. However the way the latter are recruited creates problems on the field.
As a matter of fact, the Minister for Nursery and Primary Education, Eric Kouagou N’Da the Middle School Leaving Certificate no longer reflects the standard of pupils. He stressed that the adoption of this measure of free education had generated a lot of arguments and controversy around the difficulties observed in making available subventions particularly for remote areas, in addition to too many strike actions as well as late completion of construction projects. These difficulties, in his opinion, have also contributed to laxity on the part of some school heads who no longer put pressure on parents who now argue that the state takes care of the greater part of what used to be their responsibility.
By Bruno Sewade
The article was published April 11 2012 in the daily newspaper La Nation.
Read the full article in French Les conséquences de la gratuité des enseignements