One classroom, 265 first-graders: the plight of an over-enrolled school in Burkina Faso

 
Our Observer Frédéric Gnoumou is a high school economics teacher in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second-largest city. To illustrate Africa’s demographic boom for his students, he paid a visit to one of the city’s primary schools where he photographed a class of first-graders.
 
Two hundred and sixty-five children, aged six, are officially enrolled in this class at Colma primary school. Taking the register at the beginning of the day has become an impossible task.
 
Colma primary school's first-grade class.
 
Unicef has even published a report (in French) on this primary school. According to the report, the number of students skyrocketed in 2003 when Burkinabé migrants living in Ivory Coast fled the war and returned home. Many settled in Bobo Dioulasso, which is not far from the border with Ivory Coast.
 
“It seems more worthwhile to students to drop out and do odd jobs than to cram into these classrooms”
 
In these conditions, teachers are unable to keep track of which students are present and which students have dropped out. It’s impossible to follow up with each of them. In a fifth-grade class in the same school, there are ‘only’ 170 students. The reason there are fewer students, though, is because it seems more worthwhile to drop out and do odd jobs than to cram into these classrooms.
 
One of the main problems is that school directors continue to accept students even when the classrooms are over-full - often because parents slip them a bribe. Parents, meanwhile, fail their children too. If they were to denounce the conditions their children are learning in (for example, multiple children have to share one textbook, and many sit on the ground for eight hours straight), then perhaps the state would be pressured into doing something about this situation.
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