Malian school : the national defeat

Bourem (region of Gao)

For Mali to be able to radiate again in West Africa like in the past, the seriousness of all in school is essential, considers Yacouba Dramé, teacher and blogger based in Mopti.

For more than twenty years, the month of October is the starting month of the school year in Mali. This year, as in previous years, the government is working hard to send teachers and students back to what they can do best: «pretend to study». President Keïta, like his predecessors, had vowed to make the Malian school a reference in the sub-region, but it is clear that he is very far from the success of his promise. In order for the Malian school to become a school of quality again and to become a member of the international rankings, we must quickly return to the fundamentals, which means well-trained, well-paid teachers who know how to teach and educate students whose parents are committed to their success.

After the Education Forum in 2008, we are tempted to say the shocking formula «we have tried everything» to express our dismay with the catastrophic results of our education system in the last ten years: more than 60% failure in the exit examinations of the basic and secondary cycle. Indeed, the picture is still bleak compared to the malfunctioning of the Malian education system. The statistics have been very disappointing for many years. According to the Department of Education, basic education (attended by children aged 7 to 15) has an evolution rate of 43% and will represent by 2020 twice the resources currently allocated to this level of education. Only 54% complete the first cycle and 23% drop before the sixth grade. Successive governments have all provided the education sector with budgets ranging from 20% to 40% of GDP, yet the successful results are still pending.

The problem that undermines the education sector, is unknown to the authorities, the former prime minister, Moussa Mara, didn’t himself say in his statement of general policy (2014) that «if there is a remark shared by all Malians, in a key area of ​​the nation’s life, it’s education, which goes from bad to worse!». The Malian school in its present phase is a decade of lack of political courage, the non application of texts and the lie of the State about the financing of education. The latest reforms of higher education in 2011, of basic and secondary education in 2006 and 2010 are going in the right direction. The recommendations of the 2008 Forum, if they are courageously applied, should contribute to raising the level of students. Sadly!

That is not the case. Why do reforms not lead to change? When we talk about the Malian school, the first priority is the search for solutions to overcome the shortcomings, because in this sector everything is insufficient. From the government that discharges itself(problems) to the local authorities, which in turn returns the ball to the school management committees that do not even wait to deposit on the table of the school directors. They also have the mania to let off steam on their assistants, who are so busy with the increase of their payroll, turn the test on the students’ grades transcript who, in turn, take advantage to make some alterations for the parents. This pattern may seem comical, but as it is presented, it brings out the problems of our education system.

First, recruitment in the education sector was a headache for the authorities, who were faced with insufficient human resources, there were few teacher training institutes, but the candidates too. In 2010, the launch of direct entry competitions to the public service of collectivities has addressed this problem in the public sector. But the private sector remains polluted by poor recruitment of teaching staff. Teaching has become a favorite pastime for unemployed young graduates, who commute between different cycles and order of instruction with the blessing of the education system.

Then, in many reports, the training received by Malian teachers is criticized for their insufficiency and inadequacy with the missions assigned on the ground. The virtual absence of continuous training for teachers – ten years of untrained service – who often receive training leave to change their grade or corps at the end of their training. The few financed trainings of school partners are carried out either during the school year (penalizing the children) or on areas of interest not taught in the class.

We have a concrete proposal to correct these deficiencies: to reform the statutes of Teacher’s Training College (ENSUP) and the School of Technical and Vocational Education (ENETP) so that these two great schools can soften their access and have all the courses taught in high schools for the first and vocational schools for the second within them. Once this reform is effective, the government may require the diplomas of teacher-training colleges for the recruitment of teachers in the public sector as well as the private sector. The moral faults of the education system, according to many specialists in the sector, the programs taught are adequate, and if followed well in the classrooms, it contributes greatly to the personal development of the students.

But in the years to come and always in the spirit of the 2008 Forum, we must further develop the teaching of civic and moral education (CME) by increasing its hourly volume in basic education and by training CME teachers since in the training schools so that it can be a real subject apart. This would contribute much more to the training of the future good citizen, which is very lacking in our country. We wanted to caricature the image of our school by associating it more with the executives that succeed than with the good citizens that it will have to train. A whole section of our history is either misunderstood or little taught to our students. It is not normal that our children no longer know the great men who made this homeland. We must review the history program by introducing the teaching of history by area so that we can not hide the stories of our respective lands for the benefit of the national program.

The unbridled race for diplomas has opened a very disturbing breach in our education system, that of the lack of hierarchy between degrees. The country is beginning to have baccalaureate holders who do not have the diploma at the end of the fundamental cycle, or holders of bachelor’s degrees who do not possess the baccalaureate diploma: it is a moral fault. For Mali to be able to radiate again in West Africa as in the past, the seriousness of all in the school is essential.

Yacouba Dramé, (jurist, teacher and blogger in Mopti)

The views expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of