Education & Jobs
Building a better education system
Niger has one of the lowest literacy rates in West Africa, with less than a third of adults able to read and write. The government of Niger recognises that building a better education system has to be a priority for the country.
Adult literacy programmes have been set up in some areas, where locals are taught in one of the five main African languages of the country – see People & Culture.
The high number of child marriages in Niger means literacy rates among girls are correspondingly low. Child-rearing takes over from education when girls marry. According to data from UNESCO, in 2005, less than a quarter of young women (aged 15-24) were able to read and write.
A government programme has been put in place to improve education in Niger and schooling is available free of charge. However, take-up is still low, particularly among girls. In 2009, less than half of young girls were enrolled at primary school.
The low number of girls in school is partly a result of traditional cultures which encourage girls to stay within the home and to marry early. More than a third of women in Niger are married before the age of 15.
Employment in agriculture
Small cottage craft industries, such as the making of textiles, leatherwork and jewellery, provide many informal jobs in Niger, principally in the towns.
Around four-fifths of Niger’s population are involved in subsistence farming, rearing livestock or growing enough crops to feed their families.
Since many families are involved in agriculture, they have traditionally seen little benefit in keeping their children on at school. Therefore, fewer than one in ten children attend secondary school in Niger.
Formal education has historically been based on the French system. But gradually, changes are being introduced to include more vocational skills and lessons which are tailored to local needs.
Return of migrant workers
Following the civil war in Libya and instability in other neighbouring countries, such as Mali and northern Nigeria, around 90,000 Nigeriens are thought to have returned to Niger in 2011.
Most migrants were originally from southern Niger, in areas to the west which particularly suffered from food insecurity. The droughts of the last few years have reduced harvests and shortages have been exacerbated by the return of so many migrant workers.