Among the Gurma people, still a highly male-dominated society, women usually have a clearly defined role, limited to childbirth and domestic chores. Families do not tend to send their daughters to school, as this would deprive them of labour for daily chores.
Experience in the field acquired by Îles de Paix nonetheless shows that there is a direct link between level of education and standard of living. In addition to the new professional prospects offered by access to education, it is observed that a higher standard of living leads to better control of birth rates. In a country where women have on average 7.2 children, the impact is unequivocal.
Unequal access to education based on gender still persists despite a positive discrimination policy run by government authorities in favour of girls.
While 15.9% of males complete primary education, only 1.6% of females attain the same level.
According to a study conducted in 2009:
- The rate of primary schooling is 41.8% for boys and 34.4% for girls
- The rate of secondary schooling is 8.3% for boys and 5.6% for girls
- The literacy rate is 20.6% for boys and 12.2% for women
It should also be noted that access to secondary education is very low in the Diapangou region where Îles de Paix operates, considerably below the national average, since fewer than one in five children go to secondary school.
Building the college in Louargou will facilitate access to education for children living in the north of the district, particularly girls, as distance is an even bigger hurdle for girls than for boys.
In addition to long distances and the costs incurred by accommodation outside the family circle, it is feared that inadequately supervised young girls will “fall pregnant”. Parents are reluctant to allow them to stray too far outside the family circle.
The college in Louargou should eliminate several obstacles which prevent young girls from continuing secondary education by meeting the needs of interested families.
Girls are expected to make up approximately 38% of the population of the new college. Six primary schools are located in the catchment area of the college and currently teach 800 pupils.
The new college should also relieve other surrounding colleges which have on average 92 pupils per class as opposed to a national standard of 60 pupils per class. This will also increase the quality of teaching.
Lastly, creating this college will consolidate and strengthen skills amassed in primary school.
In addition to building the college, there are plans to support the creation of a parent association and to carry out occasional awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of schooling, particularly among girls.