A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, and, despite indisputable improvements in getting more children into school in the last two decades, the goal of guaranteeing a quality education for all Malian children by 2015 is still far off. Nearly 900,000 Malian children aged seven to 12 are out of school, most of them girls. Moreover, those children that are in school often get a poor education because of large classes, poor infrastructure, lack of materials, and, in particular, a lack of trained teachers. Oxfam estimates a current gap of more than 45,000 trained teachers. The result is that less than one quarter of Malian young people and adults, can read and write, the lowest adult literacy rate anywhere in the world.
The government has made efforts to improve the education system, but needs to go further to develop and implement a relevant and publicly-supported curriculum; to improve financial management; and to make the system of local government control of education work effectively and equitably. In particular, the government must address recruitment, training and management of teachers: Oxfam has calculated that the government’s teacher recruitment target (2,500 trained teachers per year) is not enough even to narrow – let alone close – the teacher gap.
Financing is also a serious issue: the education sector is under-funded, and in 2007, donor aid promises to the sector fell short of what the government had projected it needed by $20 million. The Malian government has increased investment in education in recent years, and can afford to go a little further. Beyond this, donors must provide a more significant increase in financing, particularly by giving long-term and predictable aid that Mali can use to pay recurrent costs like teachers’ salaries – this means giving more aid as budget support. Malian civil society needs to play a role in monitoring this.
With this kind of action, Mali can begin to realize its aspirations both of ‘education for all’ and of ‘quality education’.
Key recommendations from the report:
- Mali’s government should increase financing for education to at least 20% of its budget, and prioritise scaled-up teacher recruitment and training.
- Donors need to rapidly scale up their aid to Mali, and give more as general budget support or education sector budget support. In particular, EU donors, Japan, Norway, the US and Canada should improve aid to Mali.
- Donors should stop attaching economic policy conditions to their aid to Mali, and both official and INGO donors should align with the government ten-year plan for the education sector (PRODEC).
- The government and donors must guarantee a substantive role for Malian civil society in Poverty Reduction Strategy review process, in discussions about the new curriculum and other aspects of education policy, and in reviews of budget support.
- Malian civil society should maintain and expand their work around budget-tracking and improving governance in the education sector.