The cost of corruption in Niger? Four billion CFA francs (US $8 million) in lost education funds, almost a thousand fake teachers, and many thousands of rural schoolchildren taking classes on the floor because benches and tables aren’t delivered.
Corruption affects several aspects and phases of public education, from school construction and maintenance and procurement of text books to the recruitment, selection and appointment of teachers and the falsification of diplomas.
No wonder Niger’s literacy rate is under 30 per cent, leaving its next generation, especially the more than two million primary school-age children, bereft of opportunities for the future.
The Transparency International chapter in Niger (the Association Nigérienne de Lutte contre la Corruption) has launched a public campaign to tackle this issue head-on and make the government in Niamey, the country’s capital, take action against corruption.
Corruption in Niger’s education system
Until now, this action has been sorely lacking. The trial of two former Education Ministers and several high-ranking civil servants before the High Court for embezzlement of school funding - the high profile MEBA affair (MEBA is the education ministry) - continues to be delayed.
From 1996 – 2004, less than half of Niger’s children were enrolled in primary school. This “lost decade”, contributes to high youth unemployment today. With the state unable to pay regular salaries to teachers, many started offering fake certificates in exchange for money. This practice has become so common that even shopkeepers sell “faux diplômes”.
In 2011, the Ministry of National Education, Literacy and the Promotion of National Languages acknowledged that they had detected 338 fake diplomas. We believe the real number is almost three times as high.
The qualification to get a fake diploma ? A bribe. The motivation ? A dysfunctional public service – in our opinion. In 2008 the director of examinations at the Education ministry was arrested for accepting bribes.
All this leaves children with second-class schooling, and teacher absenteeism, something Transparency International research throughout the region has identified as a big contributor to lower education levels. In Niger some schools were not visited even once a year by any inspector. 100 per cent of schools had either no or incomplete financial documentation.
11 per cent of parents report paying registration fees.
7 per cent of head teachers know how much public resources their school can expect from the government.
Transparency International’s Niger chapter has received many complaints about corruption in education at its legal advice centre. It hopes the campaign will pressure public authorities to do more to prevent fraud, and encourage citizens to report it when they see it in the classroom.
Transparency International’s education campaign in Niger
You wouldn’t want your child treated by an unqualified doctor. Would you be happy that they are taught to read and write by an unqualified teacher? This is the message Transparency International’s Niger chapter wants to bring to its fellow citizens.
74 per cent of Niger’s schools do not display financial information
78 per cent of parents in Niger have not asked to see financial information, mostly because they did not know they could
Source: Africa Education Watch, a report on poor management in the education system of seven African countries.
The message of the campaign is that everyone has a role to play to address and control corruption in public education: the country’s state and regional administrations, pupils’ parents, the schools management and teachers, the pupils and students themselves
The campaign will involve debates, public talks, street theatre and networking with media, parents and teachers.
At a global level, Transparency International is doing more and more to focus on corruption in education. Our next Global Corruption Report will tackle it. In the meantime, we want to hear
from you: Have you ever experienced abuse of power in schools? How would you fight back?
All Images Courtesy of Association Nigérienne de Lutte contre la Corruption
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