“We have, above all, a feeling of satisfaction with the success that Benin, through the various actors involved in education, has continuously managed to achieve in terms of development of the education system,” says Maoudi Johnson, National Coordinator of Benin’s Education for All programme in the Ministry of Pre-school and Primary Education.
According to the Global Monitoring Report on Education for All 2010, “Benin has been among the world’s fastest moving countries on primary enrolment, with the net enrolment ratio rising from 50% in 1999 to 80% in 2007. The gender gap also narrowed, going from just 67 girls to every 100 boys in school in 1999 to 83 girls in 2007. On current trends, Benin could achieve universal primary education by 2015.” Johnson states that “in order to support this effort and provide the most needy and marginalised with access to education, the government tries to increase the education budget each year, and has done so for the past 10 years, to the point that the growth of the education budget has outstripped the national budget by 20%.” “Currently, one of the government’s top priorities is reducing the disparity between teachers who have different categories and status,” he said, adding that there is “a global programme for the reassessment of the teaching profession, which has already resulted in a 25% increase in all teaching salaries and the recompense of thousands of teachers in the public sector.” Various different types of training are also offered to teachers to enable them to become more highly-qualified. Although Johnson recognises efforts already made by the Benin government in terms of budget, the report warns: “Maintaining the trend will be difficult, however. Rapid progress in enrolment has brought new policy challenges, such as raising completion rates, reducing regional disparities and tackling poverty.” Johnson admits that the crucial issue of access poses more of a problem in secondary education, where there exists more of a contrast. “In secondary school, this success poses different problems, notably the capacity of schools in terms of size and the fact that 2/3 of teachers at this level are substitute teachers. The financial involvement of the state is inadequate and is not supported by partners, who continue to focus on primary education. It is therefore necessary to consider a more thorough use of resources available and to seek new partners who might be interested in other areas,” Johnson said. What about relationships with the education unions? “There are many unions but they are also strong. Relationships are sometimes difficult but the establishment of various collaboration agreements helps to resolve conflict. Areas of dispute often relate to the revaluation of the teaching profession. This stems from a certain dissatisfaction in the profession, which, whatever one might say, remains the starting point for the socialisation of the individual.” By Claude Carroué.