Giving everyone in Burkina Faso the chance to access basic education

Project completed
The Programme for Supporting Basic Education helps children in Burkina Faso access education and training. © SDC ©

In Burkina Faso, a third of school-age children – around one million girls and boys – do not have access to education and 70% of the adult population is illiterate. Alternative schooling modules need to be developed for them. Since 2006, the SDC's support for basic education has helped more than one million Burkinabe over 15 years of age learn to read and write.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Burkina Faso
Vocational training
Basic life skills
Education policy
Education facilities and training
Primary education
Vocational training
01.12.2012 - 31.08.2017
CHF  12’500’000

Burkina Faso has a very poor basic education system that faces a number of problems. Around 15 children in 100 do not go to school. There is no equal access to education and the illiteracy rate is nearly 70% (almost 80% for women). There are considerable geographic disparities, particularly between the urban and rural areas: school attendance rates are five times higher in the region surrounding the capital Ouagadougou in comparison to remote rural areas.

This is compounded by the problem of population growth. The quality of teacher training is generally low and the education system is often not tailored to the needs of the population.

Burkina Faso's government has taken a number of measures to deal with this situation such as adopting a national programme to accelerate literacy and improve education for girls. Within this framework, the SDC supports the country's education programmes by promoting adult literacy and education and training for children who never went to school or have dropped out. The SDC implements a Programme for Supporting Basic Education (PAEB) which makes contributions to different funds and supports NGOs working in the field.

Burkina Faso's education system

In Burkina Faso, there is a 'formal' system (preschool, primary, secondary, university, technical and professional education) and a 'non-formal' one, which means alternative education opportunities for children who never went to school or have dropped out and illiterate adults. These alternatives need to be developed because not all children go to school (the attendance rate is 85%) and more than 40 children in 100 drop out before finishing their six years of schooling (the completion rate is 60%). That is where the SDC provides its support.

Alternative education opportunities include school-based literacy, simple technical training courses and developing a literate environment i.e. providing access to reading materials. The goal is to help people gain access to literacy and education to develop skills and knowledge that are useful in their communities. The target group is children aged nine to fourteen who have not had the chance to go to formal school or who had to leave school very early.

After four years of basic education they are given an assessment. There are gateways for those wishing to go on to formal school, making it possible to study up to university level. For the others, there are professional training courses or apprenticeships at agriculture training centres where they can learn to become livestock or arable farmers.

Marked improvements

Through its support for the National Fund for Literacy and Non-Formal Education (FONAENF), which is a partner of the PAEB, the SDC has helped achieve several objectives and marked improvements in Burkina Faso's education system.

  • Since 2006, 10,000 children (45% of whom were girls aged nine to fifteen who had never been to school or had dropped out) have received education and training in certain trades thanks to the development of innovative alternatives to formal schooling.
  • The success rate for pupils in the non-formal education system rose from 92% in 2012 to 96% in 2015, thanks in particular to capacity building for 37,000 educational support staff and to an overhaul of the non-formal system.
  • More than 3.2 million textbooks written in the country's national languages were produced and distributed. Since 2006, these textbooks have boosted pupils' learning and prevented their falling back into a life of illiteracy.

The SDC as pioneer

The SDC plays a leading role in non-formal education. Thirty years ago, Switzerland was the only donor to fund courses for illiterate people and teenagers who had dropped out of school. As a result, other stakeholders began investing in the process and Burkina Faso's government incorporated these alternatives in its education policy. The SDC is nowadays the leading agency for partners of Burkina Faso's education system.

It operates by contributing to action plans and joint projects that support alternatives to formal schooling. The SDC partners with NGOs to implement projects in the field and supports a common multi-donor fund used to build schools, buy supplies for pupils and pay teachers. To implement the PAEB in Burkina Faso, the SDC relies on parallel financing provided by the national government and other technical partners.