Study on the effects of structural adjustment policies in Burkina Faso Contents

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In the space of 11 years, the number of private teachers within the jurisdiction of this inspectorate increased eightfold, from 77 to 600, thus exceeding the number of teachers in the public sector.

Strengthening the trend toward privatisation, Catholic primary schools – which had pioneered education in Burkina Faso and had subsequently been taken over by the State in the 1970s – were re-established in 2001.
Overall, through the reforms introduced under the SAPs, the government is increasingly entrusting education to decentralised structures (local and provincial authorities), the churches and NGOs, and shifting responsibility mainly to children’s parents, who are also the “contributor base” which funds these structures.
“Should users not pay for the services they receive?”

Arguably they should, but it is also important to note that, in spite of the introduction of the “educational innovations”, the quantitative targets that had been set have not always been achieved. In 1996 the gross enrolment rate was 37.5%, compared with a target of 40%. In 2001 the enrolment rate was 42.70%, compared with a target of 48% set the previous year.

1.6 Under-schooling and poor schooling
The 2002 National Education Conference30 observed “disaffection toward the school in certain rural areas over the past few years” and noted that inequalities remained “significant between the genders as well as between regions, geographical areas and the socio-economic status of households.”
1.6.1 Disaffection in rural areas
This situation results from the perception that children who go to school are often lost to their parents in terms of human resources. “…Three years of schooling usually represent the point of no-return to farming activities,” write Joseph Ki-Zerbo et al.31 In the opinion of a small farmer, “Going to school makes children lazy.”
Formerly, when the people most concerned by the lack of schools – i.e. agricultural labourers and the inhabitants of suburban slums – sent their children to school, they hoped to see them become teachers or nurses…who would one day help them financially, especially in old age. “Today, job opportunities are so scarce that in effect the school system manufactures unemployed people. Some higher education graduates make and sell clay bricks in order to survive.”32
As the cost of living rises and materialism spreads, many of those who are “successful” no longer contribute significantly to the upkeep of the extended family. They will rarely bother to return to the village, not even to attend the funeral of a relative. As for those forced to work in the informal economy – which is anyway approaching saturation – they can hardly make ends meet, let alone send money to the village. The other “opening” for those “left behind” by the school system – i.e. working in the cocoa and coffee plantations in Ivory Coast – has become much more restricted as a result of the ongoing social and political crisis in that country since 1996.
Broad sections of the population – including small farmers and workers in the informal economy – regard schooling as an irreversible and pointless drain on their resources, not only in terms of “human resources” but also financially, given that it generates costs and deprives them of much-needed support in their old age, children being indeed the sole form of “social protection” available to these social groups.
Even if education costs were lowered so as to become affordable for those living under the poverty line (i.e. 47% of the population), it is likely that many parents would still make their children work as shepherds or send them to sell trinkets or fruit on the streets to “help out the family” – thus contributing to the expansion of child labour and, in some cases, child trafficking.
The above considerations lend credence to the view – put forward by distinguished professor Ki-Zerbo33 – that “it is perhaps poor schooling which leads to under-schooling”.
According to a survey carried out by the INSD34 in 1996, of the three reasons mentioned most often in Burkina Faso for not enrolling children in school, parental opposition (36.6%) heads the list, followed at some distance by the lack of a local school (18.9%) and the cost of education, which is deemed to be too high (15%). In addition to the above-mentioned 36.6% opposed to schooling, 9.42% of respondents stated that schools were unnecessary.
Be this as it may, the instruction issued by the Ministry for Basic Education to the effect that all school-age children should be admitted at the start of the 2003-2004 academic year, when everyone knows that the schools’ existing capacity is insufficient to meet this goal, highlights the fact that the authorities responsible for education have clearly opted for quantity to the detriment of quality and efficiency.
The strategic document of the Burkina Faso-UNICEF Cooperation Programme for 2001-2005 states that “out of every 1,000 school-age children, only 400 are able to access the first year of primary school and only 320 reach the second year at intermediate level (i.e. the last year of the primary cycle). Out of those 320 pupils, only 80 can read, write and perform a simple calculation.” How many of those 80 (who do not move on to secondary education) eventually relapse into near illiteracy?
The national daily Le Pays reports that “…a general lowering of the level of school achievement is increasingly noticeable.”35
A preference for recruiting foreign executives to management positions is also apparent in some private companies.
1.6.2 New challenges
Another major challenge that has to be integrated into the EFA strategy is the growing digital divide. Against the background of the West’s furious race to accumulate material wealth individualistically and egoistically, and in view of the exponential development of technology and knowledge in today’s world, most schoolchildren have been cast into the role of “the illiterate of the year 2000”, i.e. those who do not know how to use a computer.
If the provision of education continues to develop at its current rate, by the time every Burkinese school-age child will be able to attend a very basic school (which lacks electricity and running water), most schoolchildren in the northern countries will no longer be going to school with a schoolbag, a spelling book and a ruler, but will be using microcomputers.
Ki-Zerbo et al. also refer to the urban environment and the media as problematic factors. “The urban environment is successfully competing with schools. Through its immediate, practical messages, it effectively obliterates the lessons written on the blackboard… In addition to the city’s giant screen, there is also the small screen of television, which has a huge educational impact inasmuch as TV addiction has become a massive and insidious social and cultural process.”
Lastly, another factor in the equation is the HIV-AIDS pandemic. Schools must play a leading educational role in order to enable the new generations to become aware of this deadly threat and take preventive measures against it.

1.7 Top-heaviness and “consultationism”
A legal framework as well as management structures and plenty of skills and knowledge do, however, exist to meet all these challenges through effective policies and strategies.

Since 1996, education policies are governed by Law No. 013/96/ADP, which lays down a comprehensive set of guidelines for education, including its fundamental principles, aims, general objectives and strategies.

The goals of education policy can be summarised as follows:

The education system should enable children and young people in Burkina Faso to:

  • Assimilate the spiritual, civic, ethical, cultural, intellectual and physical values of society as well as universal values; 

  • Ensure children and young people’s harmonious development;

  • Develop a spirit of solidarity, justice, tolerance and peace in them; 

  • Create and foster initiative and enterprise;

  • Educate them to become useful members of society, capable of loving it and protecting it.

The Burkinese education system is managed by four ministerial departments:

  1. The Ministry for Secondary and Higher Education and Research (MESSRS);

  2. The Ministry for Basic Education and Literacy (MEBA);

  3. The Ministry for Literacy and Informal Education (MDAENF36);

  4. The Ministry for Social Action and National Solidarity (MASSN37)

A fifth department, namely the Ministry for Technical and Vocational Training38, was set up in January 2004.
While the creation of different departments to deal with different types of education – including, in particular, basic education – reflects the priority given to this sector which is so essential to the country’s economic and social development, the excessive fragmentation of the existing management structures results in the need for a high degree of coordination. The decentralisation of these structures will further increase this need for coordination and synergy-building in implementing education policy.
Five ministries means five ministers and as many general secretaries, in addition to the technical counsellors, administrative directors, research and planning directors, project coordinators, regional directors, provincial directors, etc. working for each ministry.
To this national personnel must be added the experts and technical consultants of the country’s foreign partners and fund-providers. It should be noted that Burkina Faso’s efforts in the field of education are receiving strong support from the international community. For example, the first phase of the Ten-year Basic Education Development Plan (estimated cost: over 69 billion CFA francs, excluding salaries) is being funded as follows:

    • 17% by the government budget;

    • 9% of the resources of the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative;

    • 34% by the World Bank;

    • 12% by Canada;

    • 11.4% by the Netherlands;

    • 7.8% by Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland and France;

    • 7.8% by UNICEF, the IDB, the AfDB and the EU.

This veritable army of national and international personnel is regularly engaged in missions, seminars, workshops, symposiums, forums, consultations, national conferences, etc. with the aim of reporting on, disseminating or popularising numerous studies commissioned from consultants and experts, both national and foreign.

In spite of the existence, since 1990, of fairly comprehensive studies, such as the seminal book “Educate or Perish” (quoted several times in this report), the Working Group on Education Sector Analysis (WGESA) for Burkina Faso indicates that 227 studies on education in the country were conducted between 1994 and 1997, i.e. an average of three studies per month.
In 2002, the daily Le Pays reported on 33 seminars and other meetings on education in Burkina Faso, i.e. more than one meeting every two weeks.
This kind of activity has ballooned to such a level that some observers are speaking of top-heaviness and “consultationism”. “It almost seems that the structural crisis of education represents a lucrative business for experts in the sector.”
In view of the above, we need to ask ourselves whether their policies – purportedly aimed at providing general education at a cost affordable by all – will actually meet with the approval and support of those directly concerned by under-schooling and poor schooling.
And what will be the fate of teachers, the main actors of education, given that those policies are also targeting their salaries?

2. The cost for education workers in Burkina Faso
As mentioned in Section 1.3 above, the Terms of Reference of the study on the employment of contractual teachers at local community level stipulate that:

“The (29,000) primary school teachers to be recruited at decentralised level over the next ten years, will be recruited on terms comparable to those offered to community teachers in satellite schools, i.e. with salaries ranging from 3.5 to 5 times GDP per capita, depending on seniority.”

2.1 Salaries and allowances
In other words, these teachers’ pay ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 CFA francs…upon completion of service. We are speaking therefore of salaries at a comparable level to the allowances received by teaching assistants (45,000 CFA francs per month) in the early 1990s.
However, it is apparent from the results of the 1996 INSD39 survey of households’ living conditions that the 30,000-franc monthly allowance paid to teachers in satellite schools is just above the Guaranteed Minimum Inter-Professional Wage (SMIG) and does not today allow an average-sized Burkinese family to live above the absolute poverty line.
For comparison purposes, it should be noted that the SMIG in Burkina Faso is 29,776 CFA francs. The average pay of the 274 education workers who responded to the PADEP survey questionnaire was 86,066 CFA francs40.
With the introduction of the SAPs, even teachers employed under civil service pay scales have seen a reduction in their nominal salaries as a result of:

  • The definitive adoption of a 50%-decrease in housing benefit;

  • Pre-SAP career advancement measures have had no financial benefits attached to them since June 1990;

  • Adjustments to pay rates in 1993 and the reduction of the index-linked rate from 2132 to 1919; and, above all,

  • The new pay scales applicable to public employees under the general reform of public administration since January 1999.

This situation has not substantially changed, in spite of:

  • The upward adjustment of the index-linked rate in April 1994 following the devaluation of the CFA franc;

  • A salary adjustment in October 1996, up from 3 to 6%, and

  • The review of benefit scales in 2000.

Table 2.1 and Graph 2.1 below – taken from the study conducted by the Burkinese bimonthly L’Evènement41 – reflect the fall in the nominal value of salaries following the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Policies in 1991. Today, the starting salary of an A1-category teacher is 72,843 CFA francs compared with 87,945 CFA francs in 1991.

The above-mentioned study shows that, over a 40-year period, salaries have remained practically frozen despite annual inflation averaging 3% and despite the devaluation of the CFA franc in 1994. According to the study, “since the late 1970s, the government has effectively frozen teachers’ salaries. By manipulating the salary variables (index-linked rate and pay rates), the government has varied the value of salaries without actually raising them.”
Table 2.1: Evolution of base index and index-linked rate from 1960 to 1999.


Base index for Category A1 teachers

Index-linked rate

Annual salary

Monthly salary

From 01.01/60 to 31/12/62



712 500

59 375

From 01/01/63 to 31/12/66



727 500

60 625

From 01/01/67 to 31/12/68



652 500

54 375

From 01/01/69 to 30/11/69



727 500

60 625

From 01/01/69 to 30/11/72



746 250


From 01/12/72 to 31/03/74



768 750

64 062

From 01/01/76 to 31/03/76



825 945

68 828

From 01/04/76 to 31/12/78



863 460

71 955

From 01/01/79 to 31/12/81



916 760

76 396

From 01/01/82 to 30/12/87



1012 700

84 391

From 01/01/85 to 01/01/87



1012 700

84 391

From 01/01/87 to 01/01/88



959 400

79 950

From 01/01/89 to 30/12/92



1 055 340

87 945

From 01/01/93 to 31/03/94



949 905

79 158

From 01/10/94 to 30/09/96



1 055 340

87 945

From 01/10/96 to 31/12/98



1 087 320

90 610

From 01/01/99 to date



874 120

72 843

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