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Primary education is now free for all children in Togo

© UNICEF Togo 2007/Pudlowski
Primary schooling is now free in Togo. This move improves the country’s chances of achieving the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015.

By Hadrien Bonnaud

AKODESSEWA, Togo, 13 October 2008 – At the Akodessewa school, roughly 15 km outside the capital city of Lomé, this year’s preparations for school enrolment have been marked by a major change: School fees have been abolished, and all primary schooling in Togo is now free.

“Now we have the task of integrating all students into the system…. All children have the right to free education,” explained first-grade teacher Attobian Amévi. “Children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling”.

With a net enrolment rate of about three-quarters of school-age children – combined with the newly free primary education system – Togo is in a good position to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015.

Free primary education for all
The announcement that school fees would be abolished was enthusiastically received in communities across Togo.

“I saw mothers overwhelmed with pride at the idea that all their children could go to primary school,” said Mr. Amévi. “That is true equality!”

Komla, 9, has never been to school. This will be his first time in a classroom. “I work in the fields with my parents,” he said. “But today I am going to school. I want to learn to read and to count in order to be a good businessman.”

Large influx expected

© UNICEF Togo 2008/Bonnaud
Komla, 9, had never been to school before the elimination of school enrolment fees in Togo, but is now receiving a free basic education.

Komla‘s story is not uncommon in Togo, where many parents do not send their children to school because of the costs – including both school fees and the loss of manpower and revenue for the family. At present, most children are not yet in school, as they are still busy helping their families with the last harvest.

“Every year is like this,” explained Akodessewa School Director Afandémon Amaglo. “The school year starts in waves, and the students trickle in rather slowly.”

The Akodessewa school is expecting a large influx of new students this year, and is considering hiring a new teacher to compensate.

Every child can benefit
Previously in Togo, school fees of about $4 per year, per child, impeded the objective of education for all. In a country where more than 60 per cent of the population lives below the national poverty line, the savings realized by removing school fees are significant.

Today, UNICEF is advocating with the government and local communities to ensure that free access, equity and quality education are delivered to all children. UNICEF will continue to work with the government to provide technical and financial support in this area.

UNICEF is also financing an impact study on school fee abolition; it will use the results and recommendations to help the government implement this reform so that every child can benefit from a quality basic education.



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