Model School to Meet the Needs of Nomad Children

“Now I met my friend Sia, and we learn everything together.” says Khadidja

Eva Gilliam
Model School to Meet the Needs of Nomad Children
Eva Gilliam

03 December 2018

“If I wasn’t in school, I’d be gathering wood, or cutting grass for the animals,” says Khadidja, 12 years old.  Until last year, Khadidja had never attended school. She’s from a Pheul family, a traditionally nomadic culture.

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UNICEF Niger/2018/Eva Gilliam

Nomad groups are particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged in education in rural Niger. Traditional educational methods and content has yet to be adapted to these communities’ needs.  With parents traveling to graze their herds four to five months at a time, nomadic children need an infrastructure to support attending school. 

Thanks to the funding from Norway, UNICEF, together with Catholic Relief Services and CADEV, has built a “Model School in Nomad Zones” school in Bermo.  The project is based on the Nomadic Education Model, developed by SDS (Strategy for Development) Niger with UNICEF support. This pilot phase provides the infrastructure for Sia and Khaidja to study.

These model schools are set-up for children to follow courses during the extended times their families are away.  The school takes care of sleeping arrangements and three meals a day.  

A team of mothers helps to look after the children, cooking them meals and helping them cope with being away from their families.  Agaichata Mohammed is the treasurer of the Association des Meres Educatrices at the school in Bermo. Two of her children have been studying at the school since it opened. 

“It’s important that our children learn, and can read and write,” explains Agaichata “but when we have to go away [with the animals]– it’s hard to learn.  We needed time to convince the other mothers that this was a good thing.”

“Leaving one’s children in the hands of another is never an easy thing,” says Agaichata, “But the quality education the children are receiving is worth it.”

“Even the children weren’t so interested before, but now there are classrooms, and dormitories.  Now they are more open to coming.”

“We’re nomads, and we do take our animals far from here,” explains Agaichata “but it’s not like it used to be. We’ll spend 4 or 5 months only in the bush now. And in that time, here, our children can continue to go to school.”

The Model School takes great care to make the children feel like a family, and also do not lose their tradition.  Soon, the students will also have their own small heard of bulls to take care of as a practical learning experience alongside maths and literacy.

Zongo Jiguilta Primary School in Bermo is very gender balanced as well, with 40 girls and 43 boys.  Many of whom started school in the last two years, and are catching up with their age mates in the rest of the country.

In the classroom, the focus is palpable.  The interest is tangible.  

“We use particular techniques to help these kids adjust to the learning environment, and to accelerate their learning,” explains Director Hamadou. “They have some catching up to do, but they are very fast learners.”

Khadidja and her friend Sia are in the same class, as well as the same dorm room and share all of their meals, from day one.  They each go to the chalk board and read from the lesson. It’s a new adventure that they get to do together.

“What I like about school is that I can learn everything, with my friend,” says Sia.

The project has reached 646 primary and secondary school students in its first phase in the Bermo Region.