Burkina Faso Children and School

How is school in Burkina Faso?

Only 41 out of 100 adults in Burkina Faso can read and write. The others are illiterate. The proportion of those who can read is higher among those aged 15 to 24: 57 out of 100 young men, 44 out of 100 young women can read and write. This is because more and more children are going to school. In 2018, 77 out of 100 children started school. But not all of them actually go there.

Where are these kids? You don’t go to school. Some live so far from a school that they cannot even walk there. Other children are forced to work, for example in the gold mines (see Problems of Children in Burkina Faso). Some children have to help out in the fields while the plants are growing and being harvested and only go to school outside of this time. Sometimes the parents cannot pay for the exercise books and pens. Or they don’t see that their child needs schooling because they didn’t go to school either.

Lessons in French

But those who go to school are mostly taught in French. This is also a problem for some children because they only speak the language of their people, for example Mòoré, the language of the Mossi, or Fulfulde, the language of the Fulbe. It is difficult for them to follow the lessons. Imagine if you went to school and all the lessons were going to, let’s say Italian, taking place – you probably wouldn’t understand anything.

While in many other countries bilingual lessons are already offered, in Burkina Faso this is only the case in isolated cases. But you are slowly realizing how important the national languages ​​are. There are now some schools where the first two grades are taught in the language most commonly spoken in the area.

Primary school lasts six years. In some classes there are 100 or more students!

What are the names of the children in Burkina Faso?

Typical boy names are Ibrahim, Adama, Souleymane, Issouf, Abdoulaye, Mohamed and Ismael. Girls are often called Aicha, Mariam, Aida, Awa, Samira, Aminata or Florence. Often you can tell by the first name whether the family is Christian or Muslim.

When twins are born with the Mossi, who are a boy and a girl, the boy is always called Raogo and the girl Poko. If there are two girls, they are called Poko and Pokobila, two boys are Raogo and Raobila or Raonoogo. Typical surnames are Ouedraogo (which means “stallion”) and Sawadogo (which means “cloud”).

What do the children look like?

Boys usually have very short clipped hair. It’s most practical in the heat. Girls either have their hair short or they wear braided hairstyles, for example the corn rows, a special type of braiding. Some also have small braids in which they have woven pearls.

By the way, girls almost always wear skirts or dresses. Boys wear trousers and a t-shirt or shirt. Everything that is colorful and patterned is popular. Women also like to wear long skirts and a scarf on their head.


How are the children in Burkina Faso?


Forty-four percent of the population in Burkina Faso live below the poverty line and have less than $ 1.90 a day to live on. It affects even more people in the countryside.


In Burkina Faso, almost three in 100 newborns die, around five in 100 one-year-olds and seven in 100 five-year-olds. There are many reasons for this: not all of them have clean drinking water and then get sick. Many die from diarrhea. There are also diseases, especially malaria, from which children die. Only a few doctors work in the country. These are often still far away, as are the hospitals. And there is often no medication either.

Alone and on the street

830,000 children in Burkina Faso are orphans, so they no longer have parents. Her parents often died of AIDS. 75,000 children were orphaned in this way. They have lost the protection their families gave them. Many of the orphans live as street children. You don’t have a home. Many beg or steal. Many also take drugs, especially sniffing glue and paint thinner clouds their brains and can cause serious damage to children.

Children in the gold mines

42 percent of the children in Burkina Faso work. This is also a very high value for West Africa. The work in the gold mines is particularly bad. The children are sent to the tunnels. There they have to pull up rubble and stones – deep from the earth. If a shaft collapses or if you crash yourself, you have no chance. There is often hardly any air deep down.

Other children wash out the stones and bind the gold they contain with mercury. Mercury, however, is highly toxic and makes children sick. In addition, all the work is far too difficult for children. You get pain in your back and hands. Some children also work in quarries. They crush the stones, they sit in the heat for hours. There is no splinter protection for eyes or hands. It’s very hard work too. Up to 200,000 children are said to be working in the quarries and gold mines in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso Schools