The Ministry of National Education (MEN in French) has defined inclusive education as "an education system that takes into account the particular teaching and learning needs of all children and young people in marginalized and vulnerable situations, including street children, girls, children from ethnic minority groups, children from low-income families, children from nomadic families, children with HIV or AIDS and children with disabilities."
According to the Fédération nigérienne des personnes handicapées [Niger Federation of Persons with Disabilities – FNPH] (2017), there are currently 30 inclusive schools in Niger.
According to article 42 of Act No. 98-12, "the aim of special education is to educate, rehabilitate and train individuals with physical or learning disabilities to facilitate their social integration or reintegration." This act states that special education is to be provided by institutions for people with physical or learning disabilities or centres for the rehabilitation of young offenders. The Niger Federation of Persons with Disabilities (2017) lists 61 schools that cater for children with disabilities, four of which are special schools. There are also three private early learning and rehabilitation centres for children with learning disabilities. Specialized centres for persons with disabilities are found in the public sector, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Development or supported by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Special education is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for adopting implementing decrees in this area.
According to the Special Education Division of the Ministry of Primary Education, Niger has 129 inclusive schools in the regions of Niamey, Tahoua and Maradi. These schools are classed as inclusive on the basis of certain criteria: teacher and supervisor training, awareness-raising among parents, and the presence of certain groups of children with disabilities in these schools.
Integrative classes were also set up in Zinder in 2000. Children with a visual impairment are taught in separate classes for CI (introductory course), CP (preparatory course) and CE1 (primary year 1) but attend the same schools as other students. From CE2 (primary year 2) onwards, students with a visual impairment are integrated into mainstream classes. There are 27 integrated schools in the country. The first students with a visual impairment were integrated into secondary schools in 1993. For deaf students, this milestone was reached in 2005. Forty-eight integrative classes for people with hearing or visual impairments were set up between 2009 and 2019.
The Education and Training Sector Programme (2014–2024) covers inclusive education.
Order No. 93/012 of 2 March 1993 enshrines the right of children and adolescents with disabilities to education, which should be integrated into the national education system (art. 7). These learners must receive "either mainstream education or special education, depending on the specific needs of each individual." Moreover, this order holds that "no vocational institution that trains people for jobs accessible to these individuals may refuse to admit them." This text also states that "the State is obliged to ensure the prevention and detection of disabilities, care, education, training, vocational guidance and retraining, employment, and social integration of people with a physical, sensory or learning disability."
Circular No. 000311/MEN/DGEB/DEBI of 7 December 2007 states that children with disabilities may be enrolled in school up to the age of 12. Despite the legislation in place (including Order No. 2010-028 of 20 May 2010 and its implementing decree), Nigerien legislation still prioritizes special education.
Niger also developed a strategy for educating children with disabilities in 2006, which was revised in 2010 and 2013, prior to its technical validation in 2013. It should be noted, however, that the National Strategy for the Education of Children with Disabilities has never been formally adopted by the Government.
The Education and Training Sector Programme 2014–2024 provides for the development and implementation of an action plan to address the educational needs of students with disabilities (primarily motor). However, there is no mention of sensory or learning disabilities or albinism. Alongside the vocational and technical education and training sectoral policy (2004), the Education and Training Sector Programme aims to accommodate persons with disabilities in vocational and technical education and training institutions and training centres and to create or strengthen special centres.
Various projects have been implemented. For example, the Agir pour la pleine participation des enfants handicapés par l’éducation [Working Towards the Full Participation of Children with Disabilities through Education – APPELH] (in Niamey) and Promotion d'un modèle d'éducation inclusive à Maradi [Promoting an Inclusive Education Model in Maradi – PMEI] projects, financed by the French Development Agency and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and other NGOs, are targeting 530 and 99 schools respectively. Using an inclusive approach, they aim to provide universal access to primary education and to recognize the educational rights of children with disabilities.
The APPELH project has helped 3,300 children with disabilities integrate into school. Of these children, 100 have benefited from additional support. The project has also trained 270 teachers and school principals, 30 inspectors, 2,400 parents and 5,000 community members on the inclusion of children with disabilities. The PMEI project has reached 180 teachers and supervisors and supports 200 students with disabilities in and out of school, 20 of whom have been provided with medical care. This project has led to the introduction of a module on inclusive education validated by the Ministry of Education into the initial teacher training programme, the development of a link between the education system and the health system and the adoption of the National Strategy for the Education of Children with Disabilities validated by the Ministry of Education.
The Education and Training Sector Programme 2014–2024 identifies various awareness-raising and communication measures on girls' education. These include introducing new modules on gender into the teacher training curriculum and organizing awareness campaigns in areas where there is high resistance to girls education among religious, traditional and opinion leaders.
The National Policy on Girls’ Education aims to promote girls’ access to and retention in all levels of education and training and to increase social demand for girls' education and training. This policy provides for the construction of separate toilets for girls and special allowances for female teachers deployed in rural areas. Other measures for the benefit of girls include revising the scholarship allocation criteria and placing girls in foster families. Since 2014, 9,490 girls, vulnerable children and students on science courses have benefited from these scholarships.
Ethnicity and languages
The Government has opted to gradually introduce and encourage bilingualism. The Education and Training Sector Programme 2014–2024 asserts that every child will be educated in his or her mother tongue for the first years of their education. The French language will then be taught orally at first as a subject, before gradually becoming the language of instruction.
The Education and Training Sector Programme 2014–2024 aspires to establish alternative rural schools in sparsely populated areas and for the children of nomadic peoples. Between 2014 and 2015, 75 alternative rural schools were established in these regions. This programme will make it possible to study how education provision can be adapted to meet the needs of families in rural areas (organization, timetables, start date of the new school year, etc.), to improve the geographic distribution of new school facilities and to recruit teachers, taking into account regional disparities as well as those between rural and urban areas. Finally, this programme will provide 100 rural secondary schools with reference books, library books and storage units. The Education and Training Sector Programme provides for the redeployment of surplus teachers in urban areas to rural areas where there are shortages. Between 2014 and 2016, 13,000 teachers working in disadvantaged areas received bonuses.
The Education and Training Sector Programme 2014–2024 provides for nutrition activities in areas with high levels of nutritional deficiency to promote children’s access to, and retention in, school. Humanity & Inclusion's Espoir [Hope] nutrition programme in the Sahel region is one example of such efforts. The programme helps to prevent all forms of disability in at-risk children and to protect communities using a psychosocial approach. The Education and Training Sector Programme 2014–2024 also sets out plans to strengthen the financial assistance system to make it easier for disadvantaged students to stay in school. Between 2014 and 2016, 26,000 students received an annual grant and 178,000 students received meals at school.
Displaced persons and refugees
The Education and Training Sector Programme 2014–2024 facilitates access to education for internally displaced persons and refugees by waiving exam fees and the requirement to provide civil status documents when enrolling in school and registering for exams. In the same vein, since 2012, Humanity & Inclusion has been supporting Malian refugees in Niger via a one-stop shop that directs these people to the educational services they need.
In the absence of a clear policy on inclusive education, it is not possible to identify a body responsible for the strategy, planning, coordination, evaluation and monitoring in the area of inclusive education. At the institutional level, several ministries are working together on inclusive, special and integrated education, including the Ministry of Education (lead ministry), Ministry of Vocational Training, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Food Security, Ministry of Youth and Sport, Ministry of the Civil Service, Ministry of Employment, Ministry of Social Protection, and Ministry for the Advancement of Women and Child Protection. The Ministry of Population coordinates all disability-related interventions. Various bodies are involved in education provision for students with disabilities, including the General Directorate for Social Action and the Promotion of Solidarity and two national committees responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the National Committee for the Advancement of Persons with Disabilities (CNPPH), which is responsible for coordinating the various interventions relating to rehabilitation for persons with disabilities.
Educational supervisors identify learners with special educational needs to ensure regular pedagogical follow-up and refer these students to the right resources. Health professionals work with schools to provide health check-ups for students, guide families and participate in meetings. Local public authorities (neighbourhood or village chiefs) issue birth certificates for the enrolment of children in school and support families to keep children with disabilities in school.
The main partners in the area of inclusive education in the country are Humanity & Inclusion, UNICEF and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Education and Training Sector Programme 2014–2024 provides for the construction of classrooms with ramps and the installation of toilet facilities adapted to the needs of people with motor disabilities. Between 2014 and 2016, 298 preschool classrooms were built and fitted out. Moreover, 1,015 toilet blocks were built and 508 water points installed at basic education cycle 1 facilities.
The Ministry of Education draft a new curriculum that avoids sexist stereotypes.
The Education and Training Sector Programme 2014–2024 provides for i) awareness-raising for school principals and teachers on inclusive education and ii) improved teacher training on working with children with motor disabilities, the psychological aspects of disabilities and screening techniques for common disabilities. The Ministry of Education and Humanity & Inclusion have published a training manual for teacher training, which aims to promote effective teaching practices. Another measure under the Education and Training Sector Programme seeks to integrate modules on gender into the teacher training curriculum.
Teacher training remains limited. The report on the situational analysis of integrated and specialized schools in Niger (Christian Blind Mission (CBM), March 2016) states that only 10 out of 162 teachers in special and integrated schools are trained to work with children with disabilities.
The inclusive education module was introduced into the student teacher training programme in 2013 (piloted in three teacher training colleges). In 2016, the Ministry of Education rolled out the Braille and sign language subprogrammes as part of the new curriculum reform in teacher training colleges.
In an effort to improve the education system in Niger, the Ministry of Primary Education, Literacy, National Languages and Civic Education revised the training programme for student teachers at teacher training colleges to take account of the educational requirements of providing inclusive education. Consequently, Braille and sign language have been included as subprogrammes in the newly developed curriculum for teacher training colleges. It was therefore necessary to train supervisors to enable them to train student teachers to work effectively with students with sensory impairments (visual and hearing) in line with the relevant charters, declarations and international conventions and numerous legislative and regulatory texts on human rights. UNESCO provided substantial support in terms of materials (for visual and hearing impairments) and helping develop training modules and organize a training workshop for supervisors from 11 teacher training colleges in Niger to build their capacity to train student teachers as required to meet the needs of students with sensory impairments.