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School in Benin (2:59) Excerpt from film "Time for School", 2003
For young Beninese girls, going to school brings many advantages. It also requires a lot of support.

Country: Benin
Related Lesson Plan:
  • Girls Speak Out

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    Guiding Questions
    1. Where does Benin rank in terms of literacy rates? How severe is Benin's educational gender gap? What steps is the government taking to increase female literacy?

    2. Without the government program, how would Nanavi have been educated?

    Background Essay
    For girls in Benin, West Africa, school provides many tools for daily life. The girls learn about hygiene and learn basic math skills that they can use to buy and sell things in the markets. Many adult women in Benin never went to school and are illiterate. By sending their daughters to school, mothers in Benin hope that their daughters will be able to achieve more success than they ever did.

    Many Americans assume that free public education is a fact of life, but that is not true for over 100 million children around the world. The 20th Century saw a growing divide as more and more industrialized countries embraced state-supported education, and non-industrialized countries did not. In the non-industrialized countries, education remained bound by traditional practices or was available only to the wealthy.

    To address this problem 1,100 participants from 164 countries met in Senegal in April of 2000 to adopt the Dakar Framework for Action, a re-affirmation of the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All. One of the commitments made in the Dakar Framework was to ensure that "by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality."

    While the Dakar Framework states that education is a human right, the reality for children around the world is very different. Education is often restricted by gender and/or income. In some places there is a shortage of qualified teachers. Some children around the world must cope with diseases like HIV/AIDS within their families, schools, and communities. Lastly, there can be a conflict between traditional values and the push toward education.

    Securing government and community support for education has not been simple. Looked at historically, education has been a challenge that spans ages. Confined to the secular or religious elite for millennia, it was only at the beginning of the 19th Century that Napoleon introduced the concept of free public education, to foster loyalty to the central government. Enlightenment thinkers and their heirs stressed the importance of education as a foundation for representative government. Later, industrialization created the need for basic literacy for factory workers. At the dawning of the 21st century, quality free public education has now been achieved for the industrialized world. The challenge remains to bring it equally to all the world's children.

    To put a human face to the global crisis in access to education, WIDE ANGLE filmed seven children around the world as they began school in 2003. This effort resulted in the documentary TIME FOR SCHOOL. The film crew returned to visit them again in 2006, making a second documentary, BACK TO SCHOOL.

    The changes that girls' education will bring to the village are huge. The girls who attend school learn about hygiene.

    For example, she already knows the importance of inoculation. She won't let her baby go without vaccination against diseases.

    She can participate in the weighing at the market. She can help her mother count the money they made.

    If the women send their daughters to school, it's because they don't want their daughters to end up like them. They want them to be like the mediatrice that comes here...

    While the mediatrice is a respected figure in the community, her visits are not always welcomed.

    There you are. How are you? Did you wake up alright?


    You didn't go to school today? Are you going to go back?




    You're going back today? It's too late now.

    Why didn't she go to school today? Did she decide not to go?

    I'm going now. But I'll be back tomorrow. Will I see you at school? Don't miss it.

    School will change the lives of Nanavi and Marguerite, because they'll escape being sent to the voodoo convent -- where they never would have learned how to read and write -- just like their mothers.

    Life is changing for the girls of Benin. But for every Nanavi, there's a mother in the fields, a mediatrice on her motorbike, and a dada looking over her shoulder.

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