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Pounding Millet During School Hours: Obstacles to Girls’ Formal Education in Niger


  • Lori Hartmann-Mahmud

    () (Centre College, International Studies, Danville, Kentucky.)


Based on in-depth interviews with Nigerien women, this article demonstrates that while they value formal schooling for their girls, they are discouraged by the incompatibility between boko (formal schooling) and the important values transmitted by tarbiyya (education in the home) and mahamadiya (Islamic education). I argue that these tensions arise from a system of education that is not rooted in context. In the colonial era, education was a means of assimilation to the colonizer's values. More recently, neocolonial education projects serve the development theory of the moment and they tend to emphasize increased enrollment for girls without focusing on quality and content of that education. While the system imparts important skills such as literacy and numeracy, the more intrinsic goals of education such as empowerment and identity formation are not emphasized because, I argue, formal education does not reflect the social, cultural, religious and material context of most Nigeriens’ everyday lives. The ideas about educational reform, in Niger and in other Muslim countries, show that boko is not inherently incompatible with tarbiyya and mahamadiya, and that intrinsic goals of education can be met only by reconciling them.S’appuyant sur des entretiens approfondis avec des femmes nigériennes, cet article montre que ces dernières attachent bien de l’importance à l’éducation formelle de leur filles, mais qu’elles sont découragées par l’incompatibilité entre boko (l’instruction formelle), et les valeurs importantes transmises par tarbiyya (l’éducation familiale) et mahamadiya (l’éducation islamique). Je soutiens que ces tensions sont dues au fait que le système d’éducation est trop peu contextualisé. Pendant la période coloniale l’éducation était un outil d’assimilation des valeurs colonisatrices. De nos jours, les projets éducationnels néo-coloniaux sont mis au service de la théorie du développement du moment et tendent à mettre l’accent sur la scolarisation des filles sans se préoccuper de la qualité et du contenu de l’enseignement dispensé. Si le système permet de transmettre des compétences importantes telles que la lecture, l’écriture et le calcul, il met peu l’accent sur les buts intrinsèques de l’éducation tels que l’autonomisation et la construction identitaire. Ceci est dû au fait que l’éducation formelle ne reflète pas le contexte social, culturel, religieux et matériel de la vie quotidienne de la plupart des Nigériens. Les réflexions courantes à propos de la réforme éducationnelle, tant au Niger que dans d’autres pays musulmans, suggèrent que boko n’est pas en soi incompatible avec tarbiyya et mahamadiya et que les buts intrinsèques de l’éducation ne peuvent être atteints qu’en conciliant ces trois formes.

Suggested Citation

  • Lori Hartmann-Mahmud, 2011. "Pounding Millet During School Hours: Obstacles to Girls’ Formal Education in Niger," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 23(3), pages 354-370, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:eurjdr:v:23:y:2011:i:3:p:354-370

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