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Sample and Study Areas

In Burkina Faso, the survey took place in Ouagadougou and its outlying rural communes (30 km maximum) where HI has been working for a long time. This helped compare the situation in the capital and in rural areas.

Assessment of Inclusive Education in Burkina Faso

In recent decades, Burkina Faso has made impressive progress in education, but today the country faces major challenges, particularly the persistent insecurity in the Sahel region, where more than 2,000 schools have been compelled to close in the last few years. As regards inclusive education, Burkina Faso was one of the first countries in West Africa to appreciate the need to provide schooling for children with disabilities. Its educational situation is more favourable to children with disabilities than that in its neighbours Mali and Niger. However, despite the efforts made by civil society and the State in Burkina Faso, the needs of such children, and particularly of girls with disabilities, are still not catered for nearly enough.

The Long-Standing Application of the Inclusive Approach

In Burkina Faso, it was Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO) and religious organisations and/or charities that pioneered education, care and rehabilitation of children with disabilities. Attempts to integrate children with disabilities into education go back to the late 1970s, with Arche de Nongr-Maasem (1978), the Union Nationale des Associations Burkinabè pour la Promotion des Aveugles et Malvoyants (UN-ABPAM, 1979), the Institut des Jeunes Sourds du Faso (IJSF, 1980), the Association des Parents, amis et sympathisants des Enfants Encéphalopathes (APEE, 1988) and the Centre d’Éducation et de Formation Intégrée des Sourds et des Entendants (CEFISE, 1988).

DPOs built up expertise over the years thanks to the support of UNICEF and NGOs such as HI, Light for the World and CBM. Christian organisations — organisers of Catholic education and Protestant evangelical missions — still dominate the field of inclusive education.

DPOs began by developing specialised schools, making educational provision for children with a specific type of disability (auditory, visual or intellectual impairment). Gradually, they tried to integrate children with disabilities into ordinary schools, then to open themselves up in order to transform themselves, applying the principles of inclusion.

From 2004, thanks to technical and financial assistance from HI, the Ministry of National Education and Literacy (MENA) began to develop pilot projects in Tanghin-Dassouri (25 km from the capital), making that rural settlement the cradle of public inclusive education in Burkina Faso.

3 CTIS (Transitional School Integration Classes) for children with severely impaired hearing were opened in buildings which had previously served as lodgings for teachers. After three years of practice in using sign language, these children with impaired hearing continued their schooling at the same school in an ordinary first-year primary class.

A State Commitment in Need of Follow-up

Since 2007, the government has made strenuous efforts to develop complete arrangements to cater for people with disabilities. This has been reflected in the establishment of one of the most advanced legal and legislative frameworks in West Africa.

In 2017, the Direction de l’Éducation Inclusive was merged with the two divisions responsible for girls’ education and gender issues, to create the Division for the Promotion of Inclusive Education and of Girls’ Education and Gender, a central division attached to the General Secretariat. This merger confirms the decision to assign an important place to inclusive education. A steering committee has been set up at the Ministry to draft the National Inclusive Education Strategy.

Despite the efforts made by the State, the Director of the Division for the Promotion of Educational Integration and of Girls’ Education and Gender recognises that attempts to put into practice the right to education for people with disabilities are still falling short, because the resources allocated are very limited, and the guidelines laid down by the State are not being applied.

For example, people with disabilities can obtain a disabled person’s card, making them eligible for certain social benefits (provision of health services, education and transport either free of charge or at reduced rates), and students with disabilities who have been declared eligible on the basis of a means test (being granted a certificate of destitution) are automatically entitled to study grants.

But these measures are not systematically applied by State agents.

This is despite the fact that fines are laid down for natural or legal persons (ranging from FCFA 50,000 to 100,000 and, in the event of a second offence, from FCFA 100,000 to 200,000) for failure to comply with the articles on access to care, education and transport (Article 52), but the law does not provide for any possibility of a penalty against the State or its agencies.

The cost of the National Educational Integration Strategy was around FCFA 9.3 billion (nearly EUR 14 million) in 2016.

The main aims are to develop a communication and information system on inclusive education and to adapt the inclusion programme and teacher training.

But the Ministry of National Education and Literacy is demanding more resources to improve educational provision (such as the creation of a Braille printer) and health services for children with disabilities (spectacles, lenses, wheel chairs, etc.).

Educating Children with Disabilities still Remains a Challenge

Inclusive educational provision is sorely inadequate in relation to demand. The number of existing schools capable of accommodating children with disabilities is small, and those that can cater for them are mostly private and located in urban areas.

The geographical distribution of inclusive educational provision is not well matched to demand for such education. This unequal geographical location explains the long distances between the places where children with disabilities live and schools, and the difficulties in attendance.

The Law laying down the broad outlines of education in Burkina Faso stipulates that education must be available free of charge to children between the ages of 6 and 16, which it describes as an inviolable principle in order to achieve education for all. But, aside from the experiments that have been conducted at publicly run pilot schools with NGOs, where schooling is free, the schooling of children with disabilities at private establishments is virtually a luxury, once the cost is seen in relation to the very modest incomes of parents.

Inclusive private schools generally seek sponsorship from foundations and NGOs in order to accept the poorest children with disabilities, but such funding is not available long-term, and tends to be reduced.

In the absence of reliable data on which to base the National Strategy for the Protection and Promotion of People with Disabilities (SN-3PH), the Ministry of Social Welfare and National Solidarity performed the first census of children with disabilities in 2013 — which was also the first in the sub-region of West Africa — with the support of UNICEF, HI, CBM and Light for the World.

This lack of sound statistics limits any advocacy and any growth in awareness on the part of the majority of decision-makers with regard to the difficult situation faced by children with disabilities.

Despite the methodological shortcomings of the 2013 general census of children with disabilities, that census did make it possible to establish that the needs of children with disabilities were substantial and were being very inadequately met in the case of all types of disability.

The problem of quality is a major concern for educational players. Where children with disabilities attend ordinary public schools, in many cases the schools are unable to make high-quality provision for them: materials and infrastructure are inappropriate or non-existent, and teachers are not sufficiently trained.

There was found to be a real gulf in terms of quality of reception, provision, teaching and teacher training between public and private inclusive schools, the private schools scoring better in these respects.

School Fees for Private Specialised and Inclusive Education

# Under the aegis of the APEE association, school fees are FCFA 172,000 per annum at specialised schools, and they are FCFA 55,000 at primary schools, but FCFA 81,000 in 6th year and FCFA 96,000 in the final year.

# At the CEFISE, FCFA 55,000 is needed to pay for one year’s schooling for a child with a disability, including the cost of lodging with a host family.

# At the EFFATA Centre, schooling with boarding for a child with a disability costs FCFA 127,000 per annum. But if the family can obtain a certificate of destitution, it need only pay 27,000 FCFA per annum.

# At the Siloé school, the real cost of schooling for a blind child is FCFA 314,000 per annum. The parents sometimes make contributions in kind. The Fondation Liliane and the Mission Braille sponsor children. Only one child paid the full fee this year.

# At the Renaissance private school, schooling currently costs FCFA 53,000, whereas it used to cost FCFA 42,000. The rise in the cost has caused around 30 pupils to leave the school.

Source: data collected during the survey.

The Gulf Between Privately and Publicly Run Schools

At the Centre EFFATA Ludovic Pavoni (top photos), hearing children sign fluently and systematically during lessons (see the video). The classrooms, which are in excellent condition, are not crowded, and all the teachers have a perfect mastery of sign language.

This contrasts with conditions at the pilot schools in Tanghin-Dassouri, where the class visited during the study consisted of some 70 pupils, including 2 children with impaired hearing. Two teachers were giving the lessons, one of whom was solely engaged in working with the two children with impaired hearing. Although these two children had one teacher assigned to them alone, they were being educated alongside, rather than with their classmates (see the video). This arrangement does not seem efficient in the light of the potential number of children with disabilities not being catered for in the locality. Moreover, the teachers were lacking teaching materials — particularly a sign-language alphabet — and they wished to receive further training.


& Discussions

Influence of Religion & Popular Beliefs

in the Education of Girls with disabilities in Burkina Faso

Negative Representation of Persons with Disabilities Related to the Divine and the Supernatural

In Burkina Faso, views of disability are still coloured by tenacious popular beliefs. Disability is often attributed to curses or seen as a punishment for a sin committed by a relative, whether close or distant. Women are often held responsible for illness, seen as being caused by the mother’s having committed adultery or violated a prohibition. Disability may also be regarded as arising from the will of God, destiny, action by spirits, the anger of ancestors or witchcraft. There is a whole range of different behaviours towards people with disabilities, from rejection to over-protectiveness, from physical elimination to indifference or neglect.

These beliefs are held in Islamic as well as Christian communities.

The training manual for inclusive education teachers (HI-MENA, 2012) contains a good summary of the negative perceptions of children with disabilities in traditional Burkina Faso society:

In the past, cases of infanticide were identified where children born with malformations were killed. They were abandoned, exposed while still alive on anthills or in sacred woods, or discreetly eliminated by means of suffocation, overfeeding or purging with toxic concoctions. The children’s condition was subsequently attributed to punishment by the ancestors, by spirits or by other gods. In some families, children with encephalopathy are regarded as snake children, ‘bringers of bad luck’, spirits or being as animals are to hunters’ families.

In other places, they are often abandoned to their mothers without any support, on the pretext that the mothers have offended against customs or have passed through a sacred wood, a river or a snakes’ cave (the case of Séguénéga in Yatenga province) during their pregnancy.

This negative image of disability in society influences the whole family, which explains why families are often the very first to neglect and discriminate against a member who has a disability, even if the disability has been caused by an accident in adulthood.

Children with disabilities are less well treated within the family. They are hidden or shut away because their families are ashamed of them. Some people say that they ought to be killed, because otherwise their father will die.

FGD with DPOs, Ouagadougou

In the eyes of society, people with disabilities are seen as being less valuable than people without. They constitute a burden — particularly if the disability is severe — and it is often felt that taking care of them is a real luxury.

FGD with DPOs, Ouagadougou

Variations in Perception and Treatment between Ethnic Groups

In some communities, disabilities have not always been perceived negatively. For example, in the Bissa region (Garango), blind people used to be regarded as being gifted with certain powers. In Bissa, the term ‘bou’ means both ‘seer’ and ‘blind person’.

The Peuls do not want to declare their disabled children because of a family’s nobility. They are shut away, and even worse treatment is meted out to children with intellectual deficiencies: they are chained up.

FGD with DPOs, Ouagadougou

Accentuated Negative Representation for Certain Types of Disability and for Girls

Some disabilities are perceived more negatively than others — this applies to epileptics, people with albinism and those with intellectual deficiencies. More and more cases of autism are being diagnosed, but there is a lack of knowledge on how to treat them. The condition remains very poorly understood, both among the general public and among representatives of institutions. Parents are left to deal with the situation as best they can. People with epilepsy are considered impure and contagious. They are often ostracised and subjected to constant social surveillance. In the case of most children, the disease forces them to cease attending school, partly because they are teased by their classmates and partly because of somatic problems associated with the disease, particularly as medicines are not available. It seems that girls are treated less well than boys (cf. the cases of Elisabeth and Eli). They have greater difficulty in finding spouses than men, because it is widely believed that they will pass on the illness to their children

As regards people with albinism, ‘people flee them or accuse them of all kinds of things. They are called witches and sorcerers. They are abducted and killed to obtain their organs’, says the Chair of the association of people with albinism. Sorcery is practised against them or they are sacrificed because every fragment of their body is valued for use in ritual and fetishist practices: their hair is sold at high prices to chiefs or other prominent individuals eager to increase their powers; having unprotected sex with a woman who has albinism is said to be a cure for HIV/AIDS; in order to make a man virile, it is said that the genital organs of a man with albinism need to be procured. People with albinism are simultaneously avoided, rejected, marginalised and courted, but girls remain more vulnerable than boys.

Children with intellectual deficiencies are the most marginalised and the most excluded from society. The director of the APEE says that ‘girls with intellectual deficiencies are more vulnerable because some people believe that having sexual relations with them will bring them prosperity and power’.

True believers know that people with disabilities were created by God. But that requires a good deal of reflection in order to arrive at a point of view that takes the other person into consideration.

An Imam, Ouagadougou

Influence of Religion and Traditional Healers on the Health of Girls with Disabilities

It emerged from the discussions held during this study that negative perceptions of disability are based more on popular beliefs than on religion as such. Far from being responsible for the problem, religion — both Islam and Christianity — imparts a message of benevolence and protection towards people with disabilities.

The researcher team met several families in which the father — or the uncle — was a pastor. For lack of money, the families were relying on God and prayer to cure their children with disabilities.


14 years old, out-of-school in Komki-Ipala

Elisabeth is suffering from epilepsy. Her parents had migrated to Côte d’Ivoire when she was young to become cocoa and rubber farmers. She had stayed behind to live with her uncle, a pastor, 100 km from Ouagadougou, then she had returned to live with her parents when they had come back to the village in Komki-Ipala (25 km from Ouagadougou) the previous year because of the health problems suffered by the father and the little sister aged 9, Sarah, who was suffering from the after-effects of an injection for polio.

Originally, we were supposed to be visiting Sarah, who had been identified by the social welfare officer in Komki-Ipala, but in the process we discovered the existence of Elisabeth.

Elisabeth is no longer going to school, while her sister Sarah has never done so, although the four other brothers and sisters, who are in good health, all attend school (including a daughter aged 19, who is in 4th year, and another aged 6, who has enrolled in the first year of pre-primary education).

Her uncle, who was present during our visit, recalls:

Elisabeth’s fits began during the first year of primary school, on the way to school and then in class. She went on to second year, but the teachers expelled her because it was becoming too difficult to take care of her. She was taken to hospital, where she was given pills, but when she took them, she became crazy. At that point, we called a halt to everything. Thanks to prayer, she is doing better now. But because of her illness, we have not tried to send her back to school.


The treatment of epilepsy is problematic, because the necessary medicines are not available at the dispensaries. The families of children with disabilities are particularly sought out by charlatans who tour Protestant churches to sell very expensive false medicines.

It is also noticeable that parents and teachers make greater efforts for boys with disabilities. For example, Eli is 16 and has epilepsy. His family is poor. His father is a pastor: he does not earn any wages. The family only has a garden, which it cultivates. His mother tells us:



16 years old, out-of-school in Yaoré

Since Eli reached the age of 3, he has had falls: he has fainting fits every 5-6 days. We have been told that he has epilepsy. Despite that, we enrolled him in school at the age of 7, but he stopped attending during the third year of primary school. He was not forced to leave. The teachers did everything in their power to keep him on. It was his own decision to leave. The other pupils teased him when he had fits. He does not speak much. He helps his father in the garden and otherwise does what he likes. We took him to hospital in Tanghin-Dassouri and to the dispensary in Yahoré. He has taken tablets, which cost FCFA 100, since he was small, but they have not helped. This year, a healer came to our church to sell medicines ‘for those with falling sickness’. They are very expensive – FCFA 42,000 – and the treatment only lasts two weeks. We were FCFA 10,000 short, so we only bought half the course. We did not notice any improvement afterwards. Eli wanted to go and live with his older brother, who lives in Ouagadougou, but we did not agree because he has a lot of falling fits.

When families take their children to the dispensary for a consultation, some do not perceive any progress, so they decide to go and see a traditional healer (‘tradi-praticien’), as in the case of Adama, aged 12, who is blind, is enrolled in an ordinary second-year primary class and is being monitored by UN-ABPAM.



12 years old, Year 2 in Gounghin Nord

I lost my sight at the age of 4. My parents took me to the dispensary, but it did not help. After that, they took me to see a healer, so that my eyes could be ‘swept’, to ‘remove the ants from them’. I took a decoction, but my sight deteriorated even further. After that, I stayed at home for a long time. It was my father who heard that there was something here, at UN-ABPAM. Then I was able to go to school.

Influence of Religious Organisations on the Education of Girls with Disabilities

While traditional beliefs can have a negative impact on the health of children with disabilities, the Catholic and Protestant churches nonetheless occupy a central place in their education, particularly in the case of girls with disabilities, because these churches encourage parents to send them to school. With this in mind, Christian organisations intend to introduce large-scale sponsorship to cover school fees, board and lodging, care, transport, clothing and school supplies. Ultimately, parents will hardly have to pay anything.

Where Islamic communities are concerned, Koranic schools and madrasas meet a particular demand from families who wish to combine religious education with the general curriculum or who are more strongly opposed to standard schooling, particularly for girls, because they see such schooling as linked to the Christian religion.

Pupils at Koranic schools are generally boys, while girls are increasingly attending madrasas.

Unlike in Niger, the children with disabilities whom the researchers met during the study do not attend Koranic school in parallel with ordinary or specialised school.

However, children with disabilities are to be found at these schools, where the teachers are not trained to cater for them, as was observed during the visit to a madrasa in Yahoré where a boy with an intellectual deficiency was among the pupils.

The conditions in which pupils are educated at madrasas are particularly precarious in rural settlements.

Madrasa in Yahoré

This madrasa has two classes, one for boys and the other for girls. Only one teacher was there on the day in question, and he was teaching the boys while the girls were left to their own devices.


Intersectionality &

Multiple Discrimination

Gender & Disability

Impressive Progress with the Primary Schooling of Girls

Social and cultural factors go a long way to explain the fact that girls receive less schooling in Burkina Faso and, more generally, in Sub-Saharan Africa. Traditional conceptions of the roles of men and women influence the investment made by the family and the community in children’s education. Boys are pointed in the direction of activities outside the domestic sphere and seen as future money-earners, which means that they are more likely to be sent to school, which could potentially enable them to move on to a paid job; the same does not apply to girls, who are confined to domestic activities. Women are often regarded as perpetual ‘strangers’, because they are expected to marry and go to live with their husband’s family. However, it should be observed that mentalities are gradually changing in Burkina Faso and the importance of investing in the schooling of girls is increasingly mentioned by ordinary people.

An imam confirms this trend:

It is better to have a girl than a boy nowadays, because people are realising that girls will do more to support their families when they succeed. They find work. Even when they marry, they look after their parents. That is why people send their daughters to school. Boys, on the other hand, are concerned only with themselves: they have no money left to spend on taking care of their families.

In recent years, remarkable efforts have been made in the field of education, particularly with regard to gender equity. Whereas, at the beginning of this century, 60% of children in Burkina Faso were not attending school, the gross school attendance rate in 2016/2017 was 88.5% (88.1% for boys and 89.0% for girls).

Progress has been made with the school completion rate of girls in primary school, and parity between girls and boys has been achieved since 2013. Girls and boys now enter and complete primary schooling at virtually identical rates. In the 2016 primary school intake, 58.8% of boys were enrolled and 65.7% of girls. In all provinces, a greater proportion of girls than boys were enrolled in primary school. These encouraging figures show that, in primary, there was little disparity between girls and boys and that girls were sometimes more successful than boys.

This progression is due to the introduction of a national gender policy (National Strategy for the Acceleration of Girls’ Education - SNAEF) 2012-2021 heavily financed by UNICEF to promote girls’ access to, and continued attendance at, primary schools, using such means as the provision of grants and school kits, free distribution of food, improvements to the school environment (separate latrines and water supply points), the provision of means of transport (bicycles), etc.

However, a study by a Canadian agency shows that, while girls achieve virtually identical results to boys – and sometimes even outperform them – in the lower classes of primary school, that ceases to be the case as from the third and fourth years of primary school. At secondary level, far fewer girls than boys attend school, and they also have poorer success rates. The problem of school retention is greater in the case of girls. In 2016, only 13% of girls in post-primary education reached secondary level. This disparity between boys and girls continues in higher education and later in the professional world.

But Schooling of Girls with Disabilities Continues to Lag Behind

Despite the efforts made and the progress achieved with regard to the schooling of girls, the results remain particularly unfavourable for girls with disabilities. For the parents, investing in education is a kind of intergenerational insurance policy.

Thus, a decision on whether to educate a child with a disability is a rational choice based primarily on economic rather than social considerations. The opportunity cost incurred in sending girls with disabilities to school is too high.

Parents do not wish to pay for their children if they have disabilities: that is true in general, because there will not be any return on such children, but they invest even less in girls with disabilities.

FGD with DPOs, Ouagadougou

Girls without disabilities are already marginalised. The same pattern is repeated where there is a disability. It is difficult to get them to come to school and keep coming.

FGD with DPOs, Ouagadougou


Girls with Disabilities Have a Lower Enrolment Rate than Boys with Disabilities

Fewer girls with disabilities were enrolled at the establishments visited during the study, and the numbers fall drastically with increasing age.

Age Discrimination

The age variable very often aggravates discrimination against girls with disabilities compared to boys with disabilities, particularly because of the gender difference in treatment at the age of puberty.

When girls with disabilities do manage to attend school, they often start at a later age than boys. Consequently, they are older than girls without disabilities when they complete the primary cycle.

The age of puberty is a watershed and a sensitive period in the life of a girl, because it is the time when gender inequalities are accentuated because of household tasks and social pressure relating to marriage and menstruation.

On the one hand, girls are more likely than boys to drop out of school because they repeat more and perform less well than boys. On the other hand, they may be withdrawn from school by parents to prevent unwanted pregnancy or to prepare for marriage.

The Issue of Domestic Work

A survey by the MENA ministry in 2005 revealed that 88% of the girls surveyed had to do domestic work on school days, as against 32% of boys, which prevented them from learning properly. However, in some regions, neither boys nor girls go to school when the harvest season is approaching, or they are taken out of school to guard livestock.

The 2013 General Census of Children with Disabilities found that domestic tasks occupied an important place in the lives of children with disabilities, as 27.4% were required to perform them. In some cases, girls with disabilities are expected to do more domestic work than girls without.

One head teacher told us the story of a girl with albinism who regularly missed lessons because she was exploited by her family.

She has been rejected and beaten by her family. It was her grandmother who took her to live with her, because she (i.e. the grandmother) was dependent. The granddaughter runs her household, but the grandmother does not worry about her falling behind at school on account of domestic work.

Although the head teacher knew about the exploitation and the rejection suffered by this girl, she would nonetheless prefer to exclude her from school because she is not setting a good example’.

The Issue of Early Marriage

Likewise according to the MENA survey, pregnancy and early marriage are the main factors which cause girls to drop out of school. Burkina Faso is among the 10 African countries most affected by child marriage. The law allows a girl to marry at 17, whereas the minimum legal age for men is 20. 10% of women marry before the age of 15 and 52% before age 18.

Studies show that this practice is not declining. Its persistence seems to be linked to strong social acceptance: 44% of the population think it acceptable for a girl to marry before age 18. The national strategy for the prevention and elimination of child marriage (2016-2025) will provide a real opportunity to reduce the extent of the phenomenon if the measures are applied.

In the case of girls with disabilities, according to DPOs:

The problem is not early marriage but rather late marriage, because they have to be found a husband, and that is more difficult for women with disabilities than for men with disabilities. Except in Kaya, where blind men cannot marry. It is enough for a man with disabilities to have the financial capacities to meet his family’s needs: in that case he will stand a chance of finding a wife. By contrast, women with disabilities are shunned by men, simply because they do not think that such women can make good wives.

As a rule, girls with disabilities are married to men with the same type of disability, but it is not easy to find one. If it proves impossible, such girls are condemned to stay with their parents and be a burden to them. They are more likely to be withdrawn from school to help at home, because their families do not believe in their capabilities. That is why it is important for them to continue their studies, because then if they do not find husbands, at least they will be able to become independent by working.

Early marriage of girls with disabilities occurs mainly among the Peuls and in certain regions such as Sahel and Est. In Bogo, they are given in marriage without a dowry.

FGD with DPOs, Ouagadougou

Many poor families try to marry off their daughters with disabilities as soon as possible in order to shift the burden of caring for them. Some parents are willing to give their daughters with disabilities in marriage “for free”, i.e. without asking for a bride price.

FGD with associations in Sikasso

Aggravating Factors

Poverty and Place of Residence

National completion rates for the various educational cycles in Burkina Faso conceal various disparities: the fact that relatively few girls attend school in comparison with boys, while similar disadvantages apply to children from rural areas in comparison with those from urban areas, children from poor households in comparison with the more affluent, orphans in comparison with those who are not orphans, and children with disabilities in comparison with those without. Spatial disparities are particularly significant.

In certain cases, living in a rural area may be more detrimental to children’s schooling than being female. Girls who are double orphans and live in rural areas face seriously limited chances of school attendance. Similarly, being a girl with a disability in a rural area constitutes a major obstacle to schooling. Major disparities also exist between regions — particularly between the Centre region and the Sahel and Est regions.

The Issue of Begging

Whereas the phenomenon of begging by people with disabilities is becoming increasingly worrying in major urban centres, the 2013 survey of people with disabilities shows that only a small percentage of children with disabilities are begging: 0.5% in the Sahel region and 0.2% in the Centre and Centre-Est regions, while nationally the level is 0.2%. However, the 2013 census did not give a breakdown by gender.

For some, begging would concern more Muslims than Christians. This can be explained by the large number of talibé children.

According to a survey on begging conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Demography in 2011, distinctions are drawn between different forms of begging: begging by Koranic school pupils, mothers of twins and people with disabilities. Begging by Koranic school pupils is the most widespread, while begging by people with disabilities is confined to the aged.

We observed that in Christian families, children with disabilities got more help and support from both Catholic and Protestant churches. For example, during a FGD with the parents of disabled children, a mother came accompanied by the pastor of her church. Her child was able to benefit from specialised care thanks to the intervention of a Christian doctor attending her church.

In The Land of Honest Men (i.e. Burkina Faso), begging is shameful. No matter how serious a disability may be, it is inconceivable that one might become a beggar. To do so dishonours both disabled people and their families.

FGD with DPOs, Ouagadougou

A person who begs is someone without support. Families would like to send children with disabilities to school, but the main problem is extreme poverty!

FGD with DPOs, Ouagadougou

Transport Issues Leading to Dropout

It emerged from interviews that the lack of transport, as well as its cost, was one of the main reasons why children drop out of school, because specialised schools and inclusive schools (which are mostly private) are mainly located in the major urban centres. For example, parents living in rural settlements in Ouagadougou have to pay FCFA 27,000 per term for transport in order for their children to attend the APEE, which is a lot of money, bearing in mind that the interprofessional guaranteed minimum wage is FCFA 33,139 (EUR 51).

At EJA, sponsored children do not pay anything, even for transport. However, according to the director, this does not necessarily have a positive effect because families become disengaged:

When it was time for the school holidays, children remained at school because nobody came to fetch them: their parents did not have time. An application was made to ‘Community-Based Rehabilitation’ to arrange transport for them, but problems arose because some children had been forgotten and they were reduced to begging. After that happened, a halt was called. Now, parents are required to come: otherwise they have to pay the host family.

The long distances on foot between the family home and ordinary public school can also endanger the safety of children with disabilities, particularly girls, which is a further disincentive for parents to send girls with disabilities to school. Establishing school canteens would enable children to spend the whole day at school without having to go home at lunchtime.

The State contribution is not enough to pay for a canteen the whole year round. In March, the stock of food is already exhausted, and parents’ associations have to make arrangements to supplement it for the rest of the year.

Former Director of Inclusive Education, Ouagadougou

Housing Problems for Female Students with Disabilities

The lack of accommodation in cases where families live a long way from the school is also a major obstacle to the schooling of girls with disabilities. According to the director of the EJA, boarding is not the best solution for children with disabilities:

UN-ABPAM initially set up boarding schools, but the children no longer wanted to leave the school and go home to their villages because there they were not well treated and looked after. During the rainy season, they were left at home on their own. After the summer holidays, they returned dirty and malnourished. They had been shut indoors and not allowed to go out. It was therefore decided to use host families. An effort has accordingly been made to raise awareness at markets and among imams. The host families do not come from the affluent classes but rather rank among the poor. They receive a small incentive (FCFA 13,000 per month / FCFA 117,000 per annum).

The disabled children’s families are asked to contribute a little and give something to the host families, often in kind: cereals and condiments, for example. But now the children no longer want to leave their host families during the holidays.

Having relatives in town makes it easier to send girls with disabilities to school. DPOs are often the only parties looking for ways of providing housing, because of the abdication of responsibility by parents and the State, and they encounter particular difficulties in the case of girls with disabilities. For example, during the project to decentralise primary schooling in the regions, UN-ABPAM found it hard to persuade girls to come to school and to remain there — although the association had funding from the SHC — because it could not find host families for them. ‘Because of ethnic and clan problems, families are reluctant to host girls with disabilities’, explains the project manager.

Specificities Related to the Type and Degree of Disability

According to the 2013 census of children with disabilities, the most common deficiency is in the field of mobility (26%), followed by vision (11%), hearing (10.8%), both hearing and language combined (9.7%) and epilepsy (9.3%). 150 children with cleft lips were identified. The regional distribution of types of disability indicated that motor or physical deficiencies remained the most common types in all regions. The regions of Hauts-Bassins and Centre had the highest prevalence of eyesight problems, while the Nord region was more dominated by mental health problems.

In most cases, there are no solutions for severe disabilities. Parents do not even try to send their children to school. Many do not have the means to send them to specialised or private schools, particularly if they live in rural areas, and the vast majority of ordinary public schools do not have the capacity to receive them.

Hearing Impairment

According to DPOs, when children with impaired hearing or eyesight manage to attend school, they find it difficult to continue beyond primary because the teaching at secondary schools is not suitable for them. DPOs say that it is more difficult for post-primary schools to cater for children with impaired hearing than for those with impaired eyesight. For example, at CEFISE, which is recognised as one of the most advanced establishments from the point of view of inclusive education, few children with impaired hearing reach secondary level. Of 1,791 pupils (in general and technical education), only 70 children with disabilities — of all kinds combined — are attending lessons. Only two children with impaired hearing are in 5th and 6th years, both girls.

However, at primary level, there are many children with impaired hearing, and they are mixed with other pupils in inclusive classes where the teacher teaches while signing and where hearing children have a good knowledge of sign language. In secondary, because of staff shortages, these two girls with impaired hearing did not have interpreters to help them in class, because the school had opted — as suitably trained teachers were not available — to place them in vocational classes, where pupils with impaired hearing were more numerous (8 to 10 children in the 2nd year of the electro-mechanical course, 2 of whom were girls, see the video). They therefore have to manage together with other – hearing – children, who know how to sign, or else to obtain assistance from the interpreter at quiet times. In the 5th year class, it was once observed that the girl with impaired hearing was asleep at the back of the class. She was isolated and could not follow what was going on, particularly as the teacher did not know sign language and did not know how to involve her in the lesson.


Photo 1: Inclusive class in 4th year primary

Photo 2: Integrated 5th year class


Visual Impairment

More children with visual impairments enter secondary school. 61 are attending public schools and are monitored by UN-ABPAM. There are more girls in post-primary, but they gradually disappear at the higher or vocational stages. According to the director of the EJA, ‘some children have managed to obtain their primary examination certificate, but it is difficult for them to enter the next stage of education. When they do, they get bad marks, they are discouraged and they give up.' Less attention is paid to their progress, and the secondary teachers have not learned Braille.

According to UN-ABPAM, the transmission of knowledge to children with visual deficiencies requires teaching in Braille and appropriate documents, which unfortunately are not available in sufficient numbers for lack of reproduction equipment. As Burkina Faso does not have a Braille printer, educationalists are compelled to transcribe and reproduce their teaching materials manually, with high transaction costs (cost of Braille paper and printing sheet by sheet).

As regards the production of documents for use in teaching children with visual deficiencies, UN-ABPAM, which is the only specialised organisation that has reproduction equipment, cannot cope with the demand.

In addition, the annual cost of supplies and teaching materials for a visually impaired child in primary school is extremely high (approximately FCFA 88,400).

The President of UN-ABPAM is working on a project with the NGO Light for the World to develop a digital application to facilitate access to books.

Lastly, in the case of pupils with impaired eyesight, the responses unanimously favoured integrated education for the initial years of schooling, thus confirming the relevance of Transitional School Integration Classes (CTIS) for this target group. The director of the Renaissance private school would like to reduce the duration of CTIS to one year, so that pupils can be integrated into pre-primary education.


Photo 1: Integrated class (3rd-year primary) in Gounghin

Photo 2: Sample transcription of school work done in Braille

Photo 3: Inclusive class (3rd-year primary ) at the Renaissance private school

Gender-Based Violence &

Protection of Girls with Disabilities

The 2013 census of children with disabilities categorised the types of discrimination suffered by children with disabilities, observing that the most common was insults (46.8%), which exceed such other types as being ignored (18.5%) and physical violence (12.7%). The census did not cover gender-based violence, although it was possible to observe that girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse.

There is a serious lack of information and awareness among parents, educators, institutional players and children. Reproductive health protection programmes and awareness-raising programmes concerning gender-based violence need to be developed to guarantee their physical integrity and prevent sexual abuse, particularly in bodies catering for intellectual deficiencies.

For example, at the Association of Parents, Friends and Sympathisers of Children with Encephalopathy (APEE), boys and girls are segregated because boys may engage in violent behaviour and have heightened sexual needs.

DPOs draw attention to the problem of looking after girls with disabilities if they fall victim to rape and unwanted pregnancy.

No body or public policy exists to assist these young mothers with disabilities. Moreover, the phenomenon remains largely invisible because it is very little documented.

They cannot stay in their families, so end up on the streets. They have to manage as best they can if their families do not have the means to take care of them. But it is also true that some girls with disabilities seek to have children deliberately so as to obtain help.

FGD with DPOs, Ouagadougou

Analysis of Facilitating Elements & Recommendations

1 / Children with Disabilities & their Parents

It has been observed that the vast majority of parents of children with disabilities are struggling with socio-cultural burdens, which results in the children’s being discriminated against, sidelined or shut away. Meanwhile, the parents are often unaware of the potential of children with disabilities to learn and succeed at school.

However, the 2013 census of children with disabilities showed that families were aware of the needs of their children with disabilities and wished to provide them with a high-quality education: 93.6% of the heads of household surveyed said that medical care was their top priority, followed by educational needs (77.9%) and training needs (76.1%). These figures demonstrate that the argument that families should receive support is relevant and should be acted on.

In general, it is the mother who is keen on getting a daughter educated and who pushes for her to attend school, but this research has revealed the decisive role of the father (or more generally of a father figure, who may be a brother or an uncle) in the successful schooling of girls with disabilities.

Where parents and family members have had their awareness raised, they are confident that children with disabilities will succeed, and the children — particularly the girls — are sometimes more successful at school than children without disabilities, as in the case of Awa, a blind girl aged 12 attending third-year primary at the Renaissance school.



12 years old, third-year primary at Renaissance school

Awa lost her sight during the second year of pre-primary school. It was her aunt, who lived in Ouagadougou, that brought her to this school. Her family lives more than 100 km from the capital. After a year at this school, her mother withdrew her because she wanted to protect her and did not believe in her abilities. Her aunt and the head teacher managed to persuade her mother to let her return to school. Today, Awa is one of the best pupils in her class and is clearly very sharp-witted. In reply to the question, ‘what do you need to improve your life at the moment?’, Awa spontaneously said: ‘I need knowledge!’

Portrait of Awa

To read the subtitles in French, activate the option on Youtube.


2 / Children without Disabilities & their Parents

According to the 2013 census of children with disabilities, the main sources of discrimination against children with disabilities are, in order of importance, other children (93.4%), neighbours (60.2%), parents (25.3%) and educators (7%). Parents of children without disabilities do not set a good example, contributing to stigmatisation by other pupils.

However, after children without disabilities have had their awareness raised, they display empathy and solidarity with their disabled fellows. They provide precious assistance to visually impaired children, both in the classroom, where they can dictate what is written on the blackboard, and outside, to assist with moving around.

It has been observed that at inclusive schools where children who can hear learn sign language very early (as at the EFFATA Centre or CEFISE), they act as valuable links with the outside world. Above all, these hearing children consider that learning sign language is a real opportunity for them because they acquire ‘additional knowledge which will be useful to them because they will be able to help others’.

Conversely, when children without disabilities have not had their awareness raised, their teasing is often one of the reasons why children with disabilities attending ordinary schools become discouraged and drop out. In such situations, the latter miss their fellow pupils and their teachers at their previous specialised school.

3 / Political, Religious, and Community Leaders

Political, religious and traditional leaders have a good deal of influence in their communities. They can play a crucial role in raising awareness. Although religion — both Islam and Christianity — encourages benevolence towards people with disabilities, the practices of believers are sometimes indicative of attitudes that are far less welcoming. Meanwhile, when it comes to gender issues, some religious and traditional leaders do not encourage the schooling of girls because they consider that ‘modern’ schooling perverts traditional values.

4 / DPOs, Women's Associations, and Structures Promoting Inclusive Education

DPOs have played a pioneering role in inclusive education. They seek to expand their field of action with regard to secondary schooling and vocational training.

Organisations that promote inclusive education have anticipated the difficulties of employability and job hunting experienced by children with disabilities by developing vocational training programmes complementary to those available in the formal education system. They deplore the lack of vocational training centres and of openings for their pupils.

There are numerous civil-society and religious actors, which coexist without cooperating. They rarely share their experiences and remain confined to two types of disability (visual and auditory).

Each of them seeks to provide assistance, but their actions remain isolated, despite the existence of multiple coordination networks (REPEI, RENOH and FEBAH, in particular) because they suffer from problems of leadership and from disagreements.

Organisations promoting inclusive education receive assistance from international foundations and NGOs, but their funding tends to decline. The organisations are compelled to find fresh partners and other sources of funding.

5 / Educational Stakeholders

One feature of the education system is that there are too few teachers who have been trained in an inclusive approach, and not all those that are available are of sufficient quality. However, it has been observed that teachers are playing a decisive role in the schooling of children (for example, in preventing early marriage) and that training bears fruit. Heads of Basic Education Districts (CCEBs) who had received training from HI have remained proactive in developing interesting projects — for example, organising eye tests for all children in the district with the aid of a German NGO, OneDollarGlasses, where children were able to obtain spectacles free of charge.

6 / Institutions & Public Policies

On the one hand, it was observed that the progress in the schooling of girls has been made possible by specific measures relating to gender. On the other hand, we saw that Burkina Faso has quite a complete system of law and legislation in the field of disability. However, it has as yet to be applied.

HI’s approach is based primarily on supporting Village Development Committees (CVDs), which were created in 2006 as part of the modernisation of local governance.

A municipal multidisciplinary committee — bringing together, in particular, representatives of the municipal council, the CEB, the Ministries of Social Welfare and Health, AMEs, APEs and DPOs — is specifically responsible for identifying children with disabilities who are not attending school.

However, in practice, these communal commissions were observed not to be very dynamic. There is a lack of political will at local level, because disability is not a priority.

According to the members of these commissions, the investigators lack the means to visit families and identify children with disabilities. Above all, it seems to be very difficult to identify them, because parents hide them.

The Provincial Directorate of National Education and Literacy (DPENA) gave grants to children with disabilities. Although this is a laudable initiative, it remains very limited. According to the Head of a CCEB, 'the Directorate asked each CCEB to institute a quota of 10 beneficiaries, although we had identified 300 children with disabilities in our district. In the end, the measure was arbitrary and the amount of the grant was small — some FCFA 15,000 per child — and it is not known what use the parents made of the money'.



There is a need for a double approach to promoting the education of girls with disabilities, which involves improved access and quality education for all children as well as targeted programmes for girls with disabilities in particular. To allow the planning of these policies, there is an urgent need to fill the data gap on disability and gender.