Mauritania: pupils against overcrowded classes

published 5 February 2013 updated 7 February 2013

On 28 January, pupils at a secondary school in Aere Mbar, a small village in southern Mauritania, ransacked the school, slightly injuring one of their teachers. They broke and burnt doors, tables and windows. This furious outburst was triggered by severe overcrowding in one of their classes: 105 pupils.

Class size matters One of the Mauritanian unions affiliated to EI, the Syndicat National de l’Enseignement Secondaire (SNES), sounded the alarm over the excessive overcrowding in Mauritanian state schools.

“The Aere Mbar pupils have sent out a distress call, a violent SOS, and their cry for help is the same as all pupils in Mauritanian state schools.  The severe shortage of teachers and classrooms is a serious obstacle to the delivery of public education in Mauritania,” said the SNES General Secretary, Sidi Idoumou Boudide.

“Too many pupils are often crowded into tiny classrooms.  The air in these overcrowded classrooms is unbreathable, it is stressful and repellent,” he added. “This cry of rage is a call to action for our government.  It risks spreading like wildfire, inspiring other similar reactions, and will probably become uncontrollable if nothing is done to pull our education system out of freefall.”

Teacher shortage Both EI and the Mauritanian trade unions have repeatedly warned about the poor conditions faced by teaching staff, in particular low pay, insufficient training, and the tendency of governments to manage financial crises to the detriment of teachers.

Poor school results, the uneven distribution of educational materials, and the inequality between the urban and rural areas in terms of access to schools are other major challenges to the development of a good quality public education system in Mauritania.