Senufo-Tagba of West Africa

illustrated village including buildings and a woman


children holding hands pictograph

The Senufo refer to education as the teaching that goes on within the village: learning about Senufo culture, learning a trade, learning how to keep a house, etc. Schooling is when a child is sent off to an actual school building.

a group of children
Children at a village gathering.

Formal Schooling

There are few classrooms in Burkina Faso, so few students get formal schooling. There are 3 levels of learning in formal schooling: 6 years of primary school (begun around ages 6 or 7), 7 years of secondary school, and from 4 to 8 years of college. The first 3 years of primary schooling are done in the same classroom, so new students can only be accepted into that classroom when the previous class has finished its third year. A student will often have to live away from home to attend school.

In the primary classrooms, students spend the first couple of years concentrating on reading and writing. This is not done in the people's native language, but in French. Students caught speaking their native language will have bones hung around their necks and be called names. Kids will spy on each other, reporting who is not speaking French. Besides reading and writing, the subjects studied in the primary school include biology, geography, history, and math. At the end of the 6 years, the student takes a final test. If the test is passed, the student may graduate. If not, the student may attend the school for one more year and then re-take the test. If the second test is failed, the student is not allowed to return. The students with the highest grades on the final primary test will be allowed to continue on to secondary school. There are even fewer secondary classrooms than primary classrooms, so only approximately one student in ten continues school. In secondary classrooms, the subjects include math, chemistry, history, P.E., physics, and either English, German, Spanish, or Arabic. The students also study geography, concentrating one whole year on the geography of France and one whole year on the geography of the United States.

Even fewer students will attend college than attended secondary school. After taking 4 or 5 years of college courses, a student can earn the equivalent of a master's degree. After 3 or 4 more years of study, a doctorate can be earned.

In school, the students are taught to have a critical mind, to be able to hold discussions on the subjects they are learning. The teachers will expect students to think about and understand what they are being taught.

a large group of children
A group of schoolchildren.