UNICEF France publishes unprecedented study on the schooling of children in Guyana

Paris, July 8, 2021 – In Guyana, 56.3% of the population is under 30 years of age. Although Guyana’s academy is one of the smallest in France, with some 85,000 children enrolled in school by 2020, some estimates suggest that more than 10,000 children do not attend school. On the other hand, French Guiana is facing strong growth in its school population, without the educational offer meeting real needs. However, the right to education is guaranteed to all children in French territory in accordance with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In this context, the study, conducted between September 2019 and April 2021 by a team of researchers from the universities of Guyana and Nanterre.(1)compiles an inventory of education in French Guiana, in particular through field surveys in urban areas of the coast of French Guiana (Matoury, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni), and isolated territories on the border rivers “from Guyana (Camopi, Grand-Santi). It highlights certain issues common throughout the territory.

Concerns about equity and quality

Regarding school access, UNICEF France is concerned:

  • insufficient school infrastructure generating occupancy rates of up to 150% for certain establishments
  • school enrollment difficulties for many families, facing illegal requirements of administrative documents and “refusals of reply”, in particular for many foreign children or children living in informal settlements,
  • difficulties in accessing essential services related to schooling, such as school transport (long, expensive and even risky journeys for many children), accommodation and school catering, which are the main factors of absenteeism and school dropout, while a very large number of children live below the poverty line.(2) and are educated outside their place of residence.

Regarding the quality of education, the study also raises concerns:

  • The structural lack of tenured teachers, offset in part by the promotion of professional mobility from France and the massive use of contracted but untrained workers.
  • Despite some relevant features, linguistic and cultural diversity is hardly taken into account, while it is estimated that 70% of children do not have French as their mother tongue, whether they speak a foreign language or one of the 12 French languages ​​spoken in the territory.
  • Distance, both geographical, cultural and linguistic, between families and schools, it impedes forms of cooperation that are, however, necessary for academic success.

Recommendations to improve the situation

The results of this research echo the findings of UNICEF France, which has been present in French Guiana since the beginning of the 2020 academic year. The study includes recommendations to improve Guyana’s children’s access to school and their academic success, among which UNICEF France identifies 3 decisive levers for a greater effectiveness of the right to education:

  • ensure the effective implementation of compulsory education in particular for children in isolated territories and foreign children, in compliance with the Law n ° 2019-791, of 26 July 2019, of school of confidence and the decree n ° 2020-811 of 29 June 2020; register all school enrollment applications for reliable figures and plan the construction of the school according to the updated needs,
  • evaluate the supply of school accommodation for students who are part of their families in boarding schools and host families in order to make an accurate diagnosis; urgently proceed with the renewal of boarding schools that require it in order to offer students away from their families dignified and reassuring reception conditions, including weekends and school holidays for children who do not they can go home; Supervise, support and control the conditions of reception of students to host families to prevent any phenomenon of abuse,
  • develop the professionalism and sustainability of “mediating” positions between educational institutions and families, inside and outside the school, for the benefit of students and children who do not attend school, in particular by having “peer support”.

In accordance with its mission to be the guarantor of the effectiveness of children’s rights in France and in the face of territorial disparities especially evident overseas in France, UNICEF France took the initiative to carry out this study in Guyana. This report is a wake-up call that should urge the French authorities to act urgently and effectively so that the International Convention on the Rights of the Child is fully respected everywhere and at all times.

UNICEF France is committed to working with educational institutions and stakeholders in Guyana to contribute to the greater effectiveness of the right to education for all children.

  1. Grégory Bériet, Professor of History, Silvia Lopes Macedo, Professor of Sociology, Abdelhak Qribi, Professor of Educational Sciences (University of Guyana) / Alexandra Vié, PhD student in Sociology at Graphes (University of Paris Nanterre).
  2. According to INSEE, in 2017, half of Guyana’s population lives below the national poverty line (INSEE analyzes Guyana, No. 46, June 2020).

Please access the summary of the report here
Access the report here

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