History of Education in Chad

The establishment of Protestant mission schools in southern Chad in the 1920s marked the beginning of Western education in the country. From the outset, the colonial administration required that all instruction be in French, with the exception of religion classes. A standard curriculum was imposed on all institutions desiring official recognition and government subsidies.

Education in Chad is chiefly focused on primary instruction. Until 1942, students who desired a secular secondary education had to go to schools in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, severely limiting the number of secondary-school students. State secondary schools were opened in Chad in 1942, but recognized certificate programs did not begin until the mid-1950s.

At independence in 1960, the government established a goal of universal primary education, and school attendance was made compulsory until age twelve. Nevertheless, the development of standard curricula was hampered by the limited number of schools, the existence of two- and three-year establishments alongside the standard five- and seven-year collèges and lycées, and the Muslim preference for Quranic education. Even so, by the mid-1960s 17 percent of students between the ages of six and eight were in school. Quranic schools throughout the Saharan and Sahelian zones teach students to read Arabic and recite Quranic verse. In Chad, modern Islamic secondary schools have included the Ecole Mohamed Illech, founded in 1918.

Despite the government's efforts, overall educational levels remained low at the end of the first decade of independence. In 1971 about 88 percent of men and 99 percent of women over the age of fifteen could not read, write, or speak French, which at the time was the only official national language; literacy in Arabic stood at 7.8 percent. In 1982 the overall literacy rate stood at about 15 percent. Major problems have hindered the development of Chadian education since independence. Financing has been very limited. Limited facilities and personnel also have made it difficult for the education system to provide adequate instruction. Overcrowding is a major problem; some classes have up 100 students, many of whom are repeaters. In the years just after independence, many primary-school teachers had only marginal qualifications. On the secondary level, the situation was even worse.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Chad made considerable progress in dealing with problems of facilities and personnel. To improve instruction, review sessions and refresher programmes have been instituted for primary-school teachers. On the secondary level, increasing numbers of Chadians have taken their places in the ranks of the faculty. Furthermore, during the 1971-72 school year, the Université du Tchad opened its doors.

Another problem at independence was that the French curricula of Chadian schools limited their effectiveness. Primary instruction was in French, although most students did not speak that language when they entered school. In addition, the academic program inherited from the French did not prepare students for employment options in Chad. Beginning in the late 1960s, the government attempted to address these problems. Model schools discarded the French-style classical education in favor of a new approach that taught children to reinterpret and modify their social and economic environment.

The Chadian Civil War also posed problems to education. Lack of security in vast parts of the country has made it difficult to send teachers to their posts and to maintain them there. In addition, the mobility occasioned by the war has created havoc with attempts to get children to attend classes regularly. The diversion of resources to the conflict has also prevented the government from maintaining the expenditure levels found at independence. Finally, the violence has taken its toll among teachers, students, and facilities.

The government has made major efforts to overcome these problems. In 1983 the Ministry of Planning and Reconstruction reported that the opening of the 1982-83 school year was the most successful since the upheavals of 1979. In 1984 the Université du Tchad, the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, and the Ecole Nationale des Travaux Publics reopened their doors as well.

In the late 1980s, the Ministry of Education had administrative responsibility for all formal schooling. Because of years of civil strife, however, local communities had assumed many of the ministry's functions, including the construction and maintenance of schools, and payment of teachers' salaries.

However, the government is unable to adequately fund education, and parents in practice make significant payments for tuition and teacher salaries. In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 76 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 61 percent. Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. In 2004, 39.6 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years were attending school. Educational opportunities for girls are limited, mainly due to cultural traditions. Fewer girls enroll in secondary school than boys, primarily due to early marriage. In 1999, 54.0 percent of children starting primary school reached grade 5.