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Cablegate: Gon Fires Teachers As Nigerien Schools Fail A

VZCZCXRO1976
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0788 2071631
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261631Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2698
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS NIAMEY 000788

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT: FOR AF/W, BACHMAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI KPAO NG
SUBJECT: GON FIRES TEACHERS AS NIGERIEN SCHOOLS FAIL A
SECOND TEST

REF: NIAMEY 746

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SUMMARY
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1. Following the country's worst ever academic exam results
(reftel), the Government of Niger's (GON) Council of
Ministers announced on July 14 the firing without pension of
19 tenured high school teachers and the termination of one
contract teacher, in connection with alleged fraud in the
administration of the 2005 school exams. The GON also decided
that all diplomas proven to have been conferred fraudulently
would be revoked. While applauding the GON's overall
anti-corruption efforts, Nigeriens have mixed feelings about
the results of education exams this year, the role and
sources of corruption in the educational sector, and the
GON's decision of July 14. Once the dust settles, this year's
exam results may lead to a vital national conversation on
school reform. END SUMMARY

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DISTRESSFUL YET EXPLICABLE FAILURE
------------------------------------

2. Nationwide, 11.93% of Nigerien 8th graders passed the
Brevet d'Etudes du Premier Cycle (BEPC ) middle school
leaving exam). This was the lowest passing rate ever recorded
for the exam. Provisional results of the Baccalaurat BAC -
high school leaving exam), which appeared this week, showed
that High School seniors fared no better - approximately 15%
passed. This rate is expected to rise to about 25% after the
oral section is administered this week. NOTE: Students who
did not pass the BAC may elect to take an oral component,
through which many can accumulate the points necessary to
pass the BAC as a whole. END NOTE While the population
expressed deep concern over these results, the GON and the
civil society &understood8 the situation in different ways.

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3. For the Minister of Secondary and Higher Education
Ousmane Galadima, this "catastrophic situation" was due to
"our behavior as parents'...'we have instilled a culture of
cheapness and mediocrity to these innocent young people."
However, many Nigeriens attribute the situation not only to
the students, performance, the teachers, lack of
motivation, or rampant corruption, but also to certain GON
policies: inflated grading and "social promotion," and the
hiring of large numbers of under-qualified contract teachers.
Teachers, unions and civil society groups decried what they
called the GON's "double standards" in addressing the exam
fraud issue. They believe that the GON's firing of the 19
teachers was illegal, and that solutions targeting only the
public servants who took bribes - and not the influential
private citizens who offered them - are unfair. Nigerien law,
after all, punishes both bribe-givers and bribe-takers.
Teachers, unions, with the support of the civil society,
announced their intention of challenging the decision in the
courts.

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COMMENT
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4. The fifteen-year decline in Niger's public education
system has produced some particularly disquieting, and
obvious, results of late. As noted reftel, the GON's
successful attempts to control corruption in the exams
process has exposed the full extent of the schools, failure,
and occasioned some real soul searching by all parties. This
process has been reinforced by this week's firings and weak
BAC results. Still, the GON and the civil society differ over
the solutions - most pointedly over the sources of corruption
and the need for enhanced public investment in schools. A
real solution to the problems faced by Niger's failing public
schools would likely hue to a middle course - acknowledging
that problems derive both from corrupters and corruptees;
from a lack of public investment in education, and from a
culture that increasingly holds up the model of the
illiterate but wealthy trader rather than that of the
well-educated civil servant or teacher as the symbol of
success. END COMMENT
ALLEN

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