Why are so many children out of school in Mayotte?

Why are so many children out of school in Mayotte?

Mayotte is the youngest department in France. According to INSEE estimates, Mayotte is populated by approximately 310 inhabitants. the 1er January 2023; the average age is 23 years old compared to 41 years old in mainland France; more than 60% of the Mahorean population is under 25 years old. With the advancing age of compulsory education at age 3 from the start of the 2019 school year, more than one in three residents (i.e. 36,3% on 1er January 2023) is therefore of compulsory school age.

On August 7, 1990, France ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child which stipulates in its article 28 that "the States parties recognize the right of the child to education and, in particular, with a view to ensuring the exercise of this right progressively and on the basis of equality of opportunity: they make primary education compulsory and free for all and they encourage the organization of different forms of secondary education, both general and vocational, make them open and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures.”

This fundamental right concerns all children living on French territory, regardless of their legal status. However, in Mayotte, this right is not respected. In recent research, entitled Non-schooling and dropping out of school in Mayotte: counting and understanding, and based on two methods called "by addition" and "by subtraction", we make two estimates. Respectively 5 and 379 children in Mayotte of school age are not (i.e. almost 9%). This research thus directly raises questions about the public education policy implemented within the Republic.

What does it mean to be educated in Mayotte?

First of all, let us note that the question of the naming of the object of study arises. Talking about “non-schooling” could suggest that we can observe a well-defined and delimited phenomenon in the Mahorean territory: schooling. However, as reaffirmed in a last Unicef ​​report, schooling in Mayotte is different from schooling in the rest of France. Many measures have been put in place to maximize it, sometimes to the detriment of students' learning conditions.

In primary education, several municipalities use the classroom rotation system, in which two distinct educational teams take turns occupying the walls of the same educational establishment, which then operates half-days. Furthermore, nursery schools being particularly impacted by the lack of places, the Mayotte rectorate set up the system of itinerant classes at the start of the 2021 school year. This consists of providing lessons in premises outside the school premises, for theoretical support of only 10 hours per week.

Finally, school meals are non-existent in the majority of schools on the island. In the secondary sector, only around one in five students currently receives a hot meal. Alongside the infrastructure deficit, Mayotte is faced with a lack of human resources, forcing the ministry to implement exceptional measures to attract and retain teachers. In addition to an over-indexation of salaries (rate of 1,43 in Mayotte) and bonuses granted to tenured staff, recruitment is organized and thus makes it possible to recruit teachers at the end of the license and not the master, and the terms and conditions of the tenure training period are relaxed.

Mayotte, the challenges of youth (France 24, 2018).

This lack of attractiveness also requires massive recourse to contractual staff, sometimes recruited in haste despite the inexperience of the candidates in the discipline to be taught. At the start of the 2022 school year, the rate of contractual staff is 20% in primary education and 55% in secondary education.

Beyond the quality of teaching, the child's entire ecosystem is impacted. A child attending school in Mayotte does not benefit from the same environment as a child attending school in mainland France, in terms of travel, health and food.

School avoidance, a cause of non-schooling?

On an international but also national level, non-schooling is increasingly understood through the prism of “school avoidance”. For example, as part of the implementation of the Council Recommendation (EU) 2021/1004 of 14 June 2021 establishing a European Child Guarantee, France 22-30 action plan sets out the objectives: "In order to better understand the issues in terms of children's schooling […], school avoidance cells are established from the start of the school year, and bring together all the stakeholders involved in monitoring out-of-school children and defining (sic) personalized support to meet the education obligation."

This term, which becomes the only reference in the framework of public policies, implies that situations of non-schooling are mainly due to a strategy of the child and/or the family, on whom ultimately rests the responsibility for the situation. On the national level, this situation of distrust can be observed towards the educational institution, for cultural, sociological, social, religious, political reasons... In terms of public policies, according to this approach, it would then be necessary to act on this lack of “demand”. On the other hand, in Mayotte, nothing allows us to analyze this non-schooling with this “model”.

First of all, unlike many countries where the phenomenon of non-schooling mainly affects girls, all of our sources show that this is not the case in Mayotte. According to'Insee since 2004 then theMigration, families and aging survey, the Mahorese population seeks schooling for all its children. No sexual selection is made. The birth order of the child is also not taken into account.

Furthermore, this latest survey demonstrates that extra-family education systems do not compete with each other. 95% of children attending Koranic schools are also educated in a school recognized by the Republic. Families do not seem to make choices in extra-familial "educational" systems and there is no evidence to suggest that other institutions push them to make this choice.

On the contrary, taking the example of the associative sector which positions itself as a "bridge" towards schooling in the Republic school or as a complement (substitute day care, after-school and out-of-school care), it is possible to put forward the hypothesis that all these institutions could constitute relays towards effective schooling.

A lack of infrastructure

Thus, the term school avoidance would be, on a political level, "toxic", in the sense that the reasons given, and the associated public policies to remedy them, are not the main ones in this territory. All the observations demonstrate that children and families very much want to benefit from the right to education in a public school. If they do not have access to it, it is because there is not sufficient and appropriate provision and it is the duty of public authorities (and all stakeholders) to remedy this.

Furthermore, in Mayotte, according toMigration, families and aging survey, non-schooling mainly concerns the youngest age groups. The distribution by age indicates that the children most affected by non-enrolment are located at the limits of the 3-15 year old age group: 27% at the age of 3, 12% at 4 years, 6% at 5 years, to stabilize between 4 to 5%, then to rise from the age of 12 to 6%, undergoing a sharp increase from the age of 14. It also concerns specific populations, notably children with disabilities.

According to the rector, during an interview in December 2022, the phenomenon of school dropouts seems much less significant than in other territories. A proactive public policy on schooling provision can therefore identify targets: nursery schools, entry into primary school and establishments adapted for children with disabilities, with possibilities of distinction when young people choose to training orientation in particular.

Thus, the public policies that could be implemented seem well identified, since all the inhabitants of Mayotte, in their diversity, have a strong demand for schooling for their children. Non-schooling results mainly from a lack of infrastructure and supervision, especially at younger ages, particularly in nursery school, and from a lack of systems adapted to needs, particularly for children with disabilities. A proactive policy by all stakeholders in the provision of schooling could thus resolve this unacceptable state, in total contradiction with the international commitments of the French Republic.

Gilles Séraphin, University professor of education and training sciences, Paris Nanterre University - Paris Lumières University et Tanguy Mathon-Cécillon, PhD student in demography - education and training sciences, Paris Nanterre University - Paris Lumières University

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of InfoChrétienne.

Image credit: Creative Commons / Flickr

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