With support from UNICEF and many other partners, the Niger Ministry of Education have developed a national strategy to expand access to quality education for children with disabilities through special educational services.
Overcoming the stigma and subsequent marginalization of disabilities as punishment from God, the ministry is advocating for increased school access. Some parents do not see any interest in enrolling their children in school, and there are many dropouts. Children with disabilities are then forced into begging or are abandoned altogether.
But through awareness building of the needs of children with disabilities, sensitivity towards their needs is growing at a significant pace and the results are encouraging. Still, obstacles remain as teachers specialized in educating children with disabilities are scarce.
The Languages of Niger
While the official language of Niger is French, it is mainly spoken as a second language and in official contexts such as business, the media and government. Niger has a number of indigenous languages, many of which are closely related, so the actual number of languages varies depending on whether you count them as separate or together. Typically there are eight or so listed national languages, the five most common being Hausa, Zarma, Tuareg, Fulani and Kanuri.
- Hausa, one of Africa's largest spoken languages, is used as a trade language across much of West Africa, Central Africa and western Sudan, particularly among Muslims. Hausa is found predominantly in central and southern Niger and is spoken by approximately half the population.
- Zarna (and its dozens of spelling variants) is spoken by about a quarter of Niger's population and is the most widely-spoken Songhay language.
- Tuareg is a family of very closely related languages and dialects spoken by the Tuareg Berbers. In Niger, where the local version is referred to as Tamasheq, it is spoken by about 8% of the population, mostly in the north.
- The Fulani (or Fula) dialect spoken in Niger is Fulfulde. Oddly, what we call that language in other languages come from yet other languages: Fulani in English comes from Hausa, and Peul in French comes from Wolof. Approximately 8% of Niger's people speak Fulfulde.
- Rounding out the top five is Kanuri, a dialect continuum spoken by about 4% of Niger's people in the southeast. It is a tonal language with high, low and falling tones.