Written by Laraib Ahmed
Geographical and Historical Context
Situated in the northwest of Africa, Mauritania is a nation known for its rich cultural legacy and expansive desert landscapes. The country, which has the Atlantic Ocean to the west, is well-known for its vast dunes of the Sahara and its breathtaking natural beauty. Mauritania’s cultural identity has been profoundly influenced by a diverse range of historical civilisations, such as the powerful Almoravid dynasty and the Berber empires. In addition, the nation’s history is marked by the intricate interaction of trade routes and nomadic customs, which highlights its crucial function as a link between sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world[i].
Educational Endeavors in a Challenging Context
Mauritania’s educational system has become essential for preserving the country’s intellectual capital and advancing its socioeconomic growth in the face of this geographic and historical context. Notwithstanding the difficulties presented by its arid landscape and ancient nomadic customs, the country has achieved significant progress in elevating education to the top of the priority list. Acknowledging that education can change people’s lives, Mauritania has set out to improve access to high-quality education, promote inclusivity, and close the gaps in educational attainment among its different groups. To empower its people and promote sustainable development, Mauritania is still working toward creating a dynamic and inclusive educational environment incorporating its historical and geographical legacies.
Challenges in the Educational System
Tucked away amid the great and harsh reaches of the Mauritanian desert, the country’s educational system faces a wide range of challenging obstacles. These challenges highlight the complex and multidimensional environment that obstructs the country’s educational advancement, from the enduring problem of low enrollment rates to the intricate web of gender imbalances. The path to education in Mauritania is paved with a convoluted mix of obstacles, each of which poses severe and distinct difficulties that require immediate attention and coordinated efforts to overcome. These issues are felt in remote areas and quickly changing metropolitan areas, underscoring the necessity of an all-encompassing strategy to solve the nationwide educational gaps.
Gender Imbalance and Access to Education
According to data on literacy rates, Mauritania’s total literacy rate dropped significantly over the previous few years, from 96% in 2015 to 87% in 2021[ii]. This worrying trend may indicate problems with the nation’s educational system. This decreasing track highlights the need for a thorough analysis of the variables contributing to this decrease and calls into question the effectiveness of educational policies and programs implemented during this time.
The notable difference in the literacy rates of males and females further highlights gender gaps in the educational landscape. The 62% female literacy rate in 2020 and the 72% male literacy rate in 2021 demonstrate the ongoing difficulties in providing women and girls with equal access to school.[iii] Targeted actions are required to remove the cultural and sociological hurdles that prevent women from pursuing higher education and limit their ability to develop socioeconomically in light of this imbalance.
Importance of Adult Education
In addition, the stated adult total literacy rate of 67% in 2021 raises the possibility that improved adult education programs and lifetime learning initiatives will require coordinated efforts.[iv] Improving adult literacy rates can be achieved by strongly emphasising education for adults. This will help create a more knowledgeable and skilled workforce that can propel the country’s socioeconomic growth.
Efforts to Address Low Enrollment Rates
In Mauritania, low enrollment rates—particularly common in rural areas and among underprivileged communities—remain a major obstacle to the growth of education. Many young people’s access to high-quality education is hampered by the lack of accessible schools and families’ financial struggles. Consequently, a great deal of kids and teenagers miss out on the opportunity for education to change their lives. The government of Mauritania is actively stepping up efforts to address the underlying causes of low enrollment rates, realising the seriousness of the situation. To ensure that no child is left behind in their pursuit of knowledge and empowerment, the government has launched extensive awareness programs, offered scholarships, and emphasised the necessity of creating more accessible schools.
Gender Disparities and Social Hurdles
Furthermore, the data pertaining to Mauritania’s educational system presents a clear picture of the country’s difficulties. The percentage of kids who don’t go to school is a crucial sign of the education gap since it shows how many young people are currently shut out of the educational system and don’t receive the life-changing benefits of education. In Mauritania, a worrying trend is shown compared to 33% of male children of secondary school age, nearly 40% of female adolescents are not enrolled in school.[v] Additionally, the data shows a notable difference in the enrollment rates of children of secondary school age between the wealthiest and poorest parts of the population. This discrepancy highlights the more general socioeconomic issues that interact. This discrepancy highlights the more general socioeconomic issues that impact education and calls for all-encompassing solutions to close the achievement gap and guarantee fair access to education for all groups in society.
Empowerment of Girls and Women
Due to ingrained social mores and cultural traditions that discourage women from pursuing higher education, gender imbalance in Mauritius’ educational system continues to be a problem. A cycle of educational inequality is perpetuated by the persistence of these impediments, which lead to notably lower enrollment rates and higher dropout rates among girls. The government has launched several policy efforts to remove these obstacles and create an inclusive learning environment for people of all genders to solve this urgent issue. Mauritania is actively working to empower girls and create a more equitable educational landscape by implementing comprehensive awareness campaigns, community engagement activities, and safe and friendly learning environments. These initiatives, which comply with the law, aim to create a supportive atmosphere that promotes female involvement and guarantees that every student has equal access to a high-quality education and the chance to reach their full potential.
Complexities in Achieving Educational Equality
Disparities in test scores and educational attainment still exist despite significant success in raising the number of girls enrolled in schools. This difference is caused by a number of underlying causes, such as early births and marriages that force girls to leave school early, which negatively affects both their own and their children’s health and cognitive development. A 2023 UN report[vi] revealed that the primary barrier to girls’ empowerment is the high percentage of females dropping out of school (18%) and child marriages (39%) caused by adolescent pregnancies. Women continue to participate in the labour force at a disproportionately low rate, with the majority of them working in the unorganised sector. They also encounter major obstacles regarding business, financing availability, and land and property ownership. In addition, financial limitations, job insecurity, and land rights restrictions make it harder for Mauritanian women to advance professionally and support the country’s economic growth[vii]. To effectively address these complex issues, comprehensive plans that provide educational opportunities while enabling women and girls to break down social and cultural barriers and take an active role in the socioeconomic development of their country are needed.
Efforts to Modernise the Educational System
Several issues, such as inadequate financing, outmoded teaching practices, and a lack of trained teachers, contribute to Mauritania’s low level of education. The government is putting a lot of emphasis on developing relevant and interesting curricula, integrating cutting-edge teaching technologies, and giving educators opportunities for ongoing professional development because it recognises the urgent need to modernise the educational system.
Mitigating Socioeconomic Limitations
Additionally, in keeping with the guidelines provided by the legal framework, learning resource and educational infrastructure investments are being given top priority to encourage students’ critical thinking, creativity, and holistic development and make sure that the educational system gives them the information and abilities they need to succeed in a world that is changing quickly. Moreover, Mauritanian society’s socioeconomic limitations—such as widespread poverty and unstable finances—create significant obstacles to obtaining and finishing education. In response, the government launched specialised social welfare programs to help low-income families with their financial responsibilities by offering financial aid, scholarships, and vocational training.[viii]
Investing in Educational Infrastructure
Under the legal framework, cooperative efforts with community organisations seek to mitigate financial limitations so that the most disadvantaged members of society can continue their educational aspirations.
Insufficient infrastructure for education, especially in isolated areas, poses a significant challenge to the efficient provision of top-notch education throughout Mauritania. Inadequate classrooms, libraries, and technology resources hinder students’ learning experience and restrict their access to contemporary teaching methods. The government is concentrating on long-term investments in educational infrastructure, focusing on building well-equipped schools, incorporating state-of-the-art teaching tools, and creating thorough maintenance protocols to address this difficulty.
The Road to Inclusive Education
As per the regulatory framework’s criteria, these efforts aim to guarantee the sustainability of educational institutions and close the digital gap between urban and rural locations, giving every student an equal chance to progress in their education. Ultimately, Mauritania attempts to tackle the various issues in its education sector by encouraging cooperation and carrying out targeted initiatives. As a foundation for its people’s future prosperity and equity, Mauritania hopes to develop a strong and inclusive educational environment through collaborations with international organisations, local communities, and the government. Mauritania hopes to establish an educational ecosystem that empowers its people and promotes wealth and sustainable development for future generations by prioritising teamwork and all-encompassing interventions.[ix]
- Gerteiny, A. G., Deschamps, H. J., Toupet, C. H., & Stewart, C. C. (2023, October 2).
- Mauritania | History, Population, capital, flag, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Mauritania
- Mauritania commits to reinforcing the right to education in national frameworks. (2023, April 20). Articles. https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/mauritania-commits-reinforcing-right-education-national-frameworks
- OHCHR. (2023). Mauritania: Despite progress, women and girls’ lives still being sacrificed, say UN experts. https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/10/mauritania-despite-progress-women-and-girls-lives-still-being-sacrificed-say
- Riddell, A., & Niño‐Zarazúa, M. (2016). The effectiveness of foreign aid to education. International Journal of Educational Development, 48, 23–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedudev.2015.11.013
- Study on the situation of education in Mauritania. (2000). United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000146789_eng
- World Bank Open Data. (n.d.). World Bank Open Data. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.PRM.ENRR?end=2020&locations=MR&most_recent_value_desc=false&start=1971&view=chart
- World Bank Open Data. (n.d.). World Bank Open Data. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ADT.LITR.ZS?locations=MR
- World Bank Group. (2020b). Mauritania: Improving education to foster social cohesion and support economic development. In World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/mauritania/publication/improving-education-to-foster-social-cohesion
[i] Gerteiny, A. G., Deschamps, H. J., Toupet, C. H., & Stewart, C. C. (2023, October 2).
[ii] World Bank Open Data. (n.d.). World Bank Open Data.
[iii] OHCHR. (2023). Mauritania: Despite progress, women and girls’ lives are still being sacrificed, UN expert says.
[iv] World Bank Open Data. (n.d.). World Bank Open Data.
[v] World Bank Open Data. (n.d.). World Bank Open Data.
[vi] OHCHR. (2023). Mauritania: Despite progress, women and girls’ lives still being sacrificed, UN expert says.
[viii] World Bank Group. (2020b). Mauritania: Improving education to foster social cohesion and support economic development.
[ix] Mauritania commits to reinforcing the right to education in national frameworks. (2023, April 20).