More than 70% of the adult population in the small, landlocked west African country of Burkina Faso is illiterate. And even though the country's rate of school enrollment is only 45%, its youthful population - nearly half the country is younger than 15 - means that it suffers from a nationwide teacher shortage. Classrooms of over 100 students are not uncommon, and sometimes there are so few teachers that schools simply shut down.
That's what happened this past September, when a teacher in the bush village of Iolonioro went on maternity leave. 67 elementary school students spent nearly two months on an impromtpu vacation from classes until the Burkina Faso National Volunteers Programme (PNVB) stepped in. Co-financed by the UNDP, the UN Volunteer Program, and the Burkina Faso government, the PNVB has recruited more than 80 trained teachers to volunteer in elementary schools while they wait for the test results that will give them their teaching certifications.
When they do receive their results, participating teachers will begin their search for paid positions with significant teaching experience under their belts. And Burkinabé students will be that much closer to reducing their country's illiteracy levels - and, perhaps, passing on the favor to students of the next generation.
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