The Constitution of the Union of the Comoros of 2001, amended by the referendum of 17 May 2009, proclaims the right to education for all.
The most recent education plans seek to include children excluded from education in schools. Inclusive education was a strategic pillar of the Interim Education Plan 2013–2015, especially for children with disabilities. The Transitional Education Project for the Union of the Comoros (PTEUC in French) seeks to promote inclusive education in a broader sense: through strengthening gender equity and equality by focusing on standardizing the school entry age for girls and boys, and through strengthening the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream schools. One of the main cross-cutting elements in the Government's education policy is the inclusion of inclusive education at all levels of education.
According to the Transitional Education Sector Plan (PTSE) 2017/18–2019/20, the Comorian education system does not have the capacity to establish a special education system for children with disabilities. Despite this, preschool education has been developed in recent years, which is a big step towards making primary education accessible to all, including children who are vulnerable, disadvantaged and/or have disabilities, and towards improved internal efficiency and increased cycle completion rates.
In some primary schools, children in preschool and the first two grades of primary school are cared for by teachers in dedicated classes, which requires special equipment to be procured. The children will then be integrated into mainstream classes from third grade.
Many children attend Koranic schools.
In Comoros, there are still school-coverage disparities between communes, between urban and rural areas, between islands, and between girls and boys. Persons with disabilities are among the most vulnerable populations; 60 per cent of persons with disabilities in Comoros do not attend school.
The framework act promulgated in 1994 made education compulsory from age 6 to 14 years. It states that "school education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 12."
The Organic Act No. 05-033 of 1 March 2005 on the modalities for implementing article 9 of the Constitution of the Union of the Comoros states in its article 8 that "primary, secondary, vocational and technical education, including their monitoring and evaluation, falls within the jurisdiction of the islands, subject to the right of all Comorians to equal access to their choice of institution on any island of the Union of the Comoros."
The Interim Education Plan 2013–2015 sought to give as many children and young people as possible the opportunity to continue their education in general training schemes or technical and vocational training schemes, at all levels of education and training, from preschool to higher education. The third pillar of the Interim Education Plan’s strategy is inclusive education.
The Transitional Education Sector Plan 2017/18–2019/20 covers the entire sector. It provides key strategies to strengthen the sector’s governance and management, and to improve access, equity, and the quality and relevance of the system. The plan was drawn up following a brief assessment of the education system carried out by a national technical team comprising senior officials from the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Public Administration and the Ministry of Education, and specialists from the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP)-UNESCO Dakar.
The Transitional Education Project for the Union of the Comoros, funded by the Global Partnership for Education Fund to the tune of USD 2.3 million, combines nationwide interventions with innovations tested in a sample of schools (50 State primary schools on three islands, representing 15 per cent of the total number of primary schools in the country) or in a geographical area (Mohéli Island). Coordinated by the French Cooperation in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the project is part of the Transitional Education Sector Plan for the period 2018–2022. The project combines national interventions such as distributing directories of texts on educational and administrative management, improving accounts management at the Ministry of Education and implementing school projects.
Pillar III of the Transitional Education Project for the Union of the Comoros concerns equity. It aims to promote inclusive education by:
- strengthening gender equity and equality by focusing on standardizing the school entry age for girls and boys and on improving their retention on the island of Mohéli
- strengthening inclusion by taking children with disabilities into account on a trial basis
At the primary level, the Transitional Education Project for the Union of the Comoros aims to increase gender equity and inclusion by prioritizing the poorest and most marginalized students, including for reasons of gender, disability or ethnicity, or because they are in a situation of conflict or fragility.
Comoros ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2016. According to the Transitional Education Project for the Union of the Comoros, a 2015 study estimates that 41.5 per cent of children with disabilities have attended primary school, compared with 26.7 per cent for secondary school and only 2.9 per cent for post-secondary education. The Union of the Comoros is aiming for an inclusive education system in order to close the considerable school enrolment gap for children with disabilities. This political will to carry out the State's legislative and institutional framework was reflected in an awareness-raising campaign conducted by the Ministry of Education and its various partners. Together, they developed an inclusive basic education strategy for children with disabilities and an accompanying action plan to encourage families to send their children with disabilities to school.
According to the Interim Education Plan 2013–2015, three quarters of persons with disabilities live in rural areas and are particularly vulnerable: 6 per cent have visual impairments, 12.9 per cent have hearing impairments (deaf people or people with hearing loss) and 0.4 per cent have both hearing and visual impairments. The plan estimates that there are 160 children with visual impairments and 340 children with hearing impairments in the 6–11 years age group for whom no special facilities are currently in place. To remedy this situation, the Interim Education Plan 2013–2015 planned an information and awareness-raising campaign on the education of persons with disabilities. In some primary schools, children in preschool and the first two grades of primary school will be cared for by teachers in dedicated classes, for which special equipment will need to be procured. The children will then be integrated into mainstream classes from third grade.
The ongoing Global Partnership for Education project in Comoros has enabled the country to start viewing children with disabilities as a group in their own right, who have rights, just like other children, and who deserve the same attention as all other children. Families and communities have been made aware of the importance of enrolling these children in schools.
Projects to integrate students with disabilities into mainstream schools are being developed. For example, the Transitional Education Project for the Union of the Comoros pilot phase will provide inclusive education to at least 240 children with disabilities in three schools. In addition, a partnership between the Directorate General for Education Planning and Projects (DGPEP) and the National Institute of Statistics and Economic and Demographic Studies (INSEED) will be established in order to produce statistical data on children with disabilities. To promote the development of inclusive practices, there are plans to:
- develop simple tools for all teachers in the three schools to support them in making their classes more inclusive and tailored to the children, as well as an evaluation checklist and strategies to identify and support children with learning disabilities
- modify the arrangements for, and programmes of, initial and in-service teacher training
- train three school principals/teachers and three school inspectors on collecting data on the number of children with disabilities and their characteristics, on assessing students' needs and on other strategies to remove barriers to learning in schools
A national strategy for the education of children with disabilities (2017–2026) was developed in March 2017, followed by the action plan to implement this strategy covering the same period and released in September 2017. The objective of this strategy is to enable all children with disabilities to freely enjoy their fundamental rights in education. This strategy recommends trialling inclusive education in six pilot schools.
The National Gender Equity and Equality Policy (PNEEG) of 2007 sought to ensure equal access to education, and control over available resources and development gains (including reproductive health).
For a long time, girls did not have access to education as school was a boys’ domain. According to the National Gender Equity and Equality Policy, gender inequality and gender discrimination have dominated the education sector. Illiteracy is very high in Comoros, especially among women. Girls are underrepresented at all levels of the education system. Causes of gender disparities in education include: insufficient financial resources of families who prefer to prioritize sending boys to school; the lack of schools in remote areas; and the decisions of traditional families, who tend to prioritize their sons’ education over their daughters’ simply because their daughters will have husbands to look after them, whereas boys will have to take on other responsibilities outside their families.
Comoros is committed to promoting inclusion and the development of girls' education. One of the five strategic guidelines of the National Gender Equity and Equality Policy is to increase girls’ and women’s school and training enrolment rates, with a view to achieving parity between girls and boys.
Various strategies have been implemented to achieve this objective, such as:
- adopting policies to increase the enrolment rate for girls in secondary and higher education and vocational training, particularly by implementing the National Plan for the Education of Girls
- resuming and developing actions to scale up the "renovated Koranic school" and to integrate it into the national education system
- improving the reception and performance of the University of Comoros which helps reduce inequalities in access to this level, with 42.43 per cent of girls enrolled compared with 19 per cent abroad
- continuing to tackle illiteracy, by targeting beneficiaries and their specific needs and through functional literacy
A policy framework to promote sexual and reproductive health education for young people has been in place since 2002.
Ethnicity, religion and languages
Comoros has three official languages: French (Comoros was a French colony until its independence in 1975), Arabic as of 1985 and Shikomori as of 1992. A decree standardizing Shikomori was issued in 2009. These three languages are used in spheres that coincide only in part: French is the written language, the language of administration, and the language of the vast majority of schoolbooks from primary school onwards. Arabic is the religious language, the language of instruction in Koranic schools, and therefore the first language in which Comorian children are taught to read and write as they join these schools aged 3–5 years, before starting primary school.
The role of languages in basic education is gradually being determined, following the recent standardization of Shikomori. Current language policies aim to enhance the value of Shikomori and to support French, which is the language used to share knowledge.
In 2007, a project to reform Koranic schools was launched. Currently, several pilot schools are implementing this reform project, which was formalized by the Education Framework Act of 2014. However, in reality, a very high number of students continue their preschool education in traditional Koranic schools.
Koranic schools have been renovated at the initiative of the Ministry of Education with funding from UNICEF. This process has strengthened and improved the educational content of this preschool education in these institutions, which, so far, have retained a certain autonomy in terms of teaching content. One of the programme’s components is the introduction of the Comorian language, Shikomori. It is important for children to have a good command of their own language, i.e. their everyday language and the language of their families, before they express themselves in different languages.
The literacy rate is higher in urban areas than in rural areas. Grande Comore is the most privileged of the three major islands, ahead of Mohéli and Anjouan.
Decree No. 14/138 of 28 August 2014 on the orientation and organization of higher education and research establishes the role of the State in providing support to vulnerable students. Financial support systems are in place to help students who do not have the financial means to pursue higher education.
The education system is a federal responsibility in Comoros. The Ministry of National Education is mandated to promote education, develop institutions and monitor the quality of educational services at the four levels of education: i) preschool, ii) elementary or primary, iii) secondary and iv) higher. The General Inspectorate of National Education is tasked with evaluating how the education system operates with regard to students, staff, schools, external services and the central administration. It must therefore report annually on efforts to achieve the national education objectives and the results achieved. As part of work carried out by the education system and its technical and financial partners, the General Inspectorate of National Education is called upon to help implement certain activities, and even to coordinate certain aspects of education projects. This is the case for:
- the action plan with UNICEF
- the education project with the Global Partnership for Education
- the Project to Strengthen the Administration and Supervision of Education in Comoros (PRePEEC) with the European Union
- the Supporting French in Comoros (AFC) project with the French Cooperation
- actions with the International Organization of La Francophonie
As regards preschool, primary and secondary education, Comoros is divided into regional education inspection districts, which group together a number of State and private schools. Inspectors and educational advisers in the school district are responsible for supervising these schools. Each regional education inspection district is situated at the intermediate level of the regional directorates for education on each island. These directorates are the bodies responsible for managing the schools on each island. Other structures involved in education management are school councils, communes and the commissariats in charge of education on the autonomous islands. The prefectures group together the communes that constitute the basic local authorities of the Union of the Comoros: Mohéli, six communes; Grande Comore, 28 communes; and Anjouan, 20 communes. At the level of the education system, the communes’ role is to provide logistical support to schools, ensure the equitable allocation of teachers to schools and mobilize communities. Although the communes play a fundamental role, some of them are not yet operational as they were created recently and lack the necessary means.
The islands are consulted regarding the definition and implementation of education policy. In particular, they are consulted on the awarding of scholarships and the introduction of diplomas. The management of higher education and research infrastructure falls to the Union of the Comoros and is included in the framework of the major investment programmes defined by the country. The islands are informed in advance.
The Interim Education Plan 2013–2015 promoted the development of the sector’s institutional and organizational (including technological and individual) capacities in order to strengthen the education system’s central and decentralized services.
The Ministry of National Education, Teaching and Research is responsible for the education of persons with disabilities and the Ministry of Labour and Employment is responsible for social security bodies, including pensions for persons with disabilities.
School construction standards include modifications for people with reduced mobility.
According to UNICEF, almost three quarters of primary schools do not have latrines or drinking water. Projects are under way to provide schools with clean water and separate latrines for girls and boys.
According to the Transitional Education Sector Plan, despite the progress observed in terms of student numbers, there are school-coverage disparities between communes, between areas (urban/rural) and between islands, mostly due to insufficient intake capacity. Among State primary schools, 4.75 per cent do not have safe, suitable facilities or conditions that facilitate learning for all, especially for children with disabilities. Sixty per cent of persons with disabilities do not attend school as schools are not physically accessible to them.
In terms of textbooks, UNICEF has supported the Ministry of Education with producing and distributing 27,000 preschool textbooks and preschool teacher's guides, and 128,000 French and mathematics textbooks for primary school students, and in distributing school kits for students.
As part of the Interim Education Plan 2013–2015, specialists will train volunteer teachers and teaching assistants in sign language and/or Braille for three months.
As part of the Transitional Education Project for the Union of the Comoros and the Global Partnership for Education project currently under way in Comoros, nearly 50 teaching assistants have received guidance sessions on caring for children with disabilities so that they can support teachers and 25 medical staff.
Finally, as part of National Gender Equity and Equality Policy of 2007, Comoros aspires to develop technical education and vocational training by addressing the preconceptions around these pathways and ensuring the quality of the supervision and teaching resources allocated to them.
Comoros does not have an education monitoring report or indicators on inclusive education.
The Transitional Education Project for the Union of the Comoros seeks to improve the use of school data at the national level by supporting the actions necessary to producing statistical yearbooks. It also seeks to develop a shared culture of stewardship by training the various stakeholders at the grass-roots level, in the 50 pilot schools, on using the statistical data collected to inform their decisions.