Governments will call an Année Blanche – a white year – when students have missed too much class time due to strikes or other issues. An Année Blanche basically nullifies all learning that took place until the disruption of classes began and forces everyone to repeat the year again. It may be the one weapon administrators have against long strikes, but from what I know, the threat never appears to work.
Primary and secondary school teachers in Benin who have been striking since 8 January warn they will not back down, even though their actions threaten the possibility for thousands of children of completing the school year.
“There are no negotiations happening at the moment to end this strike,” said Raouf Affagnon, secretary general of the national teachers union.
The union’s demands include improvements in the salaries and benefits given to them by the government, and more secure contracts.
Benin’s powerful unions are a legacy of the 1972-1989 period when Marxism-Leninism was adapted as the national ideology.
According to the UN children’s agency (UNICEF), less than 60 percent of school age children ever attend school. Of those who begin attending in first grade, only half will complete primary school.
The shortage of trained teachers, especially women, and the lack of adequate school facilities are the biggest problems facing Benin’s educational system, UNICEF says.
“Teachers strikes have disrupted efforts to enroll and retain students,” the agency notes in a Benin information document.