In Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, the Lycée Scientifique National of Bobo-Dioulasso shines as a beacon of opportunity for young minds eager for knowledge.
Eugénie Kaboré, a final-year student in the high school’s science stream, is a perfect illustration of this. Radiating the infectious energy of her youth, this 19-year-old is getting ever closer to her dream of becoming an artificial intelligence engineer. The Bobo-Dioulasso Science High School was established in 2017 thanks to the Education Access and Quality Improvement Project (PAAQE), an initiative financed by the World Bank through the International Development Association, to the tune of $150 million, including additional financing. The total cost of the project is over $6 million (CFAF 3,346,809,592).
A number of schools in Burkina Faso have had to close their doors as a result of the prevailing security situation and the persistent wave of terrorism in the country. In May 2023, 6,149 primary and secondary schools (23.9% of schools) were closed, affecting 1,041,681 children, including 505,748 girls. Nevertheless, the government is determined to take up the challenge of raising the level and quality of education.
The students come from all 13 regions of the country and only those with excellent results in the national examination known as the Brevet d’études du premier cycle (BEPC) – Junior Secondary Education Certificate – are selected. Thanks to support from the PAAQE, the students enjoy excellent study conditions: classrooms, laboratories, libraries, study rooms, a fully equipped multipurpose room, as well as a multisports court and a soccer field. The project has been used to equip dormitories with all the necessary amenities and to provide three meals a day to boarders, while ensuring that the appropriate conditions are in place for equal treatment for girls and boys.
Eugénie Kaboré, one of the students, juggles her time between reviewing her work in the mornings and study groups with her classmates, while pursuing her boundless passion for physics and mathematics. “My family is not well-off. It is all thanks to this scholarship that I am able to continue my studies at this science high school. I am grateful for the scholarship as it will allow me to pursue my dream profession in the future,” she says.
The National Science High School of Bobo-Dioulasso has been a beacon of success since it opened. “The first cohort of students who sat the high school baccalaureate in the science stream had a 100% success rate. In the second and third years, the pass rate exceeded 96%. Some of our students have distinguished themselves by winning prizes, while others have brought honor to the school at various annual competitions,” notes Badaoudou Touré, the school principal.
Thanks to these developments, the objective of creating a center of excellence to nurture and train high-level professionals in the engineering, mathematics, science, and computer sectors is taking shape and will ensure that Burkina Faso’s economy and foreign investors will be able to draw on a critical mass of scientists and engineers to boost the country’s development.
Fany Angelica Sebgo, 17, dreams of charting her future by becoming an architect. For her, the high school science stream is the key to unlocking her ambitions: “This science high school has given me this opportunity because my parents couldn’t afford to pay for the kind of schooling we have here. I encourage my girlfriends to take more of an interest in science subjects so that they can get into the science stream,” she says.
Soumaïla Ouattara is 18 years old and comes from the village of Kodona in western Burkina Faso. He is in the first-year science class and is passionate about computer science and artificial intelligence. “It’s a job of the future. The courses are well organized at this high school. The teachers here are extremely good to us,” he explains. He is convinced that this program will allow him to turn his dreams into reality and to contribute to his country’s development in the years ahead.
Yaya Diallo is 16 years old, and his parents are farmers. He will sit the baccalaureate exam next year and is already flying the flag for science in the 21st century. He is unequivocal in his choice of enrolling in the science stream. “For me, computer scientists are like geniuses. We live in an age where science is essential and cannot be ignored. And to be a good computer scientist, you have to love science subjects. That’s why every day in class, I give my all to be among the best,” he says.
Fatim Edwige Traoré is 16 years old and is completely enthralled by aeronautics. Her dream is to ply the skies as a pilot. She does not hide her joy at being one of the students at the National Science High School of Bobo-Dioulasso and declares, smiling, that she is on the right track: “I’m fascinated to know how an object can remain airborne and I think that science subjects can answer these questions for me,” she adds.
For Adama Zallé, a physics teacher, there is a big difference between this science high school and other schools. “Here, we have excellent students in every class. They ask pointed questions and teachers have to constantly upgrade their skills. As a general rule, all students have the ability to do the work and the brightest students can score as high as 19 or 20,” he explains. Life and Earth Sciences teacher, Anatole Yougbaré, speaks highly of the quality of the equipment in the various laboratories and notes that this helps him provide quality education.
With each passing day, the goal of building a critical mass of scientists capable of tackling Burkina Faso’s socioeconomic challenges is becoming reality, and the science high schools are the centers of excellence that are nurturing this dream.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The World Bank Group.