Many families are fleeing the South Central portion of Niger in search of food and pasture for their animals. The children go with them and away from their schooling as they join their parents in acquiring food of the whole family. Development workers in the area say that this will hurt Niger's long term development prospects will a less educated workforce.
From Reuters Alert Net, writer George Fominyen describes how the food crisis effects education.
"Three children from this class have abandoned school - two boys and one girl...they have followed their parents to Sudan," teacher Salissou wana Fanna Kaou told AlertNet. Within five months, more than 40 of the school's 238 students have left.
In drought-hit areas, five schools have closed down, and more than 19,000 children have stopped attending classes as they accompany their parents in search of food, water and pastures for their livestock.
"It is a disturbing prospect that we are faced with but the parents cannot leave their children behind, as community solidarity is hard to maintain when no one has food," said Boukar Kolomi, director of education services for the region of Zinder, where 37 percent of primary-level pupils have quit school.
At least 7.8 million people, or nearly 60 percent of Niger's population, will be threatened with severe food shortages this year in the wake of failed rains.
Niger is bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index, and has a school enrolment/attendance rate of about 38 percent and an adult literacy rate of 37 percent, according to the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The United Nations says providing food aid to families would allow them to stay in their villages, keeping children in school.