A dream deferred: Mariam can finally become a teacher

In Mauritania, Mariam Mohamed Vall put her dream of becoming a teacher on hold to take care of her family. Now she is not only realizing her dream but getting the training she needs to help turn the tide on poor learning outcomes in Mauritania

March 28, 2018 by GPE Secretariat
6 minutes read
Mariam Mohamed Vall, 32, a third year student at the ENI-NKTT (L'Ecole Normale des Instituteurs de Nouakchott) sits in the library. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Mariam Mohamed Vall, 32, a third year student at the ENI-NKTT (L'Ecole Normale des Instituteurs de Nouakchott) sits in the library.
GPE/Kelley Lynch

Mariam Mohamed Vall, 32, always wanted to become a teacher. She excelled in secondary school, and then made her first attempt at taking the entrance exam to the teacher training college.

Due to her difficulties in French, she didn’t pass. She decided to pursue a law degree at university instead. After two years at university, her life took an unexpected turn. “My mom lived in a rural area. She fell sick and she didn't want to come here, so I had to move there to look after her.”

Persistence pays off

Still, every year, Mariam sat for the teacher training exam—and failed.

After her mother passed away, Mariam came back to the city and, having been out of school for 12 years, decided to again pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. She took the exam, and this time, she passed.

Now, Mariam is in her third year at Mauritania’s ENI-NKTT (École normale des Instituteurs de Nouakchott). This is one of four teacher training colleges for primary school teachers in the country. Opened just after Mauritania’s independence in 1962, it is the oldest and largest institution of its kind.

After years of low learning outcomes, the government of Mauritania knew something had to change.

GPE supports enhancing teacher training

Through a US$12.4 million grant, GPE is working with the government of Mauritania to improve the quality of teaching in primary schools, in particular by enhancing the quality of pre-service teacher training.

Interventions include, among others, training teachers on assessment techniques, language instruction, training school directors on how to welcome teacher trainees, equipping teacher training school with reference books and pedagogical materials.

Mariam attends a redesigned teacher training program that takes three years. The first year is focused on languages—French and Arabic—, mathematics and scientific subjects because, in the words of Mohamed Ould Khalil, the school’s administrative head, “these three subjects are the fundamentals of primary school.”

In the second year, students go deeper in those subjects and other subjects are added, including religious education, history and geography and pedagogics. Finally, in the third year, three others are added: physical education, technology and drawing, and music.

Putting theory into practice in the classroom

Now in her third year, Mariam teaches her son’s fourth grade class at the neighboring primary school.

As a wife and mother of four, Mariam has a busy schedule.

“I get up at five or 5:30 am. After my prayers I pack my things and then I wake my oldest son. I get breakfast ready for him and then we change into our clothes and leave home at 7 am. We take a taxi here because we live far away. He goes to school in the primary school (Ecole Annexe). For both of us, school starts at 8 am and finishes at 2 pm. After that we get a taxi and go home. We have lunch and I have a nap. When I wake up I study, often into the evening. Having a family doesn't really disturb me. They help me. They understand that I'm a student and I need to study.”

Scroll through the photos below to learn more about Mariam’s story.

Mariam and her son on their way to school. On being a working mother, she says: “The two go together. You have children and you have to help them grow up, you have to teach them. And being a teacher, we can do activities together. And now, especially because we are in schools that are next door to each other, we can come together and we have the same holidays. This is very important for me.”
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
“I have noticed that in the families where the mothers are educated, the children are better educated and better behaved than in the families where the mother is not educated.”
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
“I am so happy that more and more girls are getting educated. In my experience, whenever you have men and women in a job, the women perform better than men. They are very steady at what they do. They don't cheat, they come on time and they are hard-working.”
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
“There is one thing I wish did exist: that girls were taught by women teachers and boys by male teachers. I think girls could get a better education with women because women understand them and their problems. They can discuss things together that they cannot discuss with males — and vice versa with the boys.”
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
“In a family where the mother is educated, the children receive support with their homework. Their mothers can explain the lessons. But what happens when the children go to school but in the family that mother is not educated. When they come back she cannot see what they have done at school, she cannot measure their progress and support them with their homework when they have difficulties. So being a teacher really is like being a mother.”
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Mohammed Ali Ould Amar, the director of the primary school where Mariam is finishing her training: “Having the trainee teachers here pushes the actual teachers to get better and to do better lessons and to follow the kids in a better way. They enrich the teaching methods because they bring in new methods and new pedagogics.”
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

In the words of Mohamed Boubacar Ould Khattary, the director of ENI-NKTT:

“We would like to thank GPE for all they’ve done to help us train our teachers to provide better quality education in primary school. This program has helped and equipped schools with several tools and programs all aimed at improving the quality of teaching. This has had a positive impact on the results of the teachers we have trained.”

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Sub-Saharan Africa: Mauritania

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