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.