(42,000 sq miles)
Benin, officially named the Republic of Benin (French: République du Bénin), is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. A majority of the population lives on its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin, which is part of the Gulf of Guinea in the northernmost tropical portion of the Atlantic Ocean. The capital of Benin is Porto-Novo, but the seat of government is located in Cotonou, the country's largest city and economic capital.
Benin covers an area of 115,000 square kilometers (42,000 sq mi) with a population of approximately 10 million. Benin is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation that is highly dependent on agriculture with substantial employment and income arising from subsistence farming.
The official language of Benin is French, which is also the language of instruction. English is generally taught starting in middle school. However, indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba are commonly spoken. The largest religious group in Benin is Roman Catholicism, followed closely by Islam, Vodun and Protestantism. Benin is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, La Francophonie, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, the African Petroleum Producers Association and the Niger Basin Authority.
The Republic of Benin operates on a 6-4-3-3-4 system with respect to education:
- Primary school: 6 years
- Middle school: 4 years
- High school: 3 years
- Bachelor's degree: 3 years
- Master's degree: 4 years
Benin recognizes the importance of education and considers it a national priority for developing the economy and reducing poverty (according to USAID in Benin, 23% of the national budget is spent on education). Students benefit from free access to preschools and primary schools, which has led to a significant increase in enrollment and attendance rates over the past few decades, although these rates are still low in many regions of Benin.
The increased enrollment and attendance rates in primary schools were not followed by a corresponding increase in the development of infrastructure and teaching capacity, leading to a degradation of the quality of education and weak academic performance. Also, little has been done to address the high number of students reaching the age of accessing secondary education, which has resulted in similar issues with educational quality and teaching resources.
Furthermore, secondary education represents a significant financial burden for families, often leading to the exclusion of the most vulnerable students. With respect to gender, girls are more likely than boys to be deprived of an education. In 2012 the estimated literacy rate of young people aged 15 to 24 was 30.8% for females and 54.9% for males (UNICEF).
"Benin" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benin, Wikipedia, 15 February 2014
"Background Note: Benin" http://www.state.gov, The U.S. State Department, 18 July 2011
"Benin country profile" http://news.bbc.co.uk, BBC News, 30 April 2011
"Benin country profile" http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/benin.htm, One World Nations Online