Over half of Burkina Faso's population of 16.7 million are under the age of 17, however very few if any, will live to see their 60th birthday, with a life expectancy of just 53.7 years. Because of this 48.5% of the population are children aged 14yrs or younger compared with just 17.3% for the UK. Most children in Burkina Faso live in poverty not least because of its lack of natural resources and high density population. Education for children in Burkina Faso is compulsory between the ages of seven and fourteen, however there is no enforcement regime and enrolment rates are poor, particularly for girls who are often kept at home to help run the household and perform chores.
For example in one year, only 35% of all eligible primary school age children were enrolled at school and just 8% actually attended secondary school. Figures are far higher in urban areas. Despite this, when it is affordable in a country where public education is not free, education is held in high regard as an escape route from poverty and educated children in Burkina Faso are held in high regard. In recent years there has been increased gender equality in schools between boys and girls.
Burkina Faso children are brought up to be respectful, polite, obedient, courageous and hard workers. There is a strong emphasis on responsibility, family values and dignity in a country which is 60.5% Muslim, 19% Catholic, 4.2% Protestant and 15.3% Animist, a belief that souls exist not just in humans but also in animals and plants as well as inanimate objects such as rocks and mountains as well as rivers.
As in many countries, Burkina Faso has its fair share of street children. With over 100,000 children there orphaned by AIDS alone, many, some as young as seven, drift into urban areas, others arrive after their parents migrate to find work or they are simply pushed out by their families because of poverty. In one year alone it was estimated that 18% of the country's entire population were orphans or abandoned children.
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