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Chad, officially referred to as the Republic of Chad, is a mid-size country in Central Africa with a total geographic area of approximately 496,000 square miles. The country is bordered by Niger to the west, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south and Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest. Chad is completely landlocked, and due to its location and extremely arid desert climate the country has earned the nickname the “Dead Heart of Africa.”
In 1920, the French conquered the territory now known as Chad and claimed the area as a colony, which it would remain until the end of 1959. However, in 1960, under the leadership of the revolutionist Francois Tombalaye, the country won back and claimed its independence. Soon after, in 1965, resentment from the Muslim faction in the north of Chad, primarily over some of Tombalaye’s restrictive policies, sent the country spiraling into a protracted civil war that would last some 25 years. Tombalaye was finally overthrown in 1990, but the long duration of the war, coupled with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the recent Darfur crisis in neighboring Sudan, resulting in mass Sudanese immigration into the country, have all had a major impact on Chad’s economic and human development. Today Chad is not only one of the poorest countries in the world, but also one of the most politically corrupt.
Chad has a permanent population estimated at 10.1 million, only a quarter of who live in urban areas. There are over 200 distinct ethnic groups in the country, and while French and Arabic share the title of “official language,” and are used for government and education, there are actually over 100 languages and dialects spoken within Chadian territory. In terms of religious beliefs, 54 percent of Chad’s people adhere to the religion of Islam, followed by Roman Catholicism (20%), Protestantism (14%), animism (10%) and atheism, at 3 percent.
Due to its many ethnic groups, Chad has a rich and diverse cultural heritage that has recently been heavily promoted by the Chadian government with the opening of the Chad National Museum and Chad Cultural Center. The country celebrates six national holidays a year, as well several moveable holidays that include the Christian celebration of Easter and the Muslim holidays Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha and Eid Milad Norab.
Education in Chad
Education in Chad is very challenging due to its widely dispersed population and a measure of reluctance among Chadian parents to enroll and send their children to school. Statistics show that only half of the boys who complete the primary school grades enroll in the next level, secondary school, and over half of the country’s population is illiterate.
Education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15. However, because the government is unable to adequately fund the educational system, parents who do opt to send their children to school are forced to pay significant tuition fees, primarily for things like textbooks, materials and even a portion of the teachers’ salaries. Needless to say, this cost is a prohibitive factor for a majority of families, particularly those living in rural area, which explains why as of 2010 only 35% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 attend school—one of the worst net enrollment rates in the world.
Higher education in Chad consists of a single university and one teacher-training college. A secondary diploma is required for admittance into either of these two institutions. Those who only complete primary school can advance their education at one of the four vocational-technical schools in Chad, where students can receive instruction in the latest available technology, as well as training in a variety of occupations important to the Chadian economy, particularly government positions for which qualified candidates are always needed to work in fields such as accounting, finance and management, and a number of IT positions.