Projects - 20 October 2023

French Guiana: The Challenges of Access to Education

In French Guiana, residents have been expressing for several years their discontent and frustration regarding a perceived abandonment by the State, especially concerning issues of education, health, and employment. In response, Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (BSF) and its partners are working to address these three themes among the most vulnerable populations, deploying physical and digital libraries in schools, neighborhood associations, and remote areas in the region.

Access to education and the quality of public services are limited in French Guiana: the lack of infrastructure and qualified teachers, overcrowded classrooms, as well as the cultural and linguistic distance between institutions and local families, all hinder the academic success of students, already undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the “Cité Éducative de Cayenne” (Educational City of Cayenne), BSF is implementing several projects to support students’ education.

“Micro-libraries will soon be installed in schools, associations, and community centers. Each of them will receive a donation of 500 books, documentaries, and comics, a portion of which will be selected by BSF teams in Épône—where our book collection center is located—and the rest of which will be purchased directly from local bookstores and publishers. Our partners will regularly offer activities that bring life to these cultural meeting places.” Aurélien Fortier, program coordinator for BSF in French Guiana.

At the same time, our teams are training teachers from six elementary schools in Cayenne in the use of Khan Academy, translated and adapted into French by BSF since 2013. Available for free, this American educational platform offers thousands of exercises and video lessons on mathematics and science to help students in elementary school to progress at their own rhythm.


of 15–17-year-olds in French Guiana are not enrolled in school, compared to 5% nationally (UNICEF, 2021)


of the population of French Guiana is illiterate (INSEE, 2019)


of children do not speak French as their mother tongue (UNICEF, 2021)

In partnership with the MNH Foundation, BSF also works with isolated communities which face considerable challenges in accessing healthcare. The causes for this include geographic distance, limited infrastructure, and linguistic barriers, all of which jeopardize the health and psychological wellbeing of residents.

“In the Lower and Upper Maroni, we’ve deployed seven Ideas Cube digital libraries along the river to equip health professionals from AIDES and the Perinatal Health Network of French Guiana with the tools they need. For two years, they have carried out awareness campaigns, with BSF’s support, on topics ranging from HIV and infectious diseases to sexual and reproductive health, and more. Soon, Médecins du Monde (“Doctors of the World”) in Cayenne, and ID Santé (“ID Health”) in Saint-Georges-de-l’Oyapock will be trained in using the tool, allowing access to thousands of resources without the need for an internet connection.” Aurélien Fortier.

In recent months, and with the support of the French Ministry of Overseas Territories, the Minister of Health and Prevention, as well as the prefecture of French Guiana, BSF has deployed Pro’Pulsion kits designed to help guide young people who are currently neither in school nor employed towards socio-educational centers and associations in eastern regions where many Amerindians are found: in Regina, Saint-Georges, and Camopi. Beneficiaries of this program can better identify their goals, reflect on their professional direction and possible projects, develop their skillsets, and participate in activities aimed at their re-mobilization, broadening their horizons and allowing them to dream.

“These Pro’Pulsion kits contain an Ideas Cube, as well as BSF-selected content containing educational resources, professional integration guidance, tablets, games, cameras, computers, virtual reality headsets… and a Radiobox! It’s a portable radio studio the size of an A4 sheet of paper, created by our partner, the ‘Making Waves’ association, which allows for easy broadcasting and the creation of audio programs under any conditions.” Aurélien Fortier.

As part of this same partnership, in 2024 BSF will deploy “Radio des Mots” (“Radio of Words”), a large-scale project which combats youth illiteracy throughout the region through radio. Supported by the Youth Education Fund, this program will initially be managed through the Canopé network—under the Ministry of National Education and Youth—whose mission is to train teachers and ensure their continued professional development over the course of their careers.

“A pedagogical kit is currently being created to support teachers who wish to lead radio workshops, create podcasts, documentaries, or audio fiction with their students, especially those who do not speak French well or who have difficulties with reading and writing. Radio is a great tool to make their voices and ideas heard. Above all, it encourages them to express themselves orally and in writing, to be creative, to overcome their fear of words, and to challenge themselves! These are the first steps in building their confidence and allowing them to look forward, towards a brighter future.” Aurélien Fortier.

In three years, BSF’s programs have benefitted nearly 5,000 people in French Guiana. Despite the difficulties in accessing certain territories, and given the enthusiasm generated by its action, BSF aims to expand its presence and continue anchoring itself in the region, training more actors and always putting access to education at the core of its mission and the lives of the residents.

Would you like more information about our actions in French Guiana? Would you be interested in working with us? Contact us at!

Bibliothèques Sans Frontières empowers vulnerable populations by facilitating access to education, culture, and information. In France and in more than 30 countries, the association creates innovative spaces to live and shelters that allow people affected by crises and uncertainty to have fun, create links, and build their futures.


Translation: Gustavo Romero