Investigating Education in Senegal
As a student of DNS - The Necessary Teacher Training College, I travel by bus through the Western African countries, and investigate different topics in the travelling countries in order to understand the reality of locals. As we are training to be teachers, the topic of education is really close to my heart and therefore I made the decision to investigate the question of education in Senegal.
First of all Senegal is a country in West Africa that borders Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Senegal also borders The Gambia, that occupies a sliver piece of land along the Gambia river that separates the South part of Senegal, Casamance, from the rest of the country. The population of Senegal was 15,3 millions in 2016* and agriculture employs around three-quarters of the people. The main export are groundnuts, peanuts, fish, phosphate, besides pre-prepared food products. Even though Senegal is on the way of development the literacy rate for youngsters from 15-24 remains low especially for young girls : 74,2 % male to 56,2%female**. The access to primary education therefore is open for everyone and the attendance ratio figured to be 59,6% for young boys and 63,4% for young girls in 2012**.
My main purpose during my investigation was to understand how the educational system is structured in both public and private sectors and to identify what are the main issues that the workers of institutions and children are facing. As I was investigating I came across schools that don't correspond to the two sectors mentioned above, these schools are called daaras and are the Koranic Schools which receive thousands of children per year. Finally to complement my investigation, I shifted my focus on the social issues that could influence the lives of students.
Even though the State is financing education as much as they can, 24,6% or 385056 million CFA of the total expenses of the interior expenses of the State in 2010, according to the Direction of Planification and Reform of Education (Senegal, D.P.R.E) alot of problems persist.
First of all, the conditions of students in the Public Sector can be hard : not only they need to be away from home, in a school where everything is in a language they do not understand, often they are in a harsh environment with 80 classmates in a classroom that is not even supposed to be one, with the possibility that the teacher is not even properly trained to be professional. The children probably do not get individual attention and have no space to develop and be motivated to learn. As for the Private sector, many families cannot afford private schools , which makes it a privilege and not accessible for everyone.
From a social point of view, the families need to finance clothes, sometimes transport and food for their children to go to school, and as many households are poor they could make a choice to not send their children to school at all or to give them away to a religious institutions, where themselves they most probably studied in their childhood. In some cases boys are privileged to girls as a consequence of history, religion, culture and practicalities, as the girl can be given for marriage or can stay at home to raise her younger siblings and take care of the house while her mother is earning money.
From the perspective of teachers, the conditions and the environment to teach might be difficult. In some cases they might not be properly trained and have to be there for around 100 children while juggling between two classrooms at the same time. As for a Marabou to have the responsibility of over 500 youngsters is a big challenge and demands alot of patience.
From the perspective of the country itself, the population is growing fast since women are married young and have alot of children. There are not enough funds, infrastructures and trained teachers to assure good quality education and conditions for every child. The question that rises is : What is the future of the Senegalese education?
As a future teacher, this investigation gave me a broader understanding of an educational system other then my own. Thus to admire the teachers who manage to still love their job and being able to teach in difficult conditions. If we compare to Europe, the conditions that we have are extremely privileged to the ones in Senegal as a developing country, even though the criticism and complains about the European conditions of public education can be often found on media and discussions in the population.
By Ramona Bulita