My country, Senegal, is cohosting with France the third Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Financing Conference. On February 2nd, 2018, strong commitments will be expected in Dakar from donor governments and developing countries. The latter are asked to allocate at least 20% of their national budget to education.
On the margins of the coming Conference, I was able to participate in a Plan International “Takeover” on January 9 and 16. With the takeovers, Plan International provides young girls with opportunities to take the position of an influential figure in their workplace to demonstrate girls’ leadership capacity and to deliver important advocacy messages. While taking over the position of the Minister of Education, I was able to bring my own vision of the school of the future to the government and advocate for the importance of focusing on girls’ education.
Going beyond percentages for inclusive quality education
With 24% of the national budget allocated to education, Senegal has positioned itself as a “good student”. But should we stop there? Our education system still faces many challenges. Human resources are scarce, and many teachers have not been provided with quality training.
There is also a lack of infrastructures, and among existing ones, many are in poor condition; according to the Minister, in Senegal, there are 6,369 temporary schools for students to study in, which represents 9.4% of total classrooms. In addition, sanitary conditions in school latrines are not conducive to reproductive health for girls, sometimes preventing them from going to school. Finally, sociocultural inertia and practices such as child marriage often interfere with girls’ education, preventing them from completing school.
Girls’ education in Senegal: Between progress and challenges
Being a girl should never be a curse, but rather a blessing: I am a girl and I can fulfill my ambitions by becoming a great lady, and why not be part of the personalities making history in my country? However, this will only be possible if I am given the opportunity to benefit from a quality education.
The Senegalese government has understood this and has launched initiatives, which specifically target girls, such as the Girls’ Education Support Program (PAEF), which provides grants to girls from underprivileged households. Student mothers’ associations were also established to empower mothers through income generating activities; this allows them to send their daughters to school rather than have them work.
As girls, we want a school of the future that does not shatter our dreams
Having the opportunity to discuss girls’ education with the minister, and to share my expectations and those of my fellow sisters, has been an extraordinary experience. Following our discussion, the minister of National Education has shown an understanding of my message and invited me to tour village schools as a girls’ ambassador. Mr. Serigne Mbaye Thiam has also understood the need to involve youth in issues that concern them, including participation in advocacy activities related to the school of the future.
Indeed, as girls we want a school of the future that does not shatter our dreams. The development of my country and of Africa will need to involve girls’ participation and empowerment. This means, among other things, a secure environment, “zero tolerance” against gender-based violence, girl-focused funding, and gender transformative education.
Join me in advocating for girls’ education
I call on H.E. Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, on H.E. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic of France, and on all the decision-makers in the world to #FundEducation for girls as it is crucial to #ShapeTheFuture.