Oct 13, 2010

Senegal kicks off new school year with law change to help more children stay in school

Peace Corps Volunteer Elida Lynch, currently serving in Sokone, Senegal, and helping WGEP's program there, blogs about recent changes to the Senegalese education system.

Beginning with the 2010/2011 school year, the Ministry of Education in Senegal has eliminated the exclusive national entrance exam for the grade 6iéme, which will allow more grammar school students to continue their secondary school education!

In past years, students were required to pass three rigorous exams at different points in their academic career in order to be allowed to remain in school. The first exam, the entrance exam for 6iéme, took place after the sixth year of school and was required for continuing to the secondary level. The second, the BEFEM, is required for entrance to high school, and the third--the Baccalaureate--is taken at the end of high school. If a student fails a test he/she is allowed to repeat the year and the exam once. After failing for a second time, the child is automatically excluded from school for the rest of their school-age years.  

This policy has prevented many children from continuing their education past the elementary level, particularly impacting children from poor rural communities who have fewer resources and less access to the quality education and academic tutoring needed to pass the exclusive examinations.

The État Général de l’Éducation of Senegal has recognized that this policy conflicts with the legally recognized right and obligation of children to attend school for at least 10 years.  Therefore, the government has abolished the entrance exam for secondary school because it automatically limited anyone who didn’t pass to only six years of schooling. The government has long recognized that the entrance exam for 6iéme prevented children from attending school but could not afford the costs associated with maintaining all children in school through middle school. Starting this school year, the government will implement changes to honor its obligation to provide schooling for every child. Because this will increase the number of students in middle school, the government has pledged to construct new middle schools. In the past secondary schools were located only in certain towns and students who lived in villages outside of walking distance to the town were forced to find lodging in the town if they wished to continue their education. The new schools will be located so as to enable children living in villages to attend school without leaving home.  

These changes have been made possible through the partnership of local communities, the international community and the Senegalese government. Local communities have donated land for the new schools, and the international community and NGOs are funding the construction and equipping of new schools. The government will then provide teachers and staff for the newly built schools. With the help of NGOs and international aid, the government is able to support more schools and educate more children.  

Other future changes planned for the Senegalese education system include the provision of school supplies to each student by the government, school uniforms, the replacement of the first year of secondary school with a preparatory year to help students transition between elementary and secondary school, and an increase in the number of high schools and universities throughout the country. All of these changes are projected to increase access to education, as well as the quality of education throughout the country and were possible only through the engagement of NGOs and the international community.   

With more children given the opportunity to access secondary education, programs such as WGEP's Sisters-to-School can make a real difference in helping families overcome the financial, cultural and academic barriers that can keep their children from taking full advantage of these opportunities.

Thank you for supporting us in this important work!




Aug 26, 2010

Scholars participate in Peace Corps summer camp

Five WGEP Sisters-to-School Senegal scholars got the chance to participate in a recent summer camp for girls held just outside of Sokone in the Fatik region and hosted jointly by Peace Corps Senegal and WGEP's local Senegal partner UDEN. The camp focused on leadership and empowerment and was designed to help girls reach their academic and leadership potentials. Our five scholars were invited to participate because of their academic performance in school and their emerging leadership skills.

The camp was primarily facilitated by Peace Corps volunteers, in partnership with our local Senegal partner Union Democratique Des Ensiegnantes de Senegal (UDEN). UDEN is a national organization of Senegalese primary and secondary school teachers dedicated to supporting education and the teaching profession throughout Senegal.

Read Peace Corps Senegal volunteer Elida Lynch's report below. Elida is currently serving with the Peace Corps in Sokone and is also assisting our Sisters-to-School program.

Your support allows us to help provide empowerment opportunities like this for our scholars to develop their potential as individuals, as students, and as leaders in their communities. Thanks for your support!

Jun 14, 2010

WGEP speaks at U.N. conference on girls' education

WGEP Executive Director Amy Maglio returned from a 12-day trip to Senegal for the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative global conference, "E4: Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality." Amy also visited the WGEP program in the Fatik region, about an day-long drive from Dakar and got to meet with scholars, parents, teachers, community residents, and village leaders.

"The UNGEI conference focused on this finding: that despite the amazing progress made in girls' education over the last decade--more than 22 million girls enrolled worldwide since 1999--the current rate of progress will still leave out 56 million children by 2015," Amy Maglio says.

"According to the findings presented at the conference, most of these children will be from areas that already suffer the most neglect and deprivation, such as remote rural areas. And they are more likely than not to be girls.

I think our programs at WGEP were well-received because they address this very issue. Our work in remote, rural areas of Senegal not only help more girls from these areas go to school, but also focus on helping them stay and succeed in school--and so also address the further issue of retention, as it has been shown that those who have been most excluded, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, are more likely to drop out of school even after overcoming the obstacles to enrollment in school.

We were able to showcase the following aspects of our program at the UNGEI conference: 1) we target the exact population that is falling through the cracks of larger initiatives, 2) we have formed effective partnerships with local organizations that are smaller, community-based initiatives living and working in the communities in which we serve (our partners themselves have very limited access to other outside assistance), 3) we are able to provide a comprehensive array of services to the community -- ranging from scholarships to increase access; to community awareness activities for mothers, fathers, and community leaders to change minds and attitudes about the importance of girls education; to an alternative rite of passage program to prevent drop outs due to early marriage and pregnancy.

I made many good contacts and connections through the UNGEI conference, and I am so happy and humbled that WGEP was selected by UNGEI to be part of it! Thank you for supporting our work and mission!"


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