Nafi & our partner, his students (& his daughters)
First of all, a big thank you to all of you who donated to our March “Little by Little” Campaign! Thanks to your generous support we exceeded our target for the campaign and raised a total of £1,887. Every little helped!
We are thrilled to report that the next cohort of 20 talibes have now been enrolled and have started their training in horticulture at the CIPA training centre! As the long-awaited funding from the USAID Feed the Future programme “Youth in Agriculture” reached the CIPA, Aspyre Africa was able to start the recruitment process. Thanks to your support, these 20 young men, in addition to getting a technical training, will receive:
- social support and guidance throughout their training,
- nutritious breakfasts to sustain them throughout the training
- individual follow up to plan their future (self)employment
This is the feedback we just received from the “spokesperson” of the new cohort:
“The training is going really well, and we are learning a lot. We are all doing our very best, respecting the timetable and making sure we don’t miss any classes. Everything is just as you promised, including the breakfasts! We know it wasn’t easy to provide us with this training, and it is really up to us now to respect our own engagements. To do everything we can to succeed. This training will allow us to have a job. And if our wishes come true… tomorrow we will be cultivating our own land and maybe even teach others what we have learned.”
BACK IN SAINT-LOUIS, SENEGAL
On the 25th February, after a year without traveling, I was delighted to be back on my way to Senegal. I was relieved to see that COVID-19 did not have the same devastating impact there as it did back home. Life was pretty much back to normal, apart from the masks and practical hygiene measures. It was a joy to be reunited with the CIPA team and to be able to catch up with our beneficiaries. Our follow up and integration officer Nafi had done a great job keeping in touch with all of them, despite distances and restrictions. Without any delays we started making plans to make my 2-month visit most productive.
Our plans however were soon to be put on hold by tragic events. Following the arrest of a political opposition leader, unprecedented violent protests erupted throughout Senegal, which resulted in the loss of 6 lives. Saint-Louis was not spared and we could see the smoke from the CIPA centre where I was staying. For an entire week we did not venture out and hoped for a quick and peaceful resolution to the situation. Although things calmed down, the message to the authorities was clear. Many of the protesters were disillusioned young people who don’t see a future for themselves in their own country… The government would soon react by launching an “emergency plan” for youth employment.
While this outcome was music to our ears, we know very well that funding alone cannot solve complex problems and structural inequalities. With our pilot projects, it has always been our aim to develop good practice and find sustainable solutions. With our GlobalGiving project empowering talibes to secure their future, we are testing the best ways to overcome the barriers that have prevented talibes from accessing quality vocational training and accessing skilled (self)employment.
Someone recently asked me what it is that we actually do when we are out there in Senegal. I thought it would be nice to touch on this issue on this occasion.
THE BOTTOM-UP APPROACH
Everything we do starts at the bottom. Our most important task is to listen. As soon as I had reached Saint-Louis Nafi and I visited the Koranic Teachers with whom we had already established trusting relationships over the years. We presented the project but also explained our long-term vision. We answered their questions, but most importantly we listened to their concerns: Would the training interfere with their religious education? Would all costs be covered? Would there be help to support them after the training? What was the motivation of the funders? Building on the trust we had already established, we were able to mobilise their support. Convinced of the need for their talibes to access such training, they helped us spread the word and mobilized other Koranic Teachers. This was a real success for us as it happened at a time when many Koranic teachers of Saint-Louis were simply refusing to engage with NGO’s, following the participation of many of them in a forceful “return of talibes to their villages” justified by COVID-19.
The whole recruitment process of the 20 talibes would be done in the same manner: by meeting all the Koranic teachers in person and meeting the candidates one by one in their daaras. We listened to their aspirations and concerns. We were able to secure their trust in us and the project. Following a visit to the CIPA centre and motivational interviews, we ultimately selected the 20 best candidates based on objective criteria (age, origin, availability and motivation).
On the 20th April the celebration of the “National Day of the Talibe” by the Federation of the daaras (Koranic Schools) of Saint-Louis” took place at the CIPA training centre. The fact that they chose the CIPA centre for this particular occasion was another achievement. It showed that the time Nafi and I had spent with the Koranic teachers had truly helped to break down the barriers and build a bridge between educational systems that have struggled to connect. The Koranic teachers took the opportunity to express their gratitude for the work done so far and the excellent collaboration. A government representative at the event confessed that the CIPA and Aspyre Africa had succeeded where others had failed before. For us this felt like a true milestone…The CIPA centre and the Association of daaras have since signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate the recruitment and follow up of talibes.
THE TOP-DOWN APPROACH
It remains Aspyre Africa’s mission however to make quality vocational training and decent work accessible to every disadvantaged young person in Senegal. While we continue to do this through the implementation of pilot projects (bottom-up), which help us develop and refine our model of services, we are also committed to tackling the issue from the top down. We aim to do this by developing key partnerships at the national level. During this visit we met with representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Vocational Training, the Government Fund for Vocational Training (3FPT), the DER, Luxembourg Development, GFA (GIZ) and USAID to explore opportunities for collaborations and strategic partnerships. We strongly believe that only by tackling the issue both from the grassroots (bottom-up) as from the strategic (top-down) level can we hope to change the “system” that has prevented many young people from accessing the education and support they deserve.
We hope you will continue to join us on this ambitious journey!
To find out more about Aspyre Africa’s strategic plan make sure to follow us on Linkedin.
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Talibes in training at the CIPA