Photo Credits: Kaitlyn (from left to right -Mamadou, Salomé, Alex, Fallou, Elaine, Ousmane)
As an apprenticeship, Alex (an English fellow) and I started working on E-Jáng radio.
E-Jáng radio is a fellow’s initiative that started last year. This radio show/program is a free platform for high-school and university English students around Thiés. In this show, we are able to discuss different topics such as religion, culture, politics, education, etc with the lenses of Senegalese guests that want to improve their English and are interested in the topic of each week.
In our first meeting with the E-Jáng crew: Elenaie (A peace corp volunteer and one of our supervisor) and Ousmane Bane (our Senegalese apprenticeship supervisor), we discuss the path that we wanted to take for the upcoming year. We also meet some members of English clubs around Thiés. Our first tasks were given: Create an advertisement for the show and write the first script for our first program!!
A brainstorm before deciding the topic, guided Alex and me to choose the prompt: Education accessibility in Senegal. It was a good topic indoors of the new academic year here in Senegal and was the reason that drove me to choose Global Citizen Year as an alternative to traditional education.
The topic was set! Now we had to look for some questions and guests for our show.
We came across Fallou Diagne, a motivated English learner student, who just graduated from high school. He was very passionate about the topic and wanted to be part of the show. With his very good English, Fallou explained to us that Education accessibility was one of the topics that are currently talked in the desks of Senegalese Government, but not much is done to improve it.
After having an interesting discussion with my host father, Mamadou Mamour Gueye, a French teacher, we decided to also invite him to the program.
A mix of feelings run through us when the program was about to start, we were nervous, excited and ready to be heard.
Some of the facts we research before our program are the following:
“Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution in Senegal adopted in Jnaury 2001 legally enforce education for all children. However, due to various restrictions in access to resources, the law is not always fully enforced in certain parts of the country. Culture and religion can also limit the accessibility of secular education in areas where Islamic Education is prominent. Literacy rate in Senegal only extends to 57.7% (according to a CIA research), also the literacy rate is 20% higher in boys than girls.
Also, we formulated some questions for our guests and here are some of the answers:
Question 1: What are some challenges you’ve faced in accessing education?
M- Sometimes there are up to 100 pupils in a class.
Also, some teachers are chosen and directly go to teach, training occurs very late.
Teachers, as well, are not paid as well as they should be. They have little motivation. Teachers teaching for 5 or 10 years without an increase in salary, normally should be increased every 2 years.
Some schools without proper infrastructure so they are not comfortable.
I am not from a rich family, so financial burden is problematic. When I went to study in Dakar I had many problems with sleeping, eating, and general financial means for studying. It was very hard. Many people can not eat, so don’t have the ability to focus effectively, if at all. I walked 5km to get to university without breakfast, and lunch isn’t sure either.
F – Class should not be over 40 people, but many classrooms have over 70 people. So what is being taught in class may not be understood by everyone, and class is too full and busy to wait for each student to catch up. Then students have the responsibility to go and learn themselves/ self-study.
Teachers take many strikes, sometimes understandable (salary reasons) and sometimes not for understandable reasons/for personal reasons. My dad died, and I almost dropped out for a year because of issues with money, was going to go into sowing (as proposed by my uncle) but eventually did not because I studied hard.
Question2: Is education a government’s priority?
F- If it was a government priority students would be more effective. There are no schools, but palaces for the president coming up. If education was his priority he wouldn’t be building a palace, when hundreds of students are dying of thirst or of hunger. I see my friends not eating or drinking in schools, and I’m unsure of if they will when they go home.
B- Ask in a class who wants to be a teacher, and no one will raise their hand. No one. Teachers are not considered a good profession. A judge makes five times in his first year what a teacher makes late in his career, there is no way to advance. Some teachers are not even given their salary every month, can be paid after 3 months. It takes many hours to get 50 thousand XFO in private. Not enough money. One graduate with the same diploma as a policeman yet police get paid 3 times as much. As long as there are no strikes the government closes their eyes on the subject, which is why they happen so often. After a strike can take up to 7 months for a change to actually occur.
Even after ten years of work, you may not be able to obtain your money as a teacher. Building stadiums instead of money being spent on materials in schools. Because all people can see a stadium, a train all people can see it. Education and studying are harder to witness immediate effect.
Question 3: Who are the people most challenged in accessing education?
B- People without money, or with little money. Every month in private technical school 75,000. I am paying for this for my children, I am doing the impossible, it is not that I have this money to spare. Most families use this money to eat or keep their place to sleep.
F- The group of people really facing challenges are not in the cities but in the villages. We are all in the same situation. Wherever you go there is poverty, but the poverty we face in Senegal is harsh. Situations/living conditions no one can imagine. Going to the village you can see the school is not well built, classrooms that look like a bedroom, so small yet over 70 people are crammed in. No one can understand the teacher.
-Gender perspective in Education
B- Girls have much greater access to education now, not like ten years ago. But there are some regions of Senegal where girls leave education after 7 or 10 years to be married or help parents at work. But in a classroom now (in the city) there are many more girls than boys in a class. Often girls perform better in class than boys do.
Question 4: What are the possible solutions to create more accessible education in Senegal?
B – More universities should be installed and more scholarships and funding for students. More materials for existing Universities too. And increase motivation for teachers, financially or otherwise. Most teachers work at 50% of capacity because they know the government will not reward them for hard work. Create professional classes, not general. Students studying practical things like agriculture, or technology. Usable skills taught, and an increase in programs teaching usable skills. Instead of investing in stadiums and trains or center where people gather for once a year, invest this money instead in education. Instead of building material wealth (what can be seen) invest this money in education.
F- Firstly pinpointing students, they are the issue of the matter. Students themselves are the problem. I cannot accept students who see the issue but do nothing. Students must work hard themselves to get ahead and one day change the situation for others. If no one works for the change who will change the future?. But no student is willing to work to make a change. Students will cheat in order to succeed. Every student’s goal is to get money, not to improve the action or change the situation. A change of mindset must be achieved.
Secondly, teachers will go to the internet to research things and learn from unreliable sources. Teachers should be teaching you things you don’t know, but teachers are not educated enough for teaching.
Everyday walking over 4 km to get an education, you become dead on your feet before the end of the year. Killing the motivation of students. Students must change the problem, before the government and before teachers. Students must make the change.
I want to change it all, and set it right. My dream is to be a politician. Someone who really wants to help the people of my nation. An objective eye.
The government is the last step in the solution, everyone else should be working their finger to the bone to get what they want. I want to set his dream. The Senegalese dream! To go forward and get what you want or die.
Hopefully, this brief interview transcript was an interesting door for further reader’s research on the topic, as it was for me.
At the same time, we expected E-jáng radio to be a little contribution to access to English education through this free practice platform.
Keep reading the following weeks blogs about our radio program and my learning here in Senegal.