News / Africa

    In Senegal, Educators Fight to Keep Girls in School

    Twelve-year-old Ramata Barry was married to a man in her village this year. She hopes to stay in school.
    Twelve-year-old Ramata Barry was married to a man in her village this year. She hopes to stay in school.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Anne Look

    In the Fouta region of northern Senegal, cultural attitudes about education have made sending girls to school a low priority for families. Though some progress has been made, educators who once fought to get more girls in school are now struggling to keep them there.

    Education, particularly for girls, has traditionally been a low priority among the conservative ethnic groups that dominate Northern Senegal's Fouta region.

    But strides have been made.

    Female students said they find it hard to juggle homework and housework, like doing laundry
    Female students said they find it hard to juggle homework and housework, like doing laundry

    Now, more than half of the region's children are enrolled in school. Girls have begun to outnumber boys in many village classrooms.  But educators say many of those girls will drop out before they finish middle school. They blame that on poverty and early forced marriage, still a common practice in the region.

    Earlier this year, twelve-year-old Ramata Barry was married off to a man in her village. She is continuing her studies, for now.

    "It is difficult to come to school," she said. "When I leave school for lunch, I work at home. If I finish my housework, I can come back to school. Often, though, I am late."

    When asked what will happen if she gets pregnant, Ramata looks at her hands and says she is not sure.

    Teachers say they try to keep teen wives and mothers in school, but often it is a losing battle.

    Ramata's math and science teacher, Mamadou Dia, says though marriage and motherhood do not necessarily mean a girl will drop out, school performance suffers.

    Sometimes, he says, the girls do seem overwhelmed. They are not as productive as their classmates, he says, but they still manage to do their homework.

    Even the girls who are not yet married have a hard time juggling homework and housework. Common chores for girls include sweeping, cooking and laundry.

    Boys begin to outnumber girls in middle classrooms in the region
    Boys begin to outnumber girls in middle classrooms in the region

    The Fouta region is dominated by the Peuhl ethnic groups, traditionally nomadic herders. Child marriage and female genital mutilation are still practiced here despite moves against the practices in the rest of Senegal.

    Harouna Sy is a regional coordinator for Tostan, a community-led development group aimed at educating and empowering Africans, particularly women.

    He says things are changing slowly, but in general the Peuhls do not value girl's education. He says, for them, it is much more important for a girl to learn how to manage a household, take care of her husband, do the laundry, cook a good meal and educate her children in the traditional values.

    Sy says some families see educating girls as a threat to their culture, but poverty, he says, is the heart of the issue.

    He says if a family has all they need to live, it does not need the girls for work so the girls can stay in school. But, he says, if a family has a teenage daughter who is not helping around the house and rather costing them money by going to school, they are tempted to marry her young to bring in some money.

    In Senegal, it is illegal to give a girl, under 18 years of age, in marriage. But Awa Ndiaye, regional head of a Senegalese organization working to keep girls in school, says it is difficult to prevent early marriage, particularly in the villages.

    She says when a father wants to marry off his young daughter, she and her organization try to talk to him. But, she says, many fathers completely refuse to listen, and they have to let them go ahead. She says they are limited in what they can do.

    Tostan's Sy says educated women who work in the region as midwives, teachers or government officials often end up supporting their families. He urges parents to think about school for their daughters not as a handicap, but rather as an investment in their daughters' future.

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora