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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More