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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid