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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid