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Model school in Senegal uses partnerships to open school doors for girls

© UNICEF/2005/ Stark-Merklein
A fifth-grade class at Ndiarème B Primary School in Dakar, Senegal.

DAKAR, Senegal, 2 June 2005 – It is early in the morning and the school yard at Ndiarème B primary school on the outskirts of this city is already bustling. Girls and boys are busy sweeping dusty floors and filling plastic bottles with water for the flowerbeds outside their classrooms.

Flowers and colourful wall paintings give the school a friendly look. The bell rings and Maguette Mbow, the school principal, watches proudly as groups children make their way to class. Ms. Mbow knows most of them by name and many, especially girls, are here thanks to her skills in persuading their parents to enrol them in school.

Ms. Mbow has other reasons to be proud. Ndiarème B primary school made the news five years ago, when United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan launched the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative here.

The Initiative relies heavily on partnerships among a broad range of participants – from teachers, headmasters and governors to pupils, parents and the wider community.

Working together to gain results

© UNICEF/2005/ Stark-Merklein
Ms. Mbow, left, principal of Ndiarème B Primary School, with representatives of the parents, mothers and teachers associations who actively participate in the management of the school.

Ndiarème B is a model of partnerships in action. Parents, teachers and mothers associations, a women’s collective and a network of volunteers are actively involved in managing the school. Together, they do repair and maintenance work as well as running yearly campaigns to enrol out-of-school children, along with the Ministry of Education.

Three of the school’s 12 classrooms were built by the Senegalese government and the others by Aide et Action and the Islamic Development Bank. UNICEF financed a water well equipped with a pump, and the National Sanitation Department of Senegal, supported by the World Bank, installed separate latrines for boys and girls. Plan International provides school supplies and UNFPA pays for make-up lessons for girls.

Community and partner efforts are bearing fruit. Today, 49 per cent of students at Ndiarème B are girls, as compared to 35 per cent in 1996, when the school first opened.

Similar achievements have been made throughout Senegal. Since 1994, enrolment rates have increased by 30 points due to enrolment campaigns and have reached 80 per cent for boys and 77.3 per cent for girls. During the 2004 campaign, as many girls as boys registered for primary school.

The benefits of educating girls are broadly recognized. Educated girls who later become mothers are likely to have healthier and better educated children, and they have better chances to break the cycle of poverty for themselves, their families and communities.

Drop-out rates remain high for girls

© UNICEF/2005/ Stark-Merklein
Ndiarème B is a child-friendly school where parents and students participate to keep the school environment clean and healthy.

Though getting girls to enrol is not longer an issue at Ndiarème B, keeping them in school is difficult.

In Senegal, the government allocates a record 33 per cent of state budget to education and takes responsibility for the construction of school buildings and teachers’ salaries. Basic schooling is free and mandatory, and the government provides supplies for school administrators.

Still, parents and communities have to pitch in and bear costs for water, electricity, telephone and repair work – expenses that force some families to withdraw their children, especially girls, from school.

Girls also tend to drop out when they don’t perform well, or because their parents don’t see much relevance for daily life in the ‘Western’ education being taught at school.

According to Ms. Mbow, “Girls, more so than boys, are often forced to drop out of school because they have to help with household chores, or they are married off at an early age so that their families have one less mouth to feed. Some may be driven to prostitution to supplement family income.”

Ms. Mbow and the women from Ndiarème B have some clear ideas on how to keep their girls in school. “We need to serve children a meal at school so that they can learn better, especially those who are too poor to bring their own food; we need help to set up a computer workshop or some other activity to earn the money we need to pay for school supplies and repairs; a school pharmacy for first aid; and a school library.”

Never shy when Ndiarème B is at stake, Ms. Mbow just sent a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to remind him of his promise five years ago to help her school. “Just want to make sure that help keeps coming,” she says.



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