"Education is key to development. We need everyone's commitment"
Aliou Cissé, coach of the Senegalese national football team, “The Lions of Teranga”, makes a strong appeal for education for children during his field visit in Tambacounda, in southern Senegal.
- Available in:
TAMBACOUNDA (Senegal), 7 February 2023 – The second Aliou Cissé crossed the gate of the elementary school of Gouye, downtown the Tambacounda city, in southern Senegal, one could hear the loud and happy voices of students yelling "Aliou Cissé, Aliou Cissé".
Aliou Cissé was then directly directed by the school management to a straw classroom, and was welcomed by Mrs. Djiba, teacher of the catch-up class of the school, where 22 children, out of school, are benefiting from a speed learning program, with the intention of reintegrating them into the formal school program.
Aliou Cissé and the UNICEF team, who accompanied him, took their seats in the room and carefully observed the courses prepared by Mrs. Djiba. The session began with maths activities, during which children relearned to count, using small tree branches converted into counting sticks.
11-year-old Ibrahima Mbathé, had trouble focusing in the class activities. He was lucky enough to be sitting next to his idol for this session. "Aliou Cissé is a hero for all of us. We have been informed of his coming since yesterday. I have always wanted to see him. Now my dream has come true. He is even sitting right next to me. I dream of being a champion like him when I grow up," he declared proudly.
Ibrahim was forced to drop out of school a few years ago because his parents could no longer afford to pay the school fees, he said. "My dad said that with the rising prices, the family is struggling to find money to buy food and sending me to school was an extra burden. That's why he decided not to re-enroll me."
"But since this school year, despite the challenges we have at home, he decided to enroll me again in this catch-up class. And now I have learnt to read and count again, and I hope I will be able to integrate into the formal school," he continued.
There are a total of 22 children in this classroom, aged 9 to 13, and their dropping out of school reflects the same narrative and was mostly motivated by the families' lack of financial means to fund their education.
"I know the reality of children in this part of Senegal. I have lived here for years. Education is the basis of development. We must all commit to this. Parents, communities, young people, education leaders, authorities, partners at all levels," declared Aliou Cissé.
"Every child must have the same chances from early age. They are our children; they will be the leaders of tomorrow. They must go through the same steps: learn, understand, and then undertake. If we offer them education from the grassroots, they will be able to stand on their own feet afterwards," he continued.
Speaking directly to the children in the classroom, Aliou Cissé advised "you are capable of doing many things, believe in yourself. It's important that your parents encourage you to continue your education and pursue your dreams. Believe in your potential."
Significant progress has been made in the country in the area of education. Being able to go to school has now become a reality for many more children in Senegal. However, nearly four out of ten school-age children are not yet in school.
"The life of a child excluded from school is a tragedy of unrealized potential and lost opportunity. All children have the right to go to school and learn, regardless of where they live or their family's income," said Silvia Danailov, UNICEF Representative in Senegal.
"To build a world where every child learns, UNICEF is committed to increasingly promoting equity and inclusion, including targeted actions for children excluded on gender, disability and poverty grounds."
In 2022, more than 30,700 out-of-school children and youth benefited from alternative learning and catch-up opportunities thanks to UNICEF's support.