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Senegal: economic hardship forces 11-year old to quit school

© UNICEF Senegal/2009/Shryock
Abdou Aziz, 13, was forced to quit school by his own father as economic situation was worsening.

Dakar, Senegal, 1 February 2010 - It was the middle of the day when Abdoul Aziz came home from school in the suburbs of Dakar, Senegal.

Abdoul Aziz was 11 at the time, and his teachers had sent him home because he had no pencils to write with or notebooks to write in.

He approached his father, Mamadou Sy, who had been struggling to make ends meet since he lost his job nearly four years ago. Since that time, Mamadou had scraped by driving a clandestine taxi.

But when food prices began to rise, things got tougher. Mamadou looked at his second oldest son and told him he would no longer be joining his friends at school.

There just wasn’t enough money to buy the supplies. When Abdoul Aziz began crying his father reached into his pocket, pulled out all he had, and gave it to the devastated boy.

It was 25 CFA, or $.05 USD.

Economic threats: financial, food and fuel
To help families like Mamadou’s address the crisis, UNICEF and partners such as the World Bank supported the country’s launch for the second phase of its project entitled “Fight Against Malnutrition.”

This included steps such as cash transfers for 50,000 poor families and a project to revitalize the early warning systems. Efforts such as these have improved the nutrition surveillance system, but malnutrition among children under five still remains high in poorer areas.

Small-scale SMART surveys showed that acute malnutrition remained above 15% in the Matam and Kedougou regions of Senegal.

And in November of 2008, a joint UNICEF, WFP and FAO project revealed that 27% of the population in Ziguinchor (southern Senegal), 16% of Pikine (Dakar suburb) and 9% of Kaolack were living in food insecurity. At least 10% had reduced the daily number of meals consumed.

Mamadou’s household is one of those families. They have whittled their meals down from eating twice a day to once a day.

He says things have only gotten worse for he, his wife and their five children since the two years when Abdoul Aziz had to leave school.

When the economic crisis hit last year, Mamadou began to get even less work as a clandestine taxi driver. Now he makes about $12 USD a month to feed everyone.

He has managed to keep the oldest son in school, but he must study by candlelight every night, because there is no electricity in the house that the family shares with their aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmother.

And though his brother gets to walk to school every day, Abdoul Aziz will most likely never go back says Mamadou.

Targeting the most vulnerable
Now 13, Abdoul Aziz goes to a car garage everyday, where he is learning to repair the electric wires for vehicles. Mamadou says his son is the youngest boy working in the garage. 

He still gets to see his friends, but he misses his favorite subject was math. When asked what he will do if after he finishes his apprenticeship and begins to make a little money, he shyly replies: "It will go to help my family."

With the assistance of UNICEF the ministry of family is establishing a new approach in pilot districts of Guediewaye (Dakar), Kolda and Ziguinchor.

This new approach consists in provision of social protection services to vulnerable children, including cash transfer and other services to promote education and care.

A targeted package to help vulnerable children like Mamadou thrive.  

By Ricci Shryock






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