While Senegal has played a leading role in the promotion of global commitments to ensure the right to education, less than half of its citizens are literate and significant challenges remain in providing quality education in the country, says an independent United Nations expert.
“Senegal has achieved important advances in access to primary schools over the last decade; however, as children finally arrive to the class room, quality of education must be ensured,” said Kishore Singh, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education.
“Without well trained and motivated teachers, without access to adequate pedagogical materials and without any capacity to teach in mother tongue languages at primary levels, the impact of increased enrolment will be limited,” the expert said at a press conference in the capital, Dakar, at the end of his first visit to the country.
Among the challenges, Mr. Singh cited the fact that only 47 per cent of Senegalese are literate and 2.7 million children remain out of school. Also, despite efforts to build new schools, infrastructure is still inadequate and classrooms are overcrowded in many places. Private schooling is on the rise and abusive business practices are an emerging concern, he added.
The expert also highlighted the challenges faced by girls in schools. “Senegal achieved gender parity at primary levels, but girls are not having the same progression as boys at higher levels; early marriage and pregnancies, domestic work, and abusive teachers are all serious concerns that can contribute to take girls out of schools.”
He stressed that complaint mechanisms must be established to detect any violence or abuse in educational environments. “Schools must offer truly safe learning environments, and students and their families must have access to support and remedy whenever their rights are violated.”
During his week-long visit, Mr. Singh met with various Government authorities in the education sector, international organizations and non-governmental organizations, and visited Senegalese schools and daaras (Quranic schools) both in the capital and in the rural area.
He emphasized that greater attention must be paid to ensuring that resources for education are well targeted and timely spent, and also called for increased support for technical schooling and enhanced investment in social protection schemes to help marginalized children get an education.
Mr. Singh, who was appointed to his post in August 2010, reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.