In Senegal, just 18% of girls are enrolled in secondary school, compared to 24% of boys.
The Sonatel Foundation and USAID have partnered to address this inequality, launching the Programme Equité Genre à L’Ecole, or PEGE, to encourage equal opportunities for female students in six key regions across the country.
The program is comprehensive: the most accomplished female students are given academic scholarships and money for basic necessities. They also have access to tutors and mentors, who regularly visit the schools to discuss any issues the girls are facing in their personal lives. Even the girls’ mothers receive small grants and business training to enable them to improve their family economic situation.
Daniela Nwaobasi, an Associate Consultant in Dalberg’s Dakar office, is part of a Dalberg team supporting the project in three of its regions: Kaolack, Diourbel, and Fatick.
“This project is very important because it’s focused on some of the regions in Senegal where we have the most issues related to gender inequalities in the educational system,” Daniela said.Daniela said that one of the program’s achievements was the successful launch of a summer camp, where the students have the opportunity to participate in social activities and additional classes to enhance their studies.
Upon visiting the camp and speaking with the girls, Daniela realized that many of them have limited French language skills and instead choose to communicate in the local language to avoid feelings of inadequacy. Recognizing that this gap could limit future opportunities for the girls, the Dalberg team reached out to its network and obtained nearly 2000 donated books from French association Les Enfants de Madame Ici. The reading books were not included in the original project, so Daniela decided to redirect a grant she’d won from the Moremi MiLead Leadership program to transport the texts from France to Senegal.
“I frequently go to the regions and see the difficult situation the beneficiaries live in,” Daniela said. “When I received this grant, I immediately thought of PEGE and decided to put my personal project aside and contribute to impact the lives of these girls.”
Daniela’s grant will also extend access to education for girls living in remote areas.
“The girls are scattered across regions, which makes it difficult to set up tutoring groups, especially for those in remote areas,” she said. “I realized the remaining grant money could provide at least three teachers specifically for these students, although the number is still not enough.”
Last month, the Dalberg team presented an update on the program’s first academic year to the Governors and school authorities in Kaolack, Diourbel and Fatick, receiving full support to continue from all three regions.
Daniela said the next phase of the project includes educating community members on the importance of keeping girls in school through monthly radio programs featuring the girls, their mothers and members of the community.
“The girls can use the show to talk about how the program has brought change into their lives, or their mothers can speak about how the program has improved the family economic situation,” Daniela said. “We want people to see how sending these girls to school today will develop the community for tomorrow.”