After having and chance to meet with various local and regional government officials, the common theme of why so many people and communities exist in poverty in Senegal is because of mismanagement of funds. The federal government does not accurately and evenly distribute funds to communities so major challenges exist including horrible road conditions, class sizes of 70 or more students, and lack of investment into the large youth population. The mayor of Kothiary (the village where we spent the majority of our time) said that the biggest struggles the community is facing deals with youth. There is simply not enough classrooms for students, no community centers where youth can spend their time and participate in activities, and an enormous lack of training centers for youth to obtain necessary schools for work.
As a result of these problems, many young men turn to migration (just like the article we read in class!) to attempt to find better opportunities for success. The out-migration of Senegalese is positive and negative; positive in the fact that many migrant send remittances (money) home which allow families to purchase necessities like food and clothing but also “luxury” items like T.V.s and phones. The negative results are many including families left for years without knowing if their fathers, brothers, husbands, or friends, are still living. Two of our host teacher’s relatives are in this situation and my heart can’t imagine what it is like to never know when you would see your husband and the father of your children again. Another issue that plagues the region (and country) is the lack of modern farm equipment. Animals are overworked in the fields during the short rainy season from June to September in order to produce and harvest a crop to support families. Some of the animals die at the end of the work season because they have been worked so hard. On the successful side, there are many grassroots organizations and groups of people working to make life better in rural Senegal. We met with 2 women in Kothiary who are part of a community garden which encourages economic independence for women. Through working at the garden, women learn important agricultural, communication, and business skills to foster continued progress in a culture dominated by males. (An additional story to relate to this topic: we met a teenage boy, Adama, who learns much of his English during the rainy season. During each break he gets while working the fields with his family, he sits under the shade of a tree and reads and writes in English - talk about dedication!)
This blog is not an official U.S. Department of State blog. The views and information presented are the grantee’s own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program, IREX, or the U.S. Department of State.