Education & Jobs
A lucky few complete school education
Over the past decade, the government of Senegal has focused on improving education, setting up a countrywide program of state-funded nurseries and providing free universal access to schooling.
This has led to an increase in pupil numbers. Even so, only three-quarters of children were enrolled at primary school in 2009.
In rural areas, children may have a long walk to school. And when they get there the learning environments are often far from ideal. It is not uncommon for class sizes to be well over 50, with spaces at middle school in especially short supply.
Low literacy among girls
Senegal’s literacy rates remain low, particularly among girls – only 56% of 15-24 year old girls are able to read and write, compared to 74% of 15-24 year old boys (UNESCO 2009).
Teaching materials such as textbooks, particularly in the local languages (e.g. Wolof), are often limited. The government has been investing in teacher training and improving school facilities.
Poverty is the main barrier preventing children from staying in education. Drop-out rates are high as many children are expected to work. For girls especially, education is often seen as an unaffordable luxury.
Only around one in ten Senegalese children complete secondary school.
Starting work young
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With extremely high unemployment in Senegal (almost half of working-age people are unemployed), young people take apprenticeships where they can (often before the age of 14). They start in trades such as shop-keeping or girls work as domestic servants in city households. Frequently, youngsters do not receive a proper wage.
Sometimes apprenticeships are part of an official scheme. For example, the government set up a system of recruiting young people as volunteer teachers. After training, they work without a salary for two years (though with benefits such as health insurance), before becoming eligible for a paid teaching post.
Many Senegalese opt to look for work abroad. Most households have at least one family member who has either emigrated or is working in Europe or America.
Migrants provide an important source of income for Senegal. The World Bank estimates there are around 640,000 Senegalese workers abroad, sending home over 1.1 billion dollars annually. These remittances represent nearly a tenth of the country’s gross domestic product.