“A relationship of trust must be established between the government, which sets and implements education policy, and the teachers who remain essential and essential in the system”: this is the strong recommendation of the National Coalition for Education for All (Cnept), by the voice of its chairman Silèye Gorbal Sy, to clear out the school and university space enameled for ten years by cycles of strikes. In this casual interview with Sud Quotidien, the president of Cnept, who was elevated to a knighthood in the National Order of the Lion by the head of state last week, also discusses the barriers to quality education in Senegal, in relation to girls’ education, violence on school, marital status, etc.
The school and university space is often rocked by strikes by both teachers and students. How is the Cnept coping with this near-permanent crisis in the school?
Our organization is the first coalition active in education and from this angle we notice that our education system has been confronted with recurring disruptions from the various actors for more than a decade. In line with our monitoring and warning missions for inclusive quality education for all, we cannot remain indifferent to this ongoing crisis in Senegalese schools. We also understood very early on that a relationship of trust must be established between the government, which sets and implements education policy, and the teachers who remain essential and essential in the system. We have always believed that the focus should be on preventing school crises. To this end, we already organized a National Consultation on Prevention and Management in 2007 with all actors: government, trade unions, students, parents of students and actors. Our recommendations and proposals have been sent to those concerned, unfortunately these have not been followed. We had attended the national consultations on the future of higher education and the national conferences on education approved by presidential councils. We thought that after these important reflections of great national importance, our education system would experience no more disruptions. In the same vein, the Cnept has long had to play the role of mediator between the various protagonists. In this context, we had to facilitate the high-level meeting between President Abdoulaye Wade and the Intersyndicale des Enseignants, which allowed to defuse the crisis. We had participated in the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding of April 30, 2018 and therefore attended all monitoring meetings between the government and the G7 that marked the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding of February 26, 2022, of which we are a member of the Guidance Committee.
The Senegalese school is also increasingly enameled by violent scenes. What role has the Cnept played in calming the school and college space?
Since its inception, Cnept has had to undertake various activities to calm the school environment in its capacity as a monitoring and alarming organization, but also as a member of the Social Dialogue/Education and Training Sector. In the different regions we have seen an increase in violence in schools and universities. This was disrupted by the pupils, the students or the teachers. But when necessary, the Cnept took his pilgrim’s stick and in connection with his surveillance and alarming missions to play his part for a peaceful school space. In this regard, Cnept has had to organize national forums with the participation of the different actors of the school, in particular the pupils, the teachers but also the state structures in order to better prevent and manage violence in the school environment.
We also see that schooling for girls is a real problem in Senegal. What solutions do you recommend for their education and especially their retention in school?
quality education, especially for girls, is one of the biggest problems of the Senegalese education system. That is why Cnept has made education for girls one of its main priorities. The challenge is twofold: girls’ education is both a fundamental human right and an essential lever for sustainable development and peace. As we see that gender inequalities in the education system persist, we have undertaken many activities to combat this discrimination and to ensure that girls, once they start school, remain there and have the same opportunities in their education as boys. Currently, the biggest problem is keeping girls in school, as organizations like Cnept and the Ministry of Education have conducted many awareness-raising activities for girls’ education. Strong pleas led to truth about the entry and maintenance of the girls in the school in the Podor department and in the European Parliament with the artist Baaba Maal.
Science and engineering courses are not often girls’ favorite fields. In that sense, what should be done to make them more aware of these disciplines?
Girls should not only stay in school but also have access to science courses, as this means that school should become a place where gender stereotypes should be deconstructed and combated and that educated girls can not only pass their final exams, but also have access to fields, especially scientific and engineering disciplines where they are still largely in the minority. At this level, the Cnept commends the many initiatives of the Department of General Secondary Education, such as the Miss Mathematics and Miss Science, which encourage girls to take science subjects. Our coalition is also developing strong actions and advocacy with its partners for better attention and inclusion of girls in scientific fields.
We note that many students fail their exams due to lack of birth certificates. What to do to stop such a situation?
We regret to note that marital status is one of the biggest handicaps for students, especially in graduating classes. Especially in the country where our focal points are often questioned by parents of students who are troubled by this marital status issue preventing their children from taking school exams. That is why, as a monitoring and alarming organization, we constantly appeal to parents of pupils, municipalities and the National Office for Civil Registry to find suitable solutions to this problem. input. We will do everything we can to continue our advocacy to fight this problem of marital status in schools, which is one of our priorities for inclusive quality education for all.
With regard to inclusive quality education for all, what does your coalition plan to do to improve its mechanisms and strategies?
Inclusive quality education has always been prominent in Cnept’s priorities and with a view to achieving SDG 4 of ensuring access for all to quality education on an equal footing, and promoting learning opportunities, it will be innovative and complementary approaches that help promote respect for the right to education, especially for the most marginalized groups such as people with disabilities and unregistered children on marital status. We also believe it is important to do more to ensure equality and inclusion in and through education and to combat forms of exclusion and marginalisation, inequalities, vulnerabilities and inequalities. The development of education cannot ignore the issue of staff training, and Cnept intends to continue to train teachers in this form of education.
Literacy and non-formal education remain the system’s bad relations. Can the school perform well with this paradigm?
At the World Education Forum in Senegal, countries finally realized that the foundation of education for all is inevitably literacy for all. Building a literate and educated society should be seen as an essential precondition for education for all. That is why 2003-2012 has been declared the United Nations Literacy Decade. As part of the “faire-faire” strategy, literacy workers who are members of the Cnept have significantly reduced illiteracy, which is still very high at over 50%. Many challenges remain in the literacy and education subsector, especially with underfunding, validation of learning through experience to improve the status of staff. The sub-sector is still the system’s bad relationship and in connection with the Bamako conference in 2007, which had recommended more resources, the Cnept continues to advocate for more funding for the sub-sector in question. We understood that achieving the 2030 vision for literacy within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires strong will and real commitment.