Closing the Gender Gap

Paul and I are back in the Fuuta. We had an incredible 3-week vacation back to the states–three very short weeks jam-packed with graduations, a beautiful wedding, and lots of family time.

Then we headed back to Senegal up to St. Louis for the annual Jazz festival. Stayed at a little hotel on the beach where we chased crabs, swam, and dug for coquina clams in the sand.  We listened to little jazz but enjoyed exploring St. Louis and being in the company of good PC friends.

Finally we moved into our new home in Ndioum. Our neighborhood kids are constantly jumping our wall to come greet us and play soccer in our huge yard. Paul is constantly chasing them away with a broom.  Bad cycle: we come home, kids jump our wall to greet us or to stare at us through our windows in curiosity, parents find their kids and yell or beat them with sticks, kids run off crying, cycle starts again.  For the most part, I enjoy talking to the kids and playing but its gets exhausting, especially if there are 20 little boys and girls all yelling at once.

Paul and I have been frantically running around trying to finish up our work for the Michelle Sylvester Scholarship. I mentioned this scholarship in a previous post, but to reiterate: the scholarship awards nine girls in the middle school (three from the sixieme grade, three from cinquieme, and three from quatrieme) 5,000 Fcfa to pay for next year’s school fees. We conduct interviews, home visits, an essay-writing session, and get teacher recommendations and grades.  After the entire process, a committee chooses three finalists from the nine girls who are then awarded an additional 15,000 Fcfa to pay for school supplies.  The scholarship intends to close the gender gap by assisting girls who are good students and highly motivated but lack the financial means to continue schooling.

Although equal proportions of girls and boys enroll in primary school, a smaller proportion of girls than boys enroll in secondary school.
Data collected in 2009 show that there are approximately equal numbers of boys and girls in each grade for the first six years of school. After that, however, the percentage of girls in each grade steadily drops.

We called one of our girls to see if she could come in for the proctored essay exam and she informed us that she was in a city far from Ndioum.  The next day, the middle school teacher in charge of her grade level told us that she had gotten married.  This girl is now married at 15 years of age.  She is one of our favorites and inspires to be an English professor.  We  hope that she will continue her education even as a married woman.

Today, we tried to visit one of the MS Scholarship girls at her village a couple km outside of Ndioum for her home-visit.  She said that she lives in a village called Kahel.  Turns out, as is typical in Senegal, there are three Kahels…and she does not even live in one of them.  After circling several small villages at least twice, asking random houses about her family, and trying to ride a grazing camel, we think she may actually live in a small village called Diara Waalo, which is some 7 km off the main road toward the Senegal River.  Since we biked and brought little water, we decided to turn back; we will try to find her again later this week, perhaps go by charette.  Wouldn’t if be nice if her family had a cellphone?

In other news: Paul and I are celebrating our 2nd year wedding anniversary.  We plan on celebrating by eating our favorite Senegalese dinner dish lacciri haako (cous-cous and leaf sauce) accompanied by some Senegalese wine, diluted and made drinkable by a spritz of Sprite.

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4 responses to “Closing the Gender Gap

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