DAKAR // Dubai Cares announced on Tuesday it would invest Dh4.9 million in the expansion of a bilingual school programme in Senegal that will better prepare underprivileged children to excel in French, the country’s official language.
A delegation led by Tariq Al Gurg, the chief executive of the organisation, met Mamadou Ly, head of the Associates in Research and Education for Development (Ared) programme, an NGO, and Serigna Thiam, the minister of education, to announce the partnership in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.
Designed to limit drop-out rates because of linguistic barriers, the bilingual teaching model incorporates French into the curriculum, while also teaching in local languages.
The programme, which was launched in partnership with Ared, is expected to benefit 10,500 children, 300 teachers and 24 education inspectors.
“In many parts of the world, children face difficulties in absorbing content in schools due to differences in the languages spoken at home, and those used at school,” Mr Al Gurg said.
“There are over 27 dialects spoken in Senegal.”
He said bridging the language gap was the focus of the programme, which would ensure children stay in school and learn more effectively.
According to Dubai Cares, a recent study showed that about one in four children in Senegal were unable to read, and a high proportion of schoolchildren struggled with simple mathematics.
“We believe that Ared is not only doing a good job, but picking up on issues that exist here in Senegal,” Mr Al Gurg said. “Quality of education is a big problem here, and the bilingual issue is being filled by Ared.”
Mr Ly said Ared’s model actually promoted learning in French while maintaining a sense of the children’s mother tongue.
“Bilingual education, our model, shows that this helps students prepare for later years of education,” said Mr Ly, a graduate of the Sorbonne in Paris.
“The results we’ve obtained show that all these projects are experiments that are showing a successful model.”
He said now was the time to scale up and expand the model to more than 10,000 pupils enrolled in programmes in Senegal, and across their network in six other African countries – Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger and Chad.
“This partnership with Dubai Cares will help us meet challenges, and through this determination we could reach more children and provide for them the quality of education they need,” he said.
The minister of education said the push to improve education in Senegal’s schools required partnerships and innovative policies such as the bilingual system.
Mr Thiam said: “To develop infrastructure, the teaching material and school quality, and everything that leads to quality education, is being shown importance through the support of Dubai Cares.”
French is the medium of instruction in Senegalese schools, despite the fact a majority of children do not have a basic grasp of the language. This linguistic barrier has contributed to high drop-out and repetition rates, as well as low exam performance and illiteracy among youth.
“For these reasons, I hope we support the development of bilingualism, and through the useful cooperation of Dubai Cares and our country,” Mr Thiam said.
Read more on Dubai Cares’ work in Senegal here:
■ Senegalese students benefit from Dubai Cares' bilingual programme
■ Senegalese students benefit from Dubai Cares bilingual programme expansion - in pictures