Educational Marginalisation in Senegal: Role of Gender, ICT and English

By Abdou Niane

Educational marginalisation has become a burning issue in Senegal, one of the poorest countries on the planet. About 34% people in Senegal live on less than US $ 1.25 per day, with an average per capita income of $121 per month (Ibrahima, 2014). The results of the Harmonized Survey on Household Living Conditions (2018/2019) show that the incidence of individual poverty in Senegal is 37.8%. The country is still lagging behind in education. A large part of the population does not have easy access to education and remains marginalized from formal education, with an enrolment rate of 86.4% (ANSD, 2020). Many factors contribute to the exclusion of many young people from the education system including gender and ICT. Furthermore, languages, particularly the English language, play a role in educational marginalisation in Senegal. What comes next is a brief introduction to the roles of gender, ICT and English in promoting or reducing educational marginalisation in Senegal.

Gender is a major dimension of educational marginalisation in Senegal as 54% of Senegalese, including 62% of women, are illiterate (Quotidien, 2017). Angers-Sall (2009) points out that in Senegal, from an early age, children internalize the sexual division of labour, namely that girls recognize themselves as family helpers and boys as financial supports of the family or agricultural workers to help their fathers. She further mentions the prevailing image of woman as wife, mother and housewife, especially in remote villages. Early marriage of girls is still prevalent in Senegal, and girls living in the poorest, rural areas of Senegal are the most vulnerable. Most mothers, from their daughters’ earliest years, introduce them to good manners that will make them future good wives and mothers. However, this trend is receding. Since 2000, Senegal has formulated many programs (Girls’ Schooling Program, Girls’ Education Support Project, etc.) which aim to promote girls’ education to be in line with the Millennium Development Goals 2 (Achieve universal primary education).

A study carried out by the National Agency for Statistics and Demography of Senegal shows that the gross primary school enrolment rate increased from 86.1% in 2016 to 86.4 % in 2018. Interestingly, analysis of the parity index shows that the intensity of primary schooling is more intense among girls (92.1%), compared to boys (80.4%), in all regions, except the regions of Kedougou, Sédhiou and Ziguinchor.

Senegal is a multilingual country with 38 recognised languages, Wolof being the most widely spoken language. Among them, only French is an official language. Official languages in Africa are languages resulting from colonisation, and although spoken by the educated minorities in these countries, they assume the status of official language, constituting the working languages of the whole state apparatus and all its organs and institutions (Sarr, 2017). As a result, local languages are neither taught in the school system, nor used in administrative exchanges. In the case of Senegal, French is used by the State, the administration, education, the media and the business world, to the detriment of local languages. Half of Senegal’s population cannot read or write in the official language.

The English language is considered a foreign language in Senegal. English Language Teaching (ELT) was introduced in the Senegalese curriculum during colonialism with the French educational system, which was obligatory for all French colonies (Djigo, 2016). At present, knowledge of English is expected to provide better career prospects and choices. Therefore, there has been a high demand for English in Senegalese society. Factors that have contributed to the importance of English in the lives of Senegalese people include: the country’s diplomatic relations with other countries, its heavy dependence on foreign aid and job opportunities. The government has also shown an enduring interest in promoting English language teaching. Therefore, English has been taught as a subject from 6th grade to 12th grade. However, it has been argued that students do not have equal opportunities to learn English.

Senegal, through its highest authorities, has shown a real political will to promote ICT in all sectors of economic and social life. For instance, in 2016, it laid out a national ICT policy document, the ‘Digital Senegal Strategy’ (Ministère des Postes et Télécommunication, 2016) which laid out an aim to make broadband a priority by supporting public–private partnerships for infrastructure sharing and deploying networks in unserved areas. The policy’s ambitious “digital for all” vision seeks to provide broadband access across different areas such as schools, government services, and commerce by 2025 (Upadhyay, 2020). However, people still have limited access to tools such as smartphones, tablets and computers, coupled with weak network coverage, especially in rural areas.

The country has witnessed a big digital divide between the haves and have-nots during the Covid-19 pandemic. A huge number of students nationwide could not attend online classes during the pandemic as they did not have access to any network or could not afford any technology tools such as smartphones or tablets, as they live in dire poverty or in rural areas. Less than 1% were accessing online courses, pointing to the importance of a wider range of educational technologies, particularly to reach poorer children (Le Nestour, Mbaye, Sandefur & Moscoviz, 2020). Hence, the closure of schools and the adoption of e-learning in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the social disparities between children of wealthy parents and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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ANSD (2020). Situation économique et sociale du Sénégal : édition 2017-2018 :

Djigo, O. M. (2016). The status of English and other languages in Senegal.

Ibrahima Sy, (2014). La pauvreté au Sénégal : une évaluation multidimensionnelle de la pauvreté et des disparités interrégionales entre 2001 et 2006 :

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Ministère des Postes et Télécommunication. (2016). Stratégie Sénégal Numérique 2016 – 2025

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