At PAH-Unit 7 primary school, about ten kilometres from Dakar, the capital of Senegal, the unfailing commitment of school staff to the pupils' success is matched only by the pupils' active participation in achieving it.
Built in 1986, the school now has 526 pupils, including 287 girls. With the support of Canada and UNICEF, this school has introduced a new primary-level curriculum. In fact, this updated primary basic education curriculum has been introduced at 500 primary schools throughout Senegal. Since its implementation at the PAH-Unit 7 primary school, the academic achievement of pupils has improved. In 2013, 44 percent of pupils were able to obtain the primary school certificate, compared with the national average of 33 percent.
Through such international development projects as the Integrated Quality Services Education Project , Canada demonstrates its commitment to securing the future of children and youth, including for 90 percent of the world's youth, ages 5 to 24, who live in the developing world. Linked to achieving the millennium development goals, education is an important part of the foundation building that will assist children and youth to reach their full potential as active and productive members of the countries in which they live. The students at the PAH-Unit 7 School seem on the way to achieving these goals.
Marième Bâ Wane has been headmistress of PAH-Unit 7 School since October 2011. She says that, thanks to the combined efforts of both partners, pupils are now "the main focus of teaching and learning, and the architects of their own knowledge and success.” Madame Bâ hopes she will have the opportunity to thank the Government of Canada in the near future for making educational toolkits available to her school and for training her staff in the new curriculum. Madame Bâ understands having all the materials her school needs is a work in progress. The school has an urgent need for new textbooks. Also on her list for her students are desks and a photocopier for the school. "These textbooks,” Madame Bâ says, "are necessary if pupils are to make the transition from what they have learned in school to practical skills in everyday life.”
Seynabou Thioune Ndiaye, a teacher at the PAH-Unit 7 School, is enthusiastic about UNICEF's implementation of the "child-friendly school” concept that is fundamental to the new curriculum. This approach emphasizes respect for the rights of the child and reinforces civic responsibility. In everyday terms, what this means is that students are taught how to be active citizens through opportunities that encourage hands-on learning. One example at the PAH-Unit 7 School involved the formation of a school government, made up of student representatives. This civic education model, as it is known, is responsible for the creation of school governments in each of the 500 schools as well as parent participation through school management committees in more than 435 schools.
At the PAH-Unit 7 School, eleven-year-old Binta Diouf is president of her school government. She takes pleasure in reminding people that her first goal is to keep her election promises: to rehabilitate the school library and to equip it with a computer room that has Internet access. Results are slow in coming in this regard, but Binta has said she "remains confident and will continue to lobby school management.”
Binta has reason to be optimistic. After all, she and her student government can already point to a few successes. They have raised funds to purchase maintenance items, created growing awareness of respect for the environment, resolved conflicts and disputes, and kept an eye on pupils who were ill.
These changes to education in Senegal demonstrate how, in principled and practical ways, more and more people in this country are making education their business.