A Dubai Cares delegation led by Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of the organization has recently visited Senegal to launch a bilingual educational program, which aims to enhance and scale up the government-driven bilingual education policy across the country. Designed and implemented to limit drop-out rates by students due to linguistic barriers, the bilingual educational policy enables an effective teaching model that incorporates French as well as rural dialects. The program, which was launched in partnership with non-governmental organization Associates in Research and Education for Development (ARED), is expected to benefit 10,500 children, 300 teachers and head teachers as well as 24 education inspectors.
This new program is also in line with the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's Global Education First Initiative, which Dubai Cares is a partner in, and aims to ensure quality, relevant and transformative education for all children across the world. Over the course of three years, Dubai Cares will be investing AED 4.9 million (USD 1.33 million) in the consolidation and expansion of the bilingual educational model in Senegal. Together with ARED, the organization's effort will complement existing interventions and government policies in order to enable a transition to national scale.
Commenting on the role of the program in sustaining school attendance and improving learning outcomes, Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares said: "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. Children often are demotivated by their inability to comprehend and keep up with the syllables, causing many of them to drop-out. Bridging this gap is critical to ensuring children stay in school and learn better. There are over 27 dialects spoken all over Senegal, with children receiving lessons in the French language, as the official medium of instruction. The model being implemented has a significant potential to improve outcomes and our aim is to coordinate with the Senegalese government to pursue and materialize this potential."
Commenting on the visit, H.E. Mohammed Salem Al-Rashidi, UAE Ambassador to Senegal said: "The United Arab Emirates, under the wise leadership of H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and their brothers, Their Highnesses, the Supreme Council Members, Rulers of the Emirates, remain at the forefront of providing foreign aid where needed around the globe. We commend the contribution of Dubai Cares, which is implementing a bilingual primary education program in Senegal. We applaud the organization's insightful vision and its focus on this stage of education, which represents the cornerstone for the success of the educational system in Senegal. This will undoubtedly contribute to building a qualified generation in order to upgrade the status of the country in various fields."
French is the medium of instruction in Senegalese schools, despite the fact that a majority of children do not have a basic grasp of the language. The linguist barrier has contributed to the high drop-out and repetition rates as well as low exam performance and illiteracy that have stunted the academic development of the Senegalese youth. The model supported by Dubai Cares combines the use of mother tongue languages as well as French over the course of the four years of primary education. In order to facilitate the nation-wide implementation of the bilingual curriculum, Dubai Cares will focus on strengthening teacher training, especially with regards to mother tongue languages, developing teaching materials in mother tongue languages for various grades, increase coverage by adding 100 new classrooms and raising awareness of the Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and community members on the importance of bilingual education.
The Senegalese education system continues to face significant challenges despite the government's focus on increasing access to and investment in education. Recent studies have indicated that around one out of four children in Senegal are unable to read a single word from a short story and a large proportion of the enrolled children struggle with simple mathematics. The Ministry of Education has demonstrated its commitment to addressing these issues and has earmarked the bilingual education policy to improve student participation and performance.
The Dubai Cares-supported program will be rolled out in Dakar, Saint Louis and Kaolack regions of the country, with potential to scale up to cover more areas. "Dubai Cares has been an active supporter of primary education in West Africa since the organization's very beginnings, focusing on school infrastructure, school health and nutrition as well as water, sanitation & hygiene in schools. The program in Senegal exemplifies further our commitment to lend our expertise and resources in support of existing interventions to the region. By supporting the potential scale up of this effective model, Dubai Cares, alongside ARED and the government of Senegal, are making a powerful stride towards increasing program efficiency, impact and sustainability," concluded Al Gurg.
Over the past seven years, Dubai Cares, with the support of the UAE community, has been facilitating change and development in children's education in developing communities around the globe. The organization is currently reaching more than 13 million beneficiaries in 39 developing countries.