Building for literacy
Nov 25, 2020
In 2017, as building plans for the Fass school were being drawn up, the Le Korsa team conducted a baseline survey in the village with the women who were part of the agriculture collective. On a scorching hot day, we sat beneath a handmade canopy in the garden to learn, in detail, about the lives of the women and the children, and how much education they were able to receive.
We discovered that there was a 100% illiteracy rate among the women and their children, and that none of the children were attending, or had attended, public school. It did not come as a surprise to us, for we had learned, during our many years working in the region, that there were no public schools, besides Quranic ones, in this rural area, which fell under the administration of the religious leadership in Medina Gounass.
Students in this region generally only learned to read and recite the Quran, unless their families were well-off enough to send them away to a school, which was a rare occurrence. Our survey reinforced the importance of the school we were building, the curriculum of which we developed with the religious leaders in Medina Gounass. As in other schools in Senegal, it would continue to offer Quranic instruction, but do so alongside basic courses in the local language of Pulaar, and in French, the language of Senegal’s public schools.
Studies show that literacy in a mother tongue such as Pulaar has positive effects on children’s academic and intellectual development, and that a 35% higher rate of GDP per capita is associated with each additional year of schooling. Our focus is less on GDP than on the idea that education is a basic right, and a means of experiencing the world to the fullest.
Since the school has been completed, over 200 girls and boys have been attending it. They come not only from Fass, but from neighboring villages, and stay with families in town while school is in session. The French teacher, Boubacar Sy, lives on the school grounds, and we are currently discussing adding more teachers to meet demand.
Universal literacy in the village is still a long way off, but hundreds of children are now learning, almost every day, to read and write, and beginning an educational journey we hope will take them to college and beyond.