DAKAR, Senegal — The advocates and community leaders tasked with expanding education in Senegal are capitalizing on a policy environment that has become increasingly committed to embracing information and communications technology (ICT).
The Senegalese government has established itself as one of the continent’s leading countries in Information and ICT expenditure. The percentage of GDP that Senegal allocated to ICT in 2008 reached 10.8 percent, falling second to Morocco but besting several countries with larger, more profitable economies.
Stakeholders have honed in on the gains to be made from investing in ICT education in Senegal, and they’re acting accordingly.
Following digital pathways to knowledge and opportunity.
One such actor is none other than Microsoft. In 2010, the tech giant partnered with Senegalese education institutions to launch a three-year initiative designed to assess current ICT systems and envision improvements.
At the time, Senegal was the only African country selected to host the pilot project. Its relationship with Microsoft lives on through Unlimited Potential, a multifaceted community technology skills program that promotes digital literacy training.
A World Bank report on ICT education in Africa commended the role played by Partners in Learning (PiL) — one of Unlimited Potential’s subsidiary initiatives — in building Senegal’s human capacity for ICT learning and professional development.
The report also lauded Senegal’s efforts to develop sufficient Educational Management Information Systems (EMIS), which generate a centralized knowledge economy based on web tools, resource management and provision of opportunity.
Making education services a homegrown affair.
Community empowerment and localized growth have become pillars of the countrywide expansion of ICT education.
Dynamism isn’t limited to the classroom alone. Neighborhood coding clubs, for instance, are inspiring Senegalese girls and young women to take up a new pastime: developing mobile apps.
Theirworld, an international children’s charity, has started the clubs as part of their #RewritingTheCode campaign. The hashtag’s twofold meaning is intended to invoke not only the code being taught, but the code being undone — in this case, a set of gender norms that prevents women from pursuing STEM careers.
Coding club sessions, in addition to creating a safe space for girls to explore digital learning and unlock their potential, supply students with personable mentors and access to low-cost Kano computer kits.
Moussoukoro Diop, a local blogger who writes about digital entrepreneurship, believes that technological literacy isn’t the only lesson students stand to gain from these programs. Senegalese youth must also know that they needn’t go abroad in order to find opportunities for education and success.
“I don’t want to say that the next Mark Zuckerberg or head of Google will come from Senegal,” Diop told The Guardian. “Rather, we can create our own tools that can be exported globally.”
By making ICT an essential component of education in Senegal, the Senegalese government is investing in its citizens and, by extension, building a better future from the inside out.
– Josephine Gurch