DAKAR, Senegal — In most countries, 14-year-old girls attend school on a daily basis. In Senegal, however, teenage girls often head to the city to work as domestic servants instead of attending school. 10,000 Girls, a program dedicated to both education and entrepreneurial skills, has reconciled education obstacles for Senegalese girls.
In Senegal, a country with a high poverty ratio of 46.7 percent, families prioritize multiple incomes over education. Our Africa, a project dedicated to observing the lives of African children, states that “only around 1 in 10 Senegalese children complete secondary school.” As job opportunities become available for girls at a younger age, girls often complete even less schooling than boys. A girl’s financial contribution to the family is an essential support to most households.
10,000 Girls, a Women’s Health Education and Prevention Strategies Alliance (WHEPSA) program, promotes education while training girls to have professional skills. Dr. Viola Vaughn, an American with a doctor of education degree from Columbia University Teacher’s College, created WHEPSA and the 10,000 Girls program. When Vaughn moved to Senegal, she started the concept of teaching girls in 2001 but her goal grew to 10,000 in 2008.
In 2000, according to the CNN article, “The best job I have ever had in my life,” Vaughn started to homeschool her four children in Senegal. When Vaughn’s neighbors observed her education successes, they wanted to send their children to Vaughn’s homeschool. Slowly, Vaughn started teaching more local girls, simultaneously showing the older students how to teach the younger students. Vaughn and her original 80 students wanted to expand their program to help 10,000 girls.
To help the girls stay in school and learn business skills, Vaughn started an entrepreneurial component, establishing a pastry shop, catering business, and sewing workshop. Girls receive an education in Senegal while obtaining an income and learning valuable skills for the future. The program, largely self-sufficient via funds from the businesses, also provides students with school supplies and a place to study or work after school.
In 2010, the program registered 2,657 students throughout seven locations and Vaughn continues to strive for 10,000 students in the future. In a CNN article, “Giving African girls a chance,” Vaughn described her students’ dedication to stay in school. She stated “We do not recruit. They find us. They come. All failing, all willing to teach and learn. And now: All succeeding.”
The current students primarily facilitate the program with help from teachers and volunteers. Vaughn hopes that as word of her program continues to spread, more students will enroll and more graduated students will work in Senegal. A revolution of education in Senegal could lead to an entire transformation of family life, economy and the role of women in Senegal.