It is not often that Senegalese public schools find the means to organize recreational days to celebrate the hard work of their young students, but on Saturday January 25, the community of the Dakar suburb Parcelles Assainies Unité 21 came together for an afternoon to commemorate 100 students and their parents.

The local Association for Disadvantaged Children and Women (AEFSD) organized the event in partnership with Tostan’s Reinforcement of Parental Practices (RPP) team as well as the Parcelles Assainies Unité 21 school, parent-student association, School Management Committee, and the Mayor. The event, titled “Together for the Success of Our Children”, consisted of a ceremony to provide gifts to 60 students (five from each of the 12 classes) with the highest exam scores as well as 40 disadvantaged students and mothers.

As the ceremony began the school yard was bustling with children and their family members dancing and playing to the music. The school’s director, Mr. Mboup, and the President of Student Government, Mansour Mbaye, opened the event by singing the Senegalese national anthem and raising the flag.  By that time, almost 300 students and parents were in attendance, so many that there were not enough chairs for everyone!

Mr. Papa Diarga N’gom, President of AEFSD and organizer of the event, gave a warm welcome to all of the guests and explained AEFSD’s tradition of organizing school events to celebrate the students. I then explained how Tostan’s RPP module is being implemented in 232 rural communities in Senegal and how the program works to improve relationships between parents and the school system in order to better support a healthy learning environment for students. 

A major component of Tostan’s RPP module is the school follow-up events in which community members, parents, teachers, and the director of the school discuss the various ways the community and the school system can strengthen their relationship. These events have been greatly appreciated by communities hosting the RPP because they create a space where parents and teachers can express their various concerns and through dialogue are able to decide how to work together to better support the students and the local school. While Tostan’s RPP module currently works only in rural communities, the RPP enthusiastically took up the opportunity to partner with this urban community school event because it is exactly the type of grassroots initiative that Tostan promotes in its partner communities.

In addition to these school follow-up events, the RPP also reinforces each community’s Education Management Committee, a local organization made of school agents, community members, and local authorities whose aim is to improve the access, quality, and management of the education system. While many of these committees are inactive due to lack of government support, the Parcelles Assainies Unité 21 Education Management Committee is extremely dynamic. Not only do members meet regularly, but they also manage a variety of activities such as raising money for the up keep of the school through selling school supplies and improving the school environment through a school garden.

It was incredible to see the great efforts made between parents and the school system, but this day was not just about them, it was a day to spread joy to the students. As each student was called up to the stage, you could see their excitement as they were presented with their gift (a handmade drum or xylophone) as well as a bag of homemade doughnuts. Validating children for their efforts in school is often overlooked, but on this day the community of Parcelles Assainies Unité 21 came together to make sure that each student was made to feel special and proud of his or her hard work.

Story by Emma Giloth, Assistant to the Reinforcement of Parental Practices Project, Tostan