On December 19, I was lucky to be part of a Tostan mission to participate in a school-kit distribution ceremony organized by Tostan’s partner And Défar Cees (ADC). The event took place in Ngoundiane, a place I already knew because of its famous fairgrounds where Tabaski (Eid al-Adha) sheep are sold every year.

The distribution ceremony had initially been scheduled for the afternoon; however, there had been a miscommunication with the Rural Council who was in charge of gathering the benefiting families from five villages. Consequently, the event was scheduled for the morning instead and when ADC was informed of this change, we hurriedly left Thiès, a city west of Senegal, to travel urgently to Ngoundiane – a rural community 30 minutes away.

When we arrived in Ngoundiane, I was happy to see that our lateness had not diminished the patience of the parents and their children waiting for us. After prayers from a local religious leader, Tostan team member Oumou Diop took the floor to speak about children’s rights. Parents and their children listened attentively to her presentation on the human right to education. Mothers paid particularly close attention because in rural Senegal, they are usually the ones in charge of their children’s education.

After the distribution of school supplies by ADC as part of a Unicef-funded project to prevent school abandonment and child labor in Ngoundiane, I spoke with Mamadou whose son received a school-kit. He told me: “Yesterday, my son asked me for money to borrow a book from his school because I could not buy one for him. I told him he had to wait because he was actually asking me to make a very difficult choice: to give him money for his education or to buy food for the family. So, we are very happy to receive a book and other school supplies today. This will help us a lot.”

I also spoke with Seynabou, a grandmother who travelled from the village of Dior to receive a school-kit with her granddaughter. She said: “My granddaughter had school supplies, but it was not enough. She still needed more things. So, I am thankful to And Défar Cees for their support.”

Finally, I had the opportunity to speak with Serigne Saliou, who was sitting in the front row with his crutches beside him.  He is a disabled first grade student whose school supplies were also incomplete. Smiling, he said: “I like to learn a lot, but I did not have any books. Today, I received a bag containing a book, notebooks, pencils…”

Everyone left the room with backpacks containing school supplies, but also with knowledge about a child’s human right to education. Tostan and ADC are planning to continue working together to educate parents to enroll and keep their children in school.

Blog by Al Ousseynou Ndiaye, Translator, Tostan

Read more about ADC’s work on child protection here.