Access to Textbooks in Senegal: A Challenge Overcome!
In West African countries, access to textbooks is a major challenge for education systems. The textbook is one of the most powerful tools for influencing the quality of learning.
In 2012, a study funded by Canada painted a bleak picture of access to textbooks in Senegal’s schools. It stated that not a single elementary school textbook was compatible with the curriculum. The study also revealed that the procurement mechanisms were seriously dysfunctional and concluded that these mechanisms required immediate review.
In response to these findings, the governments of Canada and Senegal formed a partnership to provide quality textbooks to all elementary school students and teachers.
Vision of the Senegalese government
Canada initially assisted the National Education Ministry in redefining its policy on textbooks and teaching materials. The premise of the policy, in effect since May 2013, is that an appropriate and effective mechanism is required in order for textbook procurement to be sustainable. The Senegalese government uses this policy to renew its commitment to provide free textbooks from the public sector and to promote the development of a domestic publishing industry.
Since then, a new procurement mechanism, set up with Canada’s support, has yielded outstanding results! In 2014 and 2015, over 3.3 million textbooks were distributed to 1.3 million students. The students can now take their textbooks home, continue their studies and talk to their parents on a daily basis about what they are learning.
More than 30,000 teachers have also had their needs for teaching material met. According to one teacher at an elementary school in the Kolda region, “[translation] the content is much better suited to the students’ needs. It is closer to their reality, which is revolutionary.”
In hindsight, funding the purchase of textbooks cannot in itself guarantee success. In Senegal’s case, the technical and financial commitment of the Senegalese government and sector stakeholders was a decisive factor. The involvement of field workers in needs assessment and textbook selection received praise from the education community, which now sees itself as a stakeholder in the educational success of its students.
Storage conditions and substantial handling shorten the lifespans of textbooks, thus diminishing the gains made in the textbook sector. Canada continues to support skills development in the repair and physical management of textbooks to ensure that they are maintained. This initiative, which relies on self-employed workers (young people and women), complements textbook procurement reform.
It is plain to see that Senegal’s textbook sector is a tremendous success story. Senegal can now serve as a model within West Africa and Francophone Africa for textbook procurement, to the great benefit of its students and teachers!
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